May 8, 2009
I am back in Hungary now after the final plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. That's it now: the current Parliament will not meet again, and the make-up of the next one is yet to be decided...
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the PES MEPs, especially the PES Women MEPs, for their hard work over this legislature. With the right in a majority in the Parliament, Commission and Council, securing important progressive reforms has been an uphill struggle. Yet we Socialists were the ones who successful fought against attempts by the Czech Presidency to water down childcare targets. We were the ones who led the way in banning all discrimination outside the workplace. We were the ones who defended and expanded the Daphne programme, providing assistance to victims of physical, sexual and psychological violence. It's an impressive record, of which I am phenomenally proud.
Even this week, at the very end of five years of work, PES MEPs continued to fight for progress all the way to the finish:
Mary Honeyball chaired a conference on "Rape in the European Union", where she was joined by Eva-Britt Svensson, whose written declaration on the ‘Say NO to violence against women" campaign had been adopted on 22nd April. Michael Cashman joined a number of other PES MEPs at the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights in the European Parliament at a hearing on LGBT rights, responding to statements by homophobic MEPs with great strength and clarity. Edite Estrela slammed the right for postponing the decision on her proposals on maternity leave. Her report contained some excellent and urgently needed changes: it proposes raising minimum maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks, increasing maternity leave on full-pay from two to six weeks and introducing a minimum two weeks of paternity leave, yet the EPP blocked it and sent it back to committee.
We cannot know what the next Parliament will look like, but we can be sure that gender equality issues will have to be high on the agenda. As Europe goes to the vote in June, the economic crisis is as serious and as painful as ever, and women, as always, are suffering disproportionately; from higher unemployment, lower pay, less job security and a larger burden of domestic and childcare work.
That's why this weekend I am in Hungary to campaign on the PES European Day of Action on "New Social Europe - giving people a fairer deal". Across Europe our member parties and activists will be holding discussions, rallies and campaign events, all of which will be reported LIVE on our excellent campaign blog, so there are no excuses for missing it!
As part of this fantastic pan-European event, today I am in Pécs with my good friend Ildikó Lendvai, the leader of the Hungarian Socialist Party, as well as 1,600 women from our womens' section. Here we will be doing a rally and then a busy afternoon of street campaigning. Then tomorrow I go to Kisvárda in the east to meet the local Socialist women's group, where I will be talking about the importance of reviving the European Social Model for women's rights and opportunities.
I wish you all a very Happy Europe Day for tomorrow, and a great weekend's PES campaigning!