For the first time in years, the citizens of European Union actually proved to be somewhat interested in the future of our Union – the voting turnout turned out to be incredibly high this year.
Over 50% Europeans have raised their voices. What can we learn from the results? Not only is the society becoming more polarized, but there is no longer a place for the existing status quo in the new European Parliament. People crave a different kind of Europe.
This means we will face major changes on the European political scene in the upcoming months.
Besides the growing support for populist, anti-European movements, which demand “Europe of Nations”, there are also some pros of such a phenomenon.
In the past decades, the EU was ruled by the coalition of European People’s Party and Socialists & Democrats. Following the results of Sunday’s election, the two parties will most probably have to share their influences with what is now the third major power in the EP – ALDE. The perfect example of a possibility of expanding the coalition are the top EU jobs that always used to be divided between the members of EPP and S&D, and which may be offered to the representatives of liberals this June, too.
Margrethe Vestager, current Commissioner for Competition, has high chances of becoming the next President of the European Commission. This means that she could be the first female in this role. Both European Council’s President Donald Tusk and French President Emmanuel Macron admitted they will do their best to elect two female and two male leaders for the top positions, making the EU more equal in terms of gender.
This would be an important step forward. While the EU is well known for its huge involvement in promoting gender equality both inside and outside the Union, women are rarely chosen as political leaders.
In the whole history of the European project, there were only two women serving as High Representatives of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the other two as Presidents of the European Parliament. All of them were undoubtedly strong female leaders with great academic background and huge experience in national politics, yet no one bothered to offer them some real power.
The EU is often criticized for choosing women only for the less important positions. The impact HR/VP and President of the European Parliament have on the EU politics is much smaller than Commission’s and Council’s Presidents’. These are the leaders of the Commission and Council who shape the European reality, while the HR/VP’s role is purely diplomatic. The role of the President of the European Parliament, on the other hand, is mostly determined by the limited power the Parliament has.
When analyzing inequality not only among top politicians but in the European Union as a whole, even the Commission itself admitted the progress is slow as regards the Europe’s endeavor to achieve gender equality, and there is still a lot of ground to be made.
Even though the EU is the only global power that takes gender equality seriously and has a potential of becoming a leader in that field, female politicians still face many obstacles. Thus, it is high time key European politicians acted in order to make gender equality something more than just a cool topic to talk about.
The upcoming decisions regarding the division of all four positions will be a great opportunity for the incumbent leaders to prove that they really believe in gender equality or whether all their promises have been merely empty words.