European countries are still failing to meet MDG 3.3 - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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European countries are still failing to meet MDG 3.3

Thursday, 5 August 2010
Posted on Th!nk3Outlined in the Millennium Development Goals, section 3.3 seeks to address the gender inequality in the “proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments”, and some latest research by a leading EU think-tank will form some rather grim reading for those who thought Europe was well represented by female politicians.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy gestures as he and other EU leaders leave a family photo at the start of the European Council summit in Brussels on June 17 2010 (Photo: AFP)The Paris-based Robert Schuman Foundation, renowned for its research on the European Union, has recently released its latest paper which compares the percentage of ministers and members of parliament across the EU and show how many are women.

The results are quite eye-opening: principally because the EU overall is well below the 50% mark of female representation in the corridors of high-office.

Only Finland and Spain contain an overall majority of women in ministerial positions, with the Scandinavian country setting the standard having recently appointed Mari Kiviniemi as Prime Minister - an appointment that means for the first time in the country’s history the top two positions of state are held by women.

At the other end of the spectrum, neither the Czech Republic nor Hungary boast a single female amongst their governmental ministerial teams.

When it comes to the number of female members in the respective national parliaments, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands top the table and boast more women politicians than the overall EU average (24.32%), although neither quite achieves a 50-50 male-female balance.

In total, 17 EU countries fall below this average, with Malta’s Kamra Tad Deputati and Hungry’s Az Orszag Haza (where following the recent general election only 35 of the 386 members are female) finishing bottom.

When it comes to the percentage of female MEPs representing each European country in the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, the outlook is slightly rosier.

The current 257 female MEPs (of 736) produces an EU average of 34.92% meaning a little over a third of the plenary chamber is female. After the two previous sets of results, it should come as no surprise to learn that again the Scandinavian countries provide the greatest number of female MEPs, with Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Denmark sitting proudly in the top-five.

At the other end of the table, the ‘big names’ to be under-represented are Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, who despite providing a combined total of 144 MEPs, only 31 are not male.

As for the UK, it comes in below the EU average on all three accounts: with females only making up 17.39% of its new coalition government cabinet (EU: 25.75%), 21.88% of the MPs sitting in the House of Commons (EU: 24.32%) and 33.33% of deputies in the EU chamber (EU: 34.92%).

So while the EU can take some pleasure from these figures, there is clearly much to be done to set an example for other countries to follow to meet the MDG 3.3 by promoting gender equality.

While we should undoubtedly try to encourage more females to stand for higher office, substantial effort may need to be made to shake off the notion famously evoked by the UK’s former Minister for Europe Caroline Flint, who in her 2009 resignation letter, said that the former PM Gordon Brown treated women ministers as "little more than female window dressing"...

The Foundation's findings can be viewed by clicking here.

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