Viviane Reding : "If we are Barroso girls, then he is equally our boy!"

Sprung in der Spring, c'est râpé. Berlin, 04 mai 2010 : les bonnets sont de sortie et les jupes descendent sur les leggings, il fait 10 degrés à l'ombre de l'Alex. Pour réchauffer l'atmosphère, je vous ai concocté une série d'interviews exclusives avec les drôles de dame de la Commission Barroso II. Huit femmes ont ainsi été nommées sur 27 postes, un tiers des effectifs plutôt « symbolique » pour l'organe décisionnel de l'UE. Car si l'égalité homme-femme est pompeusement proclamée « valeur commune de l'UE », les statistiques ne sont guère flatteuses : taux d'emploi inférieur, sous représentation politique et économique, inégalité du partage des tâches familiales, pauvreté accrue vie du sexe faible sur le continent est parfois bien loin du rose layette. Mais qu'en pensent Mesdames les Commissaires ? Leur vision au quotidien d'un univers européen très masculin, leurs luttes et leurs convictions en cinq questions.

Premier volet avec Viviane Reding, 59 ans, femme politique luxembourgeoise, membre du Parti chrétien social et Commissaire chargée de la justice, des droits fondamentaux et de la citoyenneté. Viviane Reding est également vice-présidente de la Commission européenne.

Do you think that EU institutions could be qualified as "macho"? If you're implying that the EU institutions are dominated by men, I have to disagree. In general, we have a good gender balance in the Commission: 51% women, and 49% men. Over the years, our approach has moved from a mainly quantitative policy aimed at increasing the number of female administrative staff and female managers to a broader concept aimed at the promotion of better work-life balance for all staff. We have introduced teleworking, flexitime and are promoting part-time work. The main problem is that there are still too few women in top managerial positions - only 17%. This is not enough. I would like to encourage women to just go for higher positions. Most of the time it is not about lacking opportunities, but about the women who think they are not qualified enough for a certain position. We certainly need a change in mentality: women who believe in themselves and men who appreciate the potential and creativity that women can bring to work. If by saying "macho,'" you refer to the fact that Commission President Barroso is a man and the female Commissioners are in a way directly subordinated to him, then again, my answer is "no." He is the president and gives the overall political directions. However, individual Commissioners have wide freedom to develop our policies. Ultimately, the Commission always decides on policy as a collegial body. A journalist once described the female Commissioners as "Barroso's girls." I responded by saying, "if we are his girls, then he is equally our boy!" I do not think the European Commission could or should be qualified as macho.

Did you have any problem during your career to impose yourself? No, never. I guess part of that has to do with the fact that I have always been proud of who I am and proud to be a woman. I have always profited from being a woman. I was the first female journalist writing about politics in Luxembourg. I became a politician and at the same time raised my three sons. When I was EU Telecoms Commissioner I used to be pretty much surrounded by men. At first, they didn't take my announcements about regulating roaming charges very seriously. They probably thought: "Let this woman talk." But then I took action, which was a big surprise for them. My advice therefore is: just go for it! You will be surprised how much you can achieve and you will be surprised to see the (mostly male) surprised faces around you.

Does the fact that you are a woman played a role in your daily job as a commissioner ? In what sense ? Whenever I talk to women who might not be very self-confident, I try to pass this message on. I have never been suppressed or felt I had a problem because I was a woman. But of course I am aware that sometimes, unfortunately, in society women do face problems because of their gender. In these cases, I can only encourage them to speak up. If people don't know you have a problem they will simply not be able to help you.

If you could change something in the EU, what would it be? The EU is often seen as a vast bureaucratic project that has nothing to do with typical citizens. I want to bring the EU closer to its citizens. I recently outlined a plan for the next five years that will make citizens' lives easier when then chose to live, work, study or travel from their home country. EU citizens should not face barriers to justice when they leave their home countries. These ambitious proposals will remove bureaucratic obstacles that currently hinder citizens' lives and add extra costs and legal uncertainty to our businesses.

If you could define Europe in three words? Freedom, opportunities, solidarity.


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