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Jerzy Buzek: countries should change the law to introduce more women into politics


The European Parliament on the 8th of March has celebrated 100 years of International Women’s Day by holding a series of events related to the topic of gender equality. It is a great opportunity to look in their own backyard and see how gender equality looks in the European Parliament.




By Anna Baranowska


“There is still not enough women in politics”

This sentence was said by the Head of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek at the special ceremony on the 8th of March. He also added that the European Parliament is only 35 percent women, but it is better than in many other national parliaments. The percentage of women in the 7th parliamentary term is higher then ever. Similarly with the number of women chairing parliamentary committees and sub – committees. In the last term there were only six female chairs, this year there are 10 of them. This means, that the increase by two thirds. The biggest breakthrough occurred after the term of office in 1975. Between 1975 and 1979 the number of women in Parliament increased from 4.9 percent to 16.6. Until 2011 this number had been gradually increasing. In view of the last term the number of women holding senior position in political parties decreased. In 2004 there were three co-chairs and during the current term is only one (Greens/EFA).


Women in National Parliaments

Although women are a minority in the European Parliament, the numbers are definitely higher than in many of national parliaments. Wojciech Olejniczak, Polish MEP from the party S&D involved in defending the women’s rights said, that “ it is difficult to require voters in each country to select women when on electoral lists there is only few of them. The European Parliament is now more actively working on the system, which could help to bring more women into politics. However, much depends on how many female MEPs comes from the member country”. Statistics conducted by the Equality and Diversity Unit are as follows: the representation of women in the EU Parliament is almost twice the world average for women elected to national parliaments, which currently stands at 19.2 %.

Women at high political level – “Things are getting better”

In the European Parliament, more women hold the managerial positions. In the bureau set up by President of the European Parliament there are now six vice-chairwomen of the 14 in total. In addition, two women hold the position of Quaestors, which is 40 percent. In comparison with the number of women in European Parliament, participation of women in managerial positions is much larger. As for the President of the parliamentary committees, their number is 10 to 24 committees in total. Danuta Maria Hübner chair of Regional Development Committee said that “The political maturity of the European Parliament is increasing. Women are chosen on an equal footing with men, only because of their competence. We have to remember that politicians come from different cultural backgrounds, but the so-called. ‘language of humiliation’ is not tolerated in parliamentary environment. What is more, it is not acceptable.” The MEP also added that “the EU Parliament cannot interrupt the process of placing women into politics, because the development of civilization is too slow.” This point of view is shared by Wojciech Olejniczak. According to him, the European Union cannot stop to introduce the various legislative processes, because they are necessary for further development in this area. The MEP provides that the progress associated with the participation of women in politics, including in the European Parliament, will have an upward trend.

Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament agrees with the opinion, that women participation in politics not only the EU but also a national is in a upward trend. “Things are getting better” – he said.

Legislation on Gender Eguality

In the history of legislation in the European Union there were a lot of directives on gender equality. The first was in 1975 and was called: Directive 75/117/EEC on Equal Pay. Then, in the next year, Parliament adopted a directives on equal treatment. By 2010, nine more were admitted. The last one, from 2010 was called: Directive on Equal treatment between Men and Women engaged in an Activity in a Self – Employed Capacity. The European Parliament has also developed a number of reports concerning the equality between women and men. At the meeting of the plenary session on the 8th March, MEPs voted on the report prepared by Mariya Nedelcheva. The report was adopted. The author is a member of the Committee of Women`s Rights and Gender Equality. The policies were also brought into action in the EP Secretariat. One of the plans was adopted by the Bureau of the Head of the EP on the 9th March. It is called: Action Plan 2003-2013 and is made to promote gender equality and diversity in the EP Secretariat (“Women at Administrative level” Equality and Diversity Unit, 8 March 2011). In the text you can read that, inter alia, the Action Plan has to ensure full equality of opportunities for person with disabilities, full equality of women and men, removing any obstacles to recruitment any potential discrimination. As Danuta Hübner said, taking continuous action to ensure that gender equality is a necessity. Such as the reports, plans and materials. Eva – Britt Svensson, chairperson of FEMM Committee, followed up at this statement at the press conference by saying that the EU should not only deal with women’s issues in the case of Women’s Day. This problem should always be regarded.

Mechanisms help increasing the number of women

Jerzy Buzek said at a press conference on March 8, that member countries should change the law so as to introduce more women into politics. To do this, you need to change the electoral laws of individual countries providing more places for women on electoral lists. Different methods are developed for different electoral systems. For example, in the proportional voting system, one of the solutions is so-called parity. This procedure is designed to ensure women and men an equal number of seats in the lists: fifty – fifty. Another involves quotas – a percentage of representatives of each sex on the electoral list. Another is zipping: the electoral list on which names of candidates each sex shall be placed alternately. This prevents the situation where women are at the end of the list. Many politicians approve at least one of these systems. Danuta Hübner is in favour of the quota method, as Wojciech Olejniczak for the fifty – fifty system. Both reject the introduction of counter opponents ‘artificial’ system, saying that an increasing number of women exceeds the powers of men. Moreover, such system would encourage women to actively participation in politics without fear that they will be dominated by a men. Many non-governmental organizations such as the Polish “Equality” conducts special campaigns relating to convincing policy makers to make such changes in the electoral law, to use one of the mechanisms. As Women’s Rights Committee (FEMM) Chair Eva-Britt Svensson noted at the press conference, the European Parliament, “35 % of whose members are women, is the most gender-balanced yet. However, the transition to gender equality is not proceeding fast, and much remains to be done”.