Dear President of the European Parliament,
Ladies Vice – Presidents of the European Parliament,
Ladies Presidents of the European Parliament’s Committees,
Dear European Commissioners,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to participate today, around the International Women’s Day, in this event which I deem special first because it proposes an agenda with ambitious goals as regards gender equality and women’s empowerment.
At the same time, I am particularly honored to address you as woman, politician and especially as the first female Prime Minister of Romania, state holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union.
It is very important for me to attend this meeting, given that I was member of the European Parliament and of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.
I would like to thank you for this opportunity and to congratulate the organizers of the Women’s European Council for the initiative to extend an increased attention, within this edition, to the topic of women’s participation in the political life, in a year that the European citizens will decide through vote on the future of the European Parliament and the future European legislature.
This vote can be, and we wish it to be, a vote for a strong and united European project, and also a vote for more ambitious European policies than the past ones, including from the perspective of the gender criterion.
Today’s debate is taking place in a very opportune moment, when the demarche of promoting gender equality and combating discrimination in all its forms is likely to be more visible, more insistently pursued and more effectively reflected in the European action, in our public agenda.
I want to emphasize, from the beginning, my full support for gender equality, a fundamental principle underpinning the Union and the European culture, a topic with transversal applicability which I want to be extended as much as possible to the Union’s policies and to which our presidency extends a particular interest.
Ensuring equal opportunities for women and men is a desideratum for Romania, and we started transposing it into practice through an urgent prioritization in all areas of public policies.
Through our actions, we seek to constantly maintain gender equality as priority and we want it to be considered as significant benchmark for our action in implementing the future Strategic Agenda of the Union.
The motto of the Romanian presidency of the EU Council –“Cohesion – a common European value” is relevant including from the gender equality perspective. We cannot talk about cohesion in general and especially social cohesion, without fighting together against gender discrimination in the labor market, and at the level of leadership positions.
We cannot consider that the European values and principles are observed if it is not given the necessary attention to equal opportunities for women and men.
We cannot speak of social welfare for all EU citizens without promoting women in all areas of social life, whether we are talking about education, the labor market, entrepreneurship or political positions at the highest level.
We cannot speak of rights and freedoms if we do not refer to victims of domestic violence, victims which we must defend through regulations, mechanisms and legal instruments promoted at European level.
In fact, we have taken an important step this week in Romania, in providing aid and protection to persons abused within their own families, by financing from European funds, a programme aimed at these persons. We will create through this programme, a social housing network where victims of domestic violence will receive protection, legal and psychological assistance, and will be supported through professional training programs.
Equal participation of women to political life, gender equality are vital to the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the functioning of democracy and the rule of law and, last but not least, to economic growth and competitiveness.
The objectives of equality and consistent development cannot be attained without the active participation of women and the inclusion of gender perspective in European policies, at all levels of decision-making.
Romania has promoted measures whereby women are more actively involved in the political life. Nearly a third of Ministerial offices in the Cabinet I am leading, are held by women. I will work to increase women presence in the Romanian Government.
Our preoccupation with the observance of this principle at European level can also be seen in the appointment of a European female commissioner in the current College and in the substantial female representation at the level of the Romanian delegation of MEPs.
At the level of the Social Democratic Party of Romania, we also took an important step and introduced the principle of parity in the governing structures of the party.
We want to promote this principle at the helm of public institutions too, because extending the capitalization of women’s leadership and professional abilities will bring higher quality in the work of public institutions.
We assumed a set of major objectives in this area, at European level, in the exercise of our presidency of the EU Council: increased women’s economic independence, for which we are considering measures to combat gender pay gaps , with particular emphasis on the Commission’s initiative on the Action Plan 2017-2019 on combating the gender pay gap. The Romanian Presidency will prepare the draft Council conclusions on gender pay gaps, particularly with regard to appropriate policies and measures that Member States can apply to reduce gaps. At national level, due to policies backed and implemented by the Government, the average hourly wage for women is only by 5.2 percent lower than for men.
Given this percentage, Romania ranks first among EU Member States in this respect. However, we are still considering new government policies to improve Romania’s gender equality index calculated by the European Institute for Gender Equality.
Other dimension of the Romanian Presidency’s action seeks to stimulate measures designed to support female labor force participation and especially women in leadership positions. In this respect, our objective was, and I am glad to state that we attained this objective of completing negotiations on the work-life balance for parents and carers dossier. We also seek to continue talks on the Proposal for a Directive on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges.
Another major objective is to prevent and combat domestic violence and to provide emergency protection measures to protect and support victims.
In support of these objectives, we will hold a High Level Conference on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men on May 29 -30, 2019.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I conclude by stating that my participation in the works of the Women’s European Council represents an opportunity to reaffirm the Romanian Government’s commitment to continue the policies and measures required to promote the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of women and men. I would like to thank you once again for this opportunity and to wish you a beautiful spring!