Members of the WILPF Sections in Europe met this weekend in Brussels. The main goal was to discuss crucial issues related to the upcoming European Parliament elections happening from 23 May to 26 May 2019. In particular, members exchanged their national experiences and explored possible solutions for a peaceful feminist Europe.

Challenging Militarism

WILPF has for the past 100 years worked for sustainable peace. Since gaining suffrage, women, from all around the world, have always chosen peace over war. We currently perceive the EU on the opposite spectrum of its founding principles of human rights, peace, equality, and justice.

The EU is not only relying more and more on militarism, but it is also closing its borders, and excluding non-Europeans from the EU. WILPF Sections in Europe also expressed their concerns on nuclear armament, migration and asylum policies, and climate change. For these reasons, the European Sections are appealing to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and in particular to the candidates to the elections, to stop militarisation, to relocate its resources and military funds to social services like education, healthcare, and pensions, and to eliminate war from among its instruments of foreign policy. The EU’s focus should be on peace, on the wellbeing of its people, and on sustainable living for all.

Photo credit: Charlotte Hooij

Furthermore, the EU must effectively enforce the principles of equality before the law and non-discrimination as per the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. Despite, in theory, these principles holding mandatory legal value, in practice, as Jennifer Menninger, from Young WILPF Germany highlighted, this is not seen, and not everyone has equal access to claim their rights.

Working towards a Feminist Europe 

At the meeting, it was also discussed how gender equality has not been reached notwithstanding it being an EU founding target. Despite women accounting for over 50% of the world population, at the European Parliament in 2018, female MEPs only accounted for 36.1%. In European national parliaments, only 3 of 28 Member States have over 50% of female parliamentarians, and another three have equal numbers of female and male parliamentarians.  This is not good enough. WILPF European Sections demand the EU to work harder to achieve gender and workplace equality, by ensuring the full inclusion and participation of women in conflict resolution and peace talks but also in all our communities, states and international organisations.

Photo credit: Charlotte Hooij

Concretely, the Sections want MEPs to reaffirm their commitment to bring about democratic governance at both EU and national level, and make the EU an international body capable of guaranteeing EU law and international human rights standards. WILPF remains convinced that the achievement of peace, and the achievement of equality and justice for all people, together with the full inclusion and representation of women in all our diversity, are inseparable goals.

The members of the European Sections have put these concerns and demands on a letter addressed to the candidates in the European Parliamentary elections. The letter is a call to future MEPs to uphold the EU’s original values of solidarity, equality and justice.

Stronger together

Photo credit: Charlotte Hooij

During the weekend Heidi Meinzolt, Representative for the European region, made a presentation about the project Women Vote Peace and its upcoming event in Zurich. Also, the Young WILPF Network met with members of Young Feminist Europe, a platform that aims to amplify young feminist voices and activities across Europe, through both digital and grassroots activism. They have created a campaign in the run-up to the EU elections, to encourage women to vote but also to provide digital visibility to female EU candidates.

Together, we can all work towards a peaceful feminist Europe.