Women’s Rights and Employment committees quizzed Helena Dalli, Maltese candidate for the equality portfolio, on EU Gender Strategy and the fight against discrimination.

Political groups’ coordinators from both committees will meet within 24 hours to assess the performance of Maltese Commissioner-designate Ms Dalli and forward their evaluation to the EP Conference of Presidents (EP President and political groups’ leaders). Members from the associated Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee also participated in the hearing.

Fighting discrimination, stereotypes and closing the gender pay gap

During her introductory speech, Ms Dalli said that discrimination is ‘‘harming both individuals and society as a whole’’, and that she would fight for a Europe ‘‘free of discrimination’’. If approved, she committed to establish, within three months, a Task Force on Equality to build an intersectional approach on gender mainstreaming in all EU policies. She also promised an EU Gender Equality Strategy, with new measures on issues such as pay transparency, the gender pay gap, violence against women and gender stereotypes.

MEPs welcomed the President-elect’s decision to appoint an Equality Commissioner for the first time. They put forward questions on several files blocked for years in the Council, such as the Women on Boards Directive, the Anti-discrimination Directive or the ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women. Ms Dalli said that she would do her utmost to unblock these essential files, by meeting with ministers to convince them to move forward.

During the three-hour hearing, MEPs also questioned her on the protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights, the digital gap faced by women, disability, female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriages, and the rights of LGBTI people, in particular transgender and intersex people.

EPP: equality portfolio welcome, but questions remain

“The EPP Group welcomes the creation of an Equality Commissioner as an unrivalled opportunity for the EU, which we intend to make full use of. However, some questions are outstanding and we would have liked to hear more detail on some of the initiatives Commissioner-designate Helena Dalli will take and how she will work with other Commissioners across other portfolios”, said Frances Fitzgerald, EPP Group Spokeswoman on the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, following today’s European Parliament hearing.

“Achieving equality for our citizens is a long-held ambition for the EU, for which Commissioner-designate Dalli has the opportunity to bring forward proactive, concrete action in order to genuinely deliver for citizens”, added MEP Fitzgerald, highlighting key areas for the EPP Group such as gender pay and pension gaps, encouraging women entrepreneurs and supporting a better work-life balance.

There must be zero tolerance against gender-based violence and to that end, the EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention is crucial, but other measures must also be pursued,” added Fitzgerald.

S&Ds: Helena Dalli will be a real fighter against inequality

Following the hearing of Helena Dalli, the Commissioner-designate for Equality, the S&D Group expressed its full support for her commitment to fight for a fair and a feminist Europe, free of discrimination of any type.

“The applause following the hearing spoke for itself. Helena Dalli has a proven record of fighting against inequality and different types of discrimination in Malta. Having listened to her today, we are confident she will do a great job in Brussels too. We are particularly glad she committed today to set out an ambitious EU gender equality strategy as soon as possible. The Socialists and Democrats have been calling for this strategy for a long time,” said Heléne Fritzon, S&D vice-president responsible for a new social Europe of equality, cohesion, and strong rights.

“After reaching parity in the Commission college, under our pressure, we must now ensure that the fight for gender equality is mainstreamed horizontally in all EU policy areas and in all Commission action, coordinated by Helena Dalli,” she concluded.

“During today’s hearing we, as S&Ds, made clear what the next 5 years should be about: no back-sliding, no hesitation, just real and steady progress on gender equality. While other political groups were much less ambitious, we used this opportunity to call for the swift revival and adoption of the Women on Boards Directive as well as the so-called Anti-discrimination Directive and the ratification of the Istanbul Convention to eliminate violence against women,” added Maria Noichl, S&D coordinator in the committee on women’s rights and gender equality.

“Closing the gender pay and pension gap was a major promise during the election campaign and I am certain Ms. Dalli will deliver upon it. She demonstrated her experience in this field, as she knows just raising awareness is not enough. Therefore, I am glad she committed to legislative measures on binding pay-transparency. We are looking forward for the first concrete proposals in the first 100 days of the new Commission. Europeans must receive equal pay, for equal work, at the same place,” said Agnes Jongerius, S&D coordinator in the committee on employment and social affairs

Based on committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to approve the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.