Human Rights
Internal Policies and EU Institutions

Statement made by the President of the European Parliament at the opening of the part-session on the occasion of International Women's Day

Strasbourg -
Monday 08/03/2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today in Europe International Women's Day is not as we remember it from days gone by - at least in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. 8 March is not just an occasion for offering flowers to women, it is also an opportunity for important debates - debates on equal rights, help for mothers with large families or combating violence against women.

The European Parliament is taking an active part in these debates. The Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities is a particularly important committee in this House. In November 2009, we adopted a resolution on the elimination of violence against women, calling on the Commission and Member States to develop coherent programmes to combat this form of violence. We want support for the organisations which help the women who are its victims. Our ambition is for the European Union to set an example to the world as a whole, since violence against women is a breach of fundamental human rights, damaging to future generations.

Women today deserve better. It is women who can, and indeed must, save Europe from demographic decline. Yet this should not be at their own expense. Women with three or four children must be able to enjoy the same rights as men when pursuing a job and career. Widespread crèche and nursery provision - including at the workplace - is just one way of achieving that goal.

Equally, mothers who so choose must be given the opportunity to stay at home with their children, perhaps through a system of taxation that takes account of the family as a whole and not just the two spouses.

Our goal is to secure full equal rights wherever possible. Discrimination at work or in society must become a thing of the past. In the European Union, women and men enjoy the same dignity and the same rights.

Upholding those rights is also a task for this Parliament. We are seeking to use the powers we have to push for new legal provisions that will ensure equal treatment and greater security for women.

Let me say to all the women present here at the European Parliament that I wish every day could be your day; that I want you to feel valued and not discriminated against; that I want your numbers here to continue to increase.