‘Sexist and undemocratic’: Pregnant MEPs demand ability to vote on maternity leave

STRASBOURG ̵1; A year before the European Union election, four pregnant European Parliament members are leading a campaign with their male colleagues to make their workplaces more hospitable to young candidates by securing parental leave for MPs .

Unlike members of national parliaments in countries such as Spain, EU lawmakers cannot vote if they take time off to care for newborns because there is no official process to allow parental leave and remote voting. .

“It is 2023. If you are forced to choose between your vote and your child, it is a really bad sign, especially for young women,” Lara Wolters, a Dutch MEP from the Socialists and Democrats group , who is expecting her second child, told Politico. an interview on Thursday.

The absence of just one MEP can make all the difference – as shown by a recent flurry of finely balanced votes on legislation ranging from corporate due diligence to restoring natural habitats.

Even though MEPs are still paid their full salary and are protected from restrictions on missing out on full votes if they take time off work for parental reasons, heavily pregnant MEPs are currently allowed to vote in Parliament. There is no provision to give if they cannot physically go to Strasbourg. The set-up, those pushing for parental leave argued, essentially means MEPs are penalized if they choose to have children.

“It’s undemocratic and it’s sexist,” Austrian MEP Claudia Gammon – who is with the liberal renewal group and is expecting a baby – said in a speech in parliament on Monday evening, when a group of male and female MEPs Coordinated speeches to attract attention. Issue.

Thirteen MEPs submitted a petition to President Roberta Metsola at her office on Tuesday, calling for reforms, asking for recognized parental leave, remote voting and the possibility of nominating an MEP as a substitute .

Metsola was supportive, signed the declaration, and pledged to see what could be done, said several MEPs present – ​​but their spokesman warned it was “a complex issue both legally and technically”.

French left-wing MEP Lilla Chabi, who is also pregnant, said: “It was positive, but we are not going to give up.”

MEPs have pushed for a permanent rule change for years in various formats to no avail and despite the fact that remote voting was briefly possible during the pandemic.

Wolters said, “I think there is a lot of frustration among members who know that this has been attempted and yet we have not changed the rules.” “I have a feeling we may now have a critical mass to get this thing off the ground.”

Wolters said the main pockets of resistance are found in the administration of parliament, which has technical arguments – some of which she understands – why remote voting or voting by proxy could be problematic. For example, it may be difficult to guarantee the anonymity of some members’ voting records if almost everyone is voting in person.

But Wolters doesn’t agree with all the roadblocks the authorities are putting up.

“The argument being made by some in the administration that it’s a sliding scale — I think that’s ridiculous because not everyone has a child or adopts a child,” she said.

Delphine Collard, deputy spokeswoman for parliament, wrote in a message: “Members of parliament conduct themselves in the exercise of their independent mandate, so no ‘permission holiday’ is necessary or possible; There is no difference on the basis of gender.

“The European Parliament also has facilities in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, allowing parents to work leaving their children in adapted family rooms,” he added.

Wolters, Gammon, Chibi and Spanish S&D MEP Adriana Maldonado, who Leadership The most recent push, starting with a letter sent to Metsola in early May, now has a WhatsApp group called “Motherhood Manifesto” and is seeking more signatures.

“The visual of four women with big bellies is good in itself to underline the point,” Wolters said with a smile.