EU institutions remain a man’s world

Paris – The European Union is becoming more feminine, as highlighted by the nomination of two women to head the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

But aside from these two key positions, the 28-nation bloc’s institutions remain largely a man’s world.

 

– In two firsts, two women –

 

EU leaders have nominated Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen to preside the powerful European Commission, while France’s Christine Lagarde, the current IMF chief, will head the European Central Bank.

Von der Leyen’s nomination still has to be confirmed by the European Parliament.

The pair, who hew to the centre-right, will be the first women to ever hold the posts.

Mini profiles of Ursula von der Leyen and Christine Lagarde

Other top European jobs, this time round handed to men, have in the past gone to women.

The European Parliament was presided by France’s Simone Veil from 1979-1982 and Nicole Fontaine from 1999-2002.

The position of the EU’s foreign policy high representative, created in 2009, has only been occupied by women: Britain’s Catherine Ashton (2009-2014) and Italy’s Federica Mogherini (2014-2019).

The only top job to elude women so far is the role of president of the European Council, which groups the EU member states. The position has been occupied by men since it was created in 2009.

Is there gender parity in the top EU institutions?

More women than ever — 40 percent — have taken their seats after the recent elections to the European Parliament, but it remains far from man-woman parity.

In 1979, after the first direct elections to the assembly, it only counted 16 percent women.

 

– No parity in EU parliament –

 

The proportion has increased from election to election, reaching 37 percent last time round in 2014.

This year six countries have sent an equal number of men and women to the assembly: Austria, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia.

Role of women in the European Parliament

Two have sent more women than men: Sweden (55 percent) and Finland (54 percent).

Cyprus is the only country to have not sent a single woman.

The Greens and the Liberals are the political groups that have come closest to parity between the sexes, with 53 percent and 47 percent women respectively.

The eurosceptic right (32 percent) and the christian democrats (34 percent) are furthest from the mark.

Key facts on the new European Parliament

The outgoing European Commission, presided by Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, comprises nine women and 19 men, a female participation of 32 percent. It is an identical share out to the previous executive presided by Portugal’s Jose Manuel Barroso.

 

– European Commission: forthcoming challenge –

 

The make-up of Juncker’s team, in 2014, was the subject of a standoff with the European Parliament president at the time — German social democrat Martin Schulz. He warned that the Parliament might not muster the necessary majority to vote in the Commission if it contained less women than its predecessor.

The make-up of the next Commission will not be known for several months.

Nominees for the top EU posts

If women are doing better in many EU institutions, several EU bodies are lagging behind.

Women only hold two out of 25 seats, or eight percent, on the Governing Council of the European Central Bank. The EU’s other financial body, the Court of Auditors, does hardly any better with just six out of 28, or 21 percent.

 

– Other EU institutions lagging –

 

The European Council, which groups the leaders of the EU member states, along with the EU and Commission presidents, only counts, before von der Leyen’s nomination, 17 percent women, or five out of 30.

On the legal side, the European Court of Justice and the General Court are made up respectively of 18 percent and 23 percent women.

Does the EU lead the way in female legislators?

By Jean-Philippe Chognot