Debat 2:

Connie Hedegaard: I would like you Malin Björk to elaborate on, where the pressure comes from? The national state or the EU? Which role does the national state play in EU?
And another question, are you only or mostly working with female members of parliament and female civil servants or are you also working with men?

Malin Björk:
We have members in all of the EU states and hopefully also soon in the future member states. Our work is mainly to try to ensure that the right directives come through and we work with whoever is responsible for the area of the directives. We work especially with the Commission and the General Directorate who are responsible for gender issues.
It is another issue, but I think it is quite difficult to be one of the only five women in the Commission collegium.
When it comes to why national mobilisation is important, it is because that in the end it is the European Parliament and the Councils of Ministers that are the ones deciding, and these have national constituencies. Your Minister, Henriette Kjær is likely to be much more sensitive to the women’s organisations in Denmark than to similar organisations in the EU. That is why your letters and demonstrations are important, or mobilisation in general.

Connie Hedegaard: Sofia Fernandes, you described how EU had been a lever for gender equality in Portugal. Does that mean that the majority of Portuguese women are in favour of EU?

Sofia Fernandes:
In general, the Portuguese population is pro-EU. There is no difference between the EU-support of men and women in Portugal.

Fra salen - Mette Fink-Nielsen, feministisk forum.
Malin, this morning there was this feeling here, that we had to unite our forces and gather the knowledge we already have. Wouldn’t the European Women’s Lobby be the right platform for that, now that you have opened up for individual members? And how can we use the EWL in our work for a more equal EU?
My second question is how can we have a preliminary draft of the Constitutional Treaty from the Convention that does not mention gender? How can we have the general objectives of article 3 not mentioning equal rights?
For Sofia, Malin mentioned in her presentation that she viewed the enlargement with the new member states as an opportunity for strengthening the feminist movement in EU. What is your position on this?

Malin Björk:
The only full membership of the EWL is via the national platforms so that is the only way to voting at our general assembly and have real influence. The corresponding membership and supporting membership is more a way to network and keep yourself informed.
About the preliminary draft, it is also a mystery to me. It is unacceptably, and we are furious. We will launch some kind of campaign. The European Convention continues its work until June next year so we have some time at our hands.

Sofia Fernandes:
We have been profiting from the EU in terms of social and economic development, and it is only normal that we now include more states and let them profit too. As far as women’s rights issues are concerned, the Portuguese Network of Young People for Equality has already been doing projects with these new countries in the framework of the EU Youth Program. They have a background on some issues that are important in Portugal, such as for instance, regarding sexual and reproductive rights, the issue of abortion. Abortion is forbidden in Portugal which means that sometimes women die while performing them with no medical conditions. So, on such issues we can work together, among others.

Connie Hedegaard:
Sofia, after the Portuguese presidency the level of activities fell again, and there are problems with implementation. Does that mean that you would advocate that EU should rather have more tools for controlling what the member states do in a specific area or more tools for implementation?

Sofia Fernandes:
That is a difficult question because Member States are Member States and therefore have a certain authority. The European Union gives guidelines and these guidelines are very important. The EU cannot provide resources to everybody for actions to take place.
In fact in Portugal, most of the actions for gender equality on a higher level are taken by the so-called femmocrates, which are women who are civil servants who have insight and influence concerning gender equality. In this way it depends on the individual woman who currently holds a position of influence. But the new generation knows that things are happening in other states, they know some of the tools and that there are ways of measuring improvements. Maybe that will make it easier to mainstream gender in the near future. For the time being, the idea is there but frequently people do not know how to do it and do not have the resources for it. But I think it must be done by the Member States, not by the EU.

Fra salen – Sofie Carsten Nielsen:
My question is primarily for Malin but also directed at some of the other persons present here today. What I would like to elaborate on, is how do we get more involved, how do we use all of the information which apparently you already have but a lot of other people do not get in a continuous manner? Therefore I would like to ask you, but also to be a bit provocative and ask the Women’s Council in Denmark, what strategies can we put forward to engage more of us?

Fra salen:
This is a question for the EWL too. What are you actually doing to mobilise women’s organisations, networks and institutions? And what can we from the organisations do to support your work?
I think it would be a good idea to work for the General Director for Gender Equality in the EU but also to have an advisory council for the Committee of Regions. But further, I think we need more bottom-up-work, so that what we want can be placed on the political agenda of the EU.

Malin Björk:

I do not have the magic solution. If I had, I would be chairing the Convention. But what I can say is that there are no limits to how many networks one can have and there already exists a lot. EWL is the largest and the oldest, i.e. the most experienced. Of course it has been difficult in some countries, I am here not talking about Denmark but in general or especially about the Scandinavian countries, to link to the EU because there within the women’s organisations has been a general scepticism towards EU. Then, some of our platforms, especially in southern Europe, are completely under-funded. If you do not even have the money to buy stamps then you cannot do much of information dissemination work. So, I do not have the recipe. In terms or information, I think our supportive membership is an opportunity. In terms of full membership and voting, I think it is important that we work through national platforms because the EU political process and decion-making is constructed that way and that is the way we can exert pressure.

Inge Skjoldager, Dansk Kvinderåd (Danish Women’s Council):
The Danish Women’s Council is member of the Lobby. We attend the meetings there. We are working on the issues and we follow what is going on. You are always welcome to call us and maybe we could make some kind of e-mail network. This is not something that we have discussed yet. It is a bit difficult because we are a small secretariat with limited staff and funds.

Connie Hedegaard:
But if I may follow up, is there a tendency of not wanting to get too much into EU-issues?

Inge Skjoldager, Dansk Kvinderåd (Danish Women’s Council):
We are an umbrella organisation with more than 52 member organisations. And we are not talking about yes or no to EU; we are talking about gender equality. That is what is important to us.

Karen Sjørup, leder Center for Ligestillingsforskning:
There is an advisory committee on equal opportunities in the EU. But this is a committee consisting mainly of governmental representatives, meaning civil servants. I am the chairman of the working group under this committee working with the Convention. Last year we presented the Convention with several working papers but we got almost no response at all. The EWL did a great work. But it is complicated juridical matters so it is difficult to make a public discussion. We have to find some way of crossing this border between the very-very bureaucratic way of making a new treaty and then some bottom-up processes. I think it would be a very good idea if the Danish Women’s Council invited some of the persons from EWL to present some of the work on the Convention and made a lot of publicity about it. We have Helle Thorning Schmidt and Lone Dybkjær but it is very important that we give them something to work with.

Bente Schwarz:
Jeg tror ikke, at det er EU-skepsis, der gør, at vi ikke har nogle ordentlige arbejdsgange mellem EU og de nationale organisationer. Jeg tror, at problemet er, at vi mangler et netværk, en offentlig bevågenhed og nogle midler til at få lavet noget erfaringsopsamling og få nogle af de her ting til at lykkes.

Gitte Sofie Kirkeby, Danish Women’s Council/ Organisation for Gender Research in Denmark:
I would like to say that we in the Women’s Council follow up on the EWL recommendations through lobbying on a national level. It is we send faxes, makes telephone calls and meet with politicians. This work is not visible as it is lobby work. But it is very important. Yet, we also need to do some of the work which makes what is going on visible and we are so many here today who can do this.

Malin Björk:
When I came to the EWL I did not know much about the EU, but I came as a feminist wanting to change things. With that energy it is actually not too complicated to do some work.
I think we should think of ways to do work, for instance how to make campaign work. An issue as that we want something in the future treaty about gender equality is not too complicated to rally around. Then we can have some experts to help us write with the more specific things. But that is not our greatest asset, it is to mobilise. The last half of 2003 with the inter-governmental conference on the future of EU will maybe be an opportunity to test ourselves. An opportunity to test how far we can go, how angry we can be.

Connie Hedegaard:
In one month from now, it will be an reality that we will get the enlargement of EU. How do you think that will affect the gender work?

Malin Björk:
I had a journalist from Le Monde (a French newspaper) interviewing me and his conclusion was that the best thing we can do is to get ‘them’ in as fast as possible because it is so pitiful over there. This is an example of how there has been an almost colonial approach to the applicant countries. From a feminist perspective, it looks different. If you compare these countries to an EU-average in terms of women’s participation on the labour market, it is higher there; in terms of child care services and elderly care there are quite some provision, although there has been deteriorations in their welfare systems. To be able to combine work and family is something that is quite pressing for the young women that I met from these countries. In terms of the women’s NGOs they seem more radical because they cannot wait. They have had ten difficult years of transition, where they have seen a downscaling of the welfare state, and they are prepared to contribute to the building of a more social Europe. So I think there is a lot of feminist energy to get from the enlargement.