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The future of Europe belongs to women, and this means that men and women share power, visiting Vice-President of the European Parliament Evelyn Regner said on Monday in an interview with AGERPRES, underscoring that "machist societies" must understand that the situation is changing and that the European Union is doing a lot for gender equality.
"Today is Europe Day, we speak about the future of Europe. And let me tell you something: the future of Europe is female, and female means that men and women are sharing power," Regner said when asked to comment, in her capacity as EP Vice-President responsible for gender equality, on the fact that there is only one woman minister in the Romanian government and the two Chambers of the Romanian Parliament are headed by men.
The high European official said that measures are in the works at European level to ensure an equal representation of men and women, and proposals include the requirement that each EU member state should nominate a man and a woman for European Commissioner.
"I'm negotiating a dossier that is called 'Women on Board'. Women need to hold half of the top economic positions in companies. And, good news, we will get this. I think that at the end of the French Presidency [of the EU Council] we will have a result, that we'll have a women's quota of [at least 40 percent] in the management of enterprises, and then all these machist societies must be aware that the situation is changing. Europe does a lot for women," the Austrian socialist MEP said before a conference in Bucharest on Europe Day titled "For a Europe that Leaves No One Behind" organized by the 'PES activists' political network and the Social Democratic Party (PSD).
She added that income transparency allowing women to know how much their male colleagues earn is another important step.
"There's a constant push on these issues, it takes time because we are living in backlash times, with bad developments, but on the other hand there are also good and strong developments," the MEP explained
Asked what measures could be taken to combat sexual harassment of women in the workplace, in the context of the debate sparked in Romania over the recent statement by actress Viorica Voda at the Gopo Awards Gala, who said she was a victim of sexual harassment in the system following her role in the 2002 movie "Filantropica/Philanthropy", Evelyn Regner mentioned several solutions to combat this phenomenon.
"First of all, 'thank you' to all the women who speak about that. It takes a lot of time for a woman to dare to speak it out. Usually women are blamed. You have this victim blaming," she said.
"In the European Parliament we have decided that every EP member, but also all staff members should be given mandatory training to understand what harassment is. You have to help the victims, but you also have to address those who do this, machist men. We live in societies with these stereotypes. So we need this training. This is something that can be done right now in Romania too. And then you learn at the workplace," she said.
"Secondly, we must always keep the victims in mind. Does a [harassed] woman directly go to the police, to TV stations, to colleagues? Rarely, because this ruins your career, it's also about being ashamed, not daring, being shy, and then you swallow. Of course I fully understand these women. They should be completely protected, but what they need is a sort of a safe space. Therefore, there should be at every workplace, at every huge enterprise something like an outside, autonomous center or an outside person, a mediator they can go to and talk to about these cases, and who can follow the case afterwards. And this has to be done out of the company, not inside, because otherwise women don't dare to act," the MEP explained.
"This is of course just one step. We need even more awareness and we are working on that in the EP, because sexual harassment is the peak of the iceberg. Altogether it's an abuse of power to make women invisible, smaller, more modest and make them hold it within, which is not OK," she added.
Regarding the protection of Ukrainian refugee women against violence and sexual exploitation, Evelyn Regner explained that the first step is their proper registration by the authorities of the states that take them in, followed by as much as possible EU support for non-governmental organizations providing on-the-spot help.
Regner said that today she had the opportunity to see firsthand at a registration center how efficiently women, most of them mothers with children, were being treated and commended the good organization in terms of logistics and centralized approach. Registration is the first and very important protection factor, she said, for women not to fall victim to ill-intentioned people.
"We, the European Union, need to give money. I am very blunt. We have seen that in small towns, for example the Romanian town of Tulcea (...), people in civil society are helping, they are doing a lot. But it takes money to directly support NGOs that are helping," she said, stressing that there needs to be better coordination between EU support and the work done on the ground.
At the same time, the EP Vice-President pointed out that there must be solidarity for the European Union to shake off its dependence on Russian gas as soon as possible.
"I am a member of the EP and I know one thing: only if we are united we can do something against Putin's terrible attack on Ukraine, only if we are together. Therefore, there's a huge 'Yes' by us, MEPs and myself - of course - for the Commission's proposed package of sanctions, 'Yes' for the ban on Russian oil, 'Yes' also for Russia's exclusion from the SWIFT, because we have to go for the banks too," she added.
"I know this hurts the most, but it's better to say 'Yes' today than tomorrow for a ban on [Russian] gas. I live in a country (Austria, ed. note) with a huge dependence on Russian gas. We want to punish Putin and we don't want to punish our industries and our people, but we need to put an end to Russian gas dependence as soon as possible. For this we need real solidarity in the EU (...). It's better to get out on our own terms, because we're going to have to give up gas anyway. It's better that we speed it up and get out as soon as possible," cautioned Evelyn Regner.
Asked about a bill initiated by the deputies of the ruling coalition's Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania which amends Law No. 272/2004 on the protection and promotion of the children's rights that defines the child's identity at birth, as represented by name, gender, citizenship and nationality, and according to which the child has the right to retain their identity established by the doctor at birth, the EP Vice-President said that such attempts are "against the core values of the European Union".
"I have a clear message: this is against the core values of the European Union that are enshrined in our treaties. It is against fundamental human rights. The conclusion? No European money for those countries that breach fundamental human rights," she stressed, reminding that the European Parliament has already conveyed this message several times to Hungary, which is now "more or less under pressure". AGERPRES (RO - author: Ionut Mares, editor: Mariana Ionescu; EN - editor: Simona Klodnischi)
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