Where are the Women in EU Politics?
Margot Wallström was born on 28 September 1954 in Sweden. She entered politics shortly after graduating from high school in 1973. She worked as an Ombudsman for the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League. Then, in 1979, she was elected as a Member of the Swedish Parliament where she served for six years.
Her ministerial career began in 1988 when she was appointed as Minister of Civil Affairs – Consumer Affairs, Women and Youth (1988-1991). She later served as Minister of Culture (1994-1996) and Social Affairs (1996-1998).
In 1998, she retired from Swedish politics to become Executive Vice-President of Worldview Global Media – an NGO based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The following year she was appointed as Member of the European Commission, under President Romano Prodi, and given responsibility for EU environmental policy.
In 2004, when the Barroso Commission took office, she became Commission Vice- President with responsibility for Inter-institutional Relations and Communication.
Margot Wallström has received honorary doctorates from Chalmers University, Sweden (2001), Mälardalen University, Sweden (2004) and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell (2005).
Other distinctions include being voted "Commissioner of the Year" by the European Voice newspaper in 2002.
In 2004, together with Göran Färm, Member of the European Parliament, she published the book “The People’s Europe or Why is it so hard to love the EU?” (“Folkens Europa eller Varför är det så svårt att älska EU?”).
In 2010, she was appointed U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Question: What role do women play in EU politics?
Margot Wallström: Well actually we managed to increase the women representation in the parliament. So it went up with 4%. So at least that was a positive sign. But, you know, women make up 52% of the population of Europe, but they are only represented to 30% as members of the European parliament. That is too low! And even if it went up to 34% this is still so bad.
That’s why you often can see it in these so-called family photos from the Summit Meetings and saw black suits and ties. Sometimes of course you see Angela Merkel or Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, but it is really something that I don’t think will make women very motivated or interested. Maybe anger which could be a good thing if they mobilize that sort of anger to say, “Well we really have to get into politics or we have to change this situation.” It means also that the issues that women care for and the problems that women have including pure discrimination when it comes to the big wage gap still existing, or violence against women, or a number of other issues—they are not addressed properly. So we cannot trust that the majority of men will put this on the agenda. So I think it is so important to change. I was engaged in a debate called 50/50 Democracy EU, which was a way to help to mobilize interests in changing women’s representation.
Recorded on: July 10, 2009
Margot Wallström describes the changing role of women in the EU.
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