Network of Parliamentary Committees on Equal Opportunities
EU CONVENTION AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES
Intervention by Anna Karamanou
MEP/ Chairperson, E.P. Committee on Women's Rights & Equal Opportunities
I would like to welcome that this item is on the agenda for this important meeting, as it is a priority issue for us, women in Europe. Ever since the beginning of the work of the Convention, the future of Europe has been a matter of priority also for our Committee on Women´s Rights and Equal Opportunities. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, Colleagues from Member States and Candidate Countries who have responded very positively to our Committee´s initiative to try to influence the works of the Convention on the Future of Europe.
We are here in this meeting to unite and mobilise our forces, to be able to jointly influence the work in shaping the future of Europe.
Our Committee´s efforts to influence the process of building the future of Europe has been made, as you know, mainly through two meetings in the European Parliament, on 22 May and on 2 October. Besides Parliamentarians, all Members of the Convention were invited, and representatives from a number of NGOs and the civil society, experts and representatives of the Commission participated as well. In the first meeting, Ana Palacio, Member of the Presidium of the Convention and now Minister for Foreign Affairs in Spain, took the lead in the meeting. In the second meeting we had the privilege of having two Working Group Chairs on the podium, Gisela Stuart and Klaus Hansch.
After each of the meetings, we have summarised the conclusions in concrete demands on the Convention, which I have sent to Giscard d´Estaing, with copies to all Members of the Convention.
As you know, we have not been alone in our efforts. We have had a lot of support in contributions from lobby organisations, such as the European Women´s Lobby, legal experts, such as European Women Lawyers Association and legal experts of the Commission, researchers, the European Commission Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities etc. All voices have given the same message: gender equality must have a prominent place in the Convention on the Future of Europe.
The response from the male-dominated Convention has been both disappointing and worrying. It was with surprise and concern we found that in the preliminary draft Constitutional Treaty on 28 October, there is a complete lack of mentioning of gender issues. We fear now that what we have achieved so far on gender equality in the Treaty, which of course must be further strengthened in the future Treaty, will not even be maintained and that instead, we will go backwards.
In this situation, our Committee felt that it should act strongly and immediately. We decided to prepare a draft declaration that this meeting could consider to adopt. The draft was prepared by a Working Group chaired by Heidi Hautala and consisting of Members of the Committee as well as of the Convention - Lone Dybkjaer, Hanja Maij-Weggen, Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann and Anne Van Lancker. The draft was discussed and agreed by all other Members of our delegation to this Network meeting - Miet Smet, Joke Swiebel and Helena Torres Marques and me of course.
On the substance, may I just highlight a few issues I feel are of major importance.
First and foremost, the "acquis communautaire" on gender policy, both in terms of substantive law and competences, must be fully maintained and strengthened.
On the Constitutional structure, the Charter of Fundamental Rights should be incorporated in such a way that its advantages in so far as gender equality is concerned, are preserved. Gender equality should be included among the basic values of the Union. Its promotion as well as the elimination of inequalities should be an objective and task of the Union.
On the Union policies, Gender mainstreaming should be incorporated in all policy areas, at all levels, at all stages and by all participants in political acitivity.
An appropriate legal basis in the Treaty to fight all forms of violence against women has since long been an important request of our Committee.
Last but not least, in view of the forthcoming elections of the European Parliament in June 2004, I would like to stress, finally, the fundamental necessity of a balanced representation of women and men in this important body. The European Parliament should be a good model of democracy for all the Europeans Institutions.
You have seen in our draft declaration that we have chosen, at this stage, not to propose any concrete articles to be contained in a Constitutional Treaty. I shall leave comments on that to our representatives in the Convention here present, but my own clear view is that such a concrete work should be done as soon as possible, in order to serve as an input to the next draft Constitutional Treaty which we can foresee to be published in January.