COSAC Women’s Forum Set Up for Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU

30 October 2013, Last updated at, 11:21 EEST
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Meeting of the COSAC Women’s Forum. | author: O. Posaškova

For the first time in the history of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union (COSAC), the COSAC Women’s Forum was set up for the 50th COSAC (L COSAC) meeting at the Seimas. Participants of the Women’s Forum adopted a Declaration on the Establishment of the COSAC Women’s Forum. This emphasises the necessity to attract the attention of political parties and encourage them to devote more attention to gender equality, equal opportunities policy, social gender balance, and women’s wider political participation.

Moreover, with a proposal by the Seimas Speaker Loreta Graužinienė, the COSAC Women’s Forum in its address to L COSAC, expresses solidarity with Julia Timoshenko’s imprisonment in Ukraine and emphasises the necessity to ensure proper respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is also encouraged to immediately ensure the legal and real opportunity for Julia Timoshenko to receive treatment abroad and to avoid accusations of selective justice.

The COSAC Women’s Forum expressed the hope that the countries holding upcoming Presidencies of the EU Council would take over and continue to develop the initiative of promoting the engagement of women parliamentarians in COSAC activities. Member of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs Prof. Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė was nominated coordinator of national parliaments of the COSAC Women’s Forum.

The idea of organising a parliamentary women’s forum and promoting their more active participation in COSAC activities, and discussing the most relevant matters on the political agenda of the European Union (particularly bearing in mind the important issues of gender equality, equal opportunities policy, gender balance in society and women’s wider participation in politics) was born at the meeting between the Seimas Committee on European Affairs and the Vice President of the Senate of the French Republic Bariza Khiari in July this year in Paris. Members of the Committee, as representatives of the parliament of the country holding the Presidency of the EU Council, visited the parliament of France, and presented the parliamentary dimension of the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council.

Bariza Khiari, participating in the organised women’s forum, was exited that the idea born in her cabinet was being easily and quickly realised, because, according to her, cooperation among female parliamentarians would contribute to stimulating and strengthening democracy. “One needs courage not only to participate in elections, but also to boldly take part in parliament discussions. When I had just started working in the Senate, I asked a male colleague to have a word in the procedural issues. I was told that I would have to keep quiet for some three years. Why should I keep quiet? I do not want to only observe, I want to be heard,” the Vice President of the French Senate said. Even though, according to survey data, women comprise 26 per cent of parliamentary members in EU Member States, and 21 per cent outside the EU, the member of the Senate raised the point as to why we cannot reach 50 per cent female participation in parliamentary activities. In addition, Bariza Khiari believes that it is not only the number of women in parliaments that is important, but also the percentage of women taking leading positions.

Director of the European Institute for Gender Equality, Virginija Langbakk, presented survey results proving that gender inequality in political life exists. According to the survey, the number of female ministers in the EU's Member States decreased from 88 per cent (in 2005) to 75 per cent (in 2012). “At the moment more attention is devoted to human rights in general, not to issues of gender equality. Therefore today’s initiative is well-timed and very useful,” she said.

The Seimas Speaker Loreta Graužinienė said that women’s involvement in political activities will lead to greater coherence not only in politics, but in the life of society as a whole. She appealed to actively discuss the objectives and vision of the COSAC Women’s Forum, and expressed the wish for everyone to have fruitful future discussions.


 

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