Woman @ EU top: let’s enter the 21st century now!
November 1st, 2009 by Eurosocialiste

Since I wrote the blogpost “One of the 3 top EU jobs must be held by a woman” early October, I’ve been delighted to see that the idea of a woman at one of the top EU jobs has gained momentum, both in social media and mainstream media, both among women and men.

Get you own Twibbon!

Get a Twibbon!

Just a week ago, after a few EU geek girls met in Brussels, linotherhino launched a clever campaign on Twitter to raise support for the nomination of a woman at one of the top EU jobs. The concept is simple and efficient, you add a pink “twibbon” -a Twitter ribbon- with the motto “Woman @ EU top” to your profile picture on Twitter (you can do it here). The initiative was a dazzling success: my twitter page turned all pink in just one day. And I was very pleased to see that many men adopted the pink twibbon as well, and so did a few MEPs. Join the Woman @ EU top campaign now!

The European Women’s Lobby said earlier this year that “it is hardly acceptable in the 21st century that all kinds of criteria are used for high-level nominations, including nationality, political affiliation, even country size, but never including gender!” This is exactly what is happening at the moment for the EU top jobs selection process. Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström -who has been at the lead of the campaign for a woman at one of the EU top jobs- recently said that the President of the European Council should be a woman. Commenting on the fact that most names mentioned for the job so far have been men, she said that “From a democratic point of view it reduces that 52.6 percent of women to a minority…and I don’t think this is acceptable in the European Union of 2009.” It is a good thing that some top EU women react to this injustice. However, as blogger Julien Frisch wisely told me on Twitter: “Women don’t need more women to support them, they need more men”, which is why I was happy to see Jerzy Buzek, the European Parliament President -holder of the fourth top EU job- say regarding the European Council President post: “I would prefer if we could find a chairwoman because we need gender equality”. European Voice reports: ”He said that after appointing someone from a central and east European country as head of one of the EU institutions, “we should make another step to have a woman as president of the Council”.”

Compared to the list of potential women candidates I compiled in my last blogpost, where do we stand? Angela Merkel was reelected German chancellor, so she’s obviously out. Mary Robinson managed to raise incredible support from online campaigners but she ruled herself out. The name of Tarja Halonen -President of Finland, Social-democrat- has gained more echo for the European Council President job, and so has Ursula Plassnik’s -former Austrian foreign minister, Christian-democrat- for the job of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Meanwhile, new female names have been mentioned. For the President job: Vaira Vike-Freiberga -former President of Latvia, independent- for whom a new Facebook group has just been created. It is difficult to put other names forward as this post is designed for a former head of state or government, and extremely few women have reached this level of responsibility in Europe. For the High Representative job, there are more female names on the line as the experience needed for the job is that of minister of foreign affairs or European affairs, which more women have held. Two new female names have popped up: Elisabeth Guigou -former French minister for European affairs, centre-left- and Dora Bakoyannis -former Greek minister of foreign affairs, centre-right.

As a socialist, my first instinct would obviously be to support Tarja Halonen and Elisabeth Guigou. But here is where it gets a little more complicated. Two-thirds of the heads of government sitting at the European Council are right-wing. So why the heck would the socialists want one of theirs as head of the European Council? In my opinion, that would be a political suicide for our family. This is why the European socialists are pushing to get the High Representative job. French socialist Elisabeth Guigou is a fantastic candidate for this job. However, she’d have to be nominated by the French, and considering the French government is currently right-wing, there is very little chance they would accept their only Commission member to be a socialist. So I believe that given the current state of the race, if a woman is to get one of the two top EU jobs left, it would be that of President of the European Council, and it would be Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Bets are on! Feel free, as usual, to comment and suggest other female names for these jobs.

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6 Responses  
  • Macarena writes:
    November 2nd, 2009 at 11:19

    I do not know who can be the best candidate among women. Is there an “ideal” candidate? The problem is most of the “ideal” women for these position are unknown for the general public whereas men are well know. The promotional campaign on the men side supporting a woman should be major. A good example is the Jerzy Buzek on his speech to the members of the European Council on the appointment of their President: “As I heard a number of times, with my election we have symbolically shown the unity of our continent. Perhaps it is time for another symbolic decision. Let us take a look around us, how many women are present? Should we not …appoint a woman to this post? There are a number of suitable women candidates and I urge the Council to consider this”.

  • Eurosocialiste writes:
    November 2nd, 2009 at 12:22

    You’re right. For example, I have to admit I had no idea who Vaira Vike-Freiberga was although she has an amazing CV!
    Thanks for sharing the exact quote with us! This will definitely become my quote of the week!

  • socialist writes:
    November 2nd, 2009 at 17:05

    As a matter of principle, I don’t see the point of sidelining excellent candidates (like Miliband) for the sake of mediocre ones who happen to be women. Women do not need ad hoc interventions to land such positions – Lagarde wasn’t appointed for being a woman, and Merkel wasn’t elected for being a woman.

    Instead of a success for gender equality, I would find it distatesteful – partly for women, as it would be seen as their ‘triumph’ – if we stumbled into choosing an unconvincing, uninspiring, faceless politician at the top of the EU.

  • Fabienne writes:
    November 2nd, 2009 at 18:12

    @Macarena: Indeed, as you truefully say: “The problem is most of the “ideal” women for these position are unknown for the general public whereas men are well know.”

    @Socialist: According to what you say in your “catch 22″ comment (like there’s no way you will ever possibly change your mind on women and current politics… and the subject here is not men and their abilities to rule -we know that yes, they surely can, even though some/many of them are “unconvincing, uninspiring, faceless politician”s).
    I guess you must be part of that general public Macarena mentioned above…

    @Eurosocialist: Keep on writing those interesting articles that give a smart analysis on what’s happening behind the scene, such a pleasure to read you and learn more everyday about Europolitics!

  • Eurosocialiste writes:
    November 2nd, 2009 at 18:22

    @ socialist, socialist? really? I seriously doubt you are, have you forgotten that the socialist parties are at the forefront of gender equality? or are we in a case of identity theft?

    All the women mentioned in this article are excellent candidates, “convincing” and “inspiring” to unparaphrase you. I don’t see why you use the term “mediocre”, really… where did you get that from?

    I’m tired of the kind of mediocre comment you just posted. To catch up on the debate, look at the comments on this page: http://www.social-europe.eu/2009/10/one-of-the-3-top-eu-jobs-must-be-held-by-a-woman/
    It will enlighten you, I hope.

  • Maëlig writes:
    November 2nd, 2009 at 19:12

    @ socialist : I’d tend to agree with you on choosing a candidate for his/her own qualities rather on certain characteristics such as nationality or gender. But unfortunately the problem is a bit more complex. If there are so few interesting female candidates for the presidency it’s not just by accident, but because women are still a minority in high-level politics. At some point you have to use positive discrimination to push an issue forward. Also, if all 4 EU top-jobs were held by men it would have a disastrous symbolic impact.

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