I regret that my duties in the Finnish Parliament prevent me from being with you today as you are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Equal Opportunities in the European Parliament. I want to extend my warmest congratulations to all of you. [:]
It was no doubt one of the very best experiences during my eight years in the European Parliament to chair this Committee before the previous European elections of 1999. You no doubt remember how “the big boys” had decided to abolish the Committee since 16 years must have been enough to remedy the situation of women in Europe and to reach full equality! However, we proved that nothing was more wrong. We referred to the continued discrimination, lack of equal representation in politics and in the economy, trafficking of women – and to the forthcoming enlargement. Together with some thousands of womens organizations we did not only save the Committee’s existence but also took over the new competence on equality legislation.
With the new right of co-decision the Committee – again – took the lead in the struggle for gender equality on our continent, putting in place legislation which gives women a stronger protection against discrimination in the labour market. For the first time ever, we also highlighted the growing importance of men as fathers in this struggle. Properly and efficiently implemented, this law will mean huge improvement for women, and above all in the new Member States.
Our Committee– I say “our” since I feel very much connected through my continued EU work in the national parliament – has always put in place new challenges for the other EU institutions. One only has to think of the terrifying violence against women which unfortunately has proven to be a very persistent problem in Finland, a country thought to a model for all European women.
I am confident that the Committee will continue to identify ever new challenges and convince the whole EU about the need to act for women in Europe. In the European elections of next June, we will again have to push together for the equal representation of women and men in politics. Otherwise the face of the European Union will not look like the majority of its citizens which means that people will turn their back to Europe.
May I also send you and to the Committee the congratulations of the conference “Women and Economy”, organized by the German Green Party this weekend in Frankfurt. The glass ceiling for the leading positions of the enterprises remains to be one of our common challenges in the coming years.