Many things are and have been discussed and debated in this Bundestag election campaign – climate protection, minimum wages, tax policy. But there is one subject that is strangely silent, namely the future of Europe. Europe is eagerly awaiting the elections in Germany and the results.
“I find it shocking that we are not taking care of Europe,” said Katarina Barley, the SPD politician and former federal minister, now vice-president of the European Parliament. Before settling in Brussels and Strasbourg, the Doctor of Laws held various ministerial positions within the federal government, most recently as Minister of Justice. Prior to her political career, Barley worked as a judge and research assistant at the Federal Constitutional Court. Today, she campaigns for equality in the European Parliament.
She sat in the German Bundestag and watched “a sea of black suits”, explains Barley at the Plan W congress, notably to the parliamentary groups of the Union, the FDP and the AfD, in which women are clearly under-represented. The proportion of women in the Bundestag is only 30 percent, compared to a good 40 percent in the European Parliament. Barley reports that the proportion of women in all parliamentary groups is significantly higher there. The realization that this is also the case with right-wing parties, which in Germany are not exactly pioneers in terms of the proportion of women, is surprising.
Open detailed view
Katarina Barley was Minister of Justice in Germany and is now Vice-President of the European Parliament.
(Photo: Johannes Simon)
Gabriele Abels, professor at the University of Tübingen, where she studies European integration, points out that the far-right parties in Italy (Lega) and France (Rassemblement national) notably have a high proportion of women in the European Parliament. . The legally prescribed quotas worked there. Such quotas do not exist in Germany, and such attempts are unsuccessful. Abels justifies this on constitutional issues: party rights, such as the free choice of their candidates, are rated higher than Article 3 of the Basic Law, which guarantees, among other things, equality between men and women. “There is a limit”, says Abels and adds: “I would like here some clarifications from the Federal Constitutional Court.”
“This is where worldviews collide,” says Martin Schirdewan, leftist politician
Lawyer Barley agrees. “An egalitarian relationship is important for democracy,” she said. Martin Schirdewan, member of the European Parliament and co-leader of the Left Group there, also reflects on this via the video. He calls for at least equal representation in all parliaments, the situation must be “finally broken”. European electoral law must be adapted. But some parties like the AfD are currently trying to roll back progress on equality. Schirdewan is worried about the “authoritarian slide in the EU”, for example in Poland and Hungary. “This is where worldviews collide,” he says.
Stronger promotion of women and, above all, regulation of quotas for the economy has so far failed at European level, mainly because of resistance from Germany, criticizes Barley. The European Commission made an effort, approached Germany and rolled out the red carpet. But Chancellor Angela Merkel refuses, and most EU states are in favor. “If Germany was okay with it, it would go away after years,” says Barley, which is one of the reasons she’s hoping for a change after the parliamentary elections. Researcher Abels says Merkel has modernized the CDU in a remarkable way, but apparently takes into consideration the economically liberal and conservative wing of the party.
Abels points out that European legislation has on several occasions made important contributions to women’s equality. Many guidelines, for example on equal pay and equality in labor markets, would have made the difference. Much was initiated by Europe in the Merkel years as well. Barley points out, however, that attempts are being made in Eastern Europe in particular to go back. There are “very powerful interests”, which unfortunately is not yet widely known.
Author and activist Vincent-Immanuel Herr believes that Europe and gender equality simply go together. According to polls, women tend to be more pro-European. He has recently taken Interrail trips to many European countries and has noticed that women do a lot of pro-European work. Interest in the subjects is very high. It is all the more frightening that the theme of Europe and equality is so far behind in the German election campaign.