The European Elections to the European Parliament’s 9th term are taking place this week from 23 to 26 May 2019. They take place every 5 years, and you can choose from eight different political groups.
We asked Heidi Meinzolt, WILPF’s Regional Representative for Europe (WILPF Germany), Lina Hjärtström, WILPF’s Alternate Regional Representative for Europe (WILPF Sweden), and Jennifer Menninger, a Young WILPF Member from WILPF Germany, why women shall vote and what a peaceful and feminist Europe would look like.
Why Should You Vote?
The European Parliament is the only parliamentary institution of the European Union (EU) that is directly elected by EU citizens aged 18 or older, making it even more relevant to have your say and vote.
The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) approve or reject legislation on a wide range of matters, including migration policies, cyber security, gender quotas and climate change. These laws are then applied in every EU Member State.
If you want to know more about how EU laws and policies affect your daily life, check out the website What Europe Does for Me run by the European Parliamentary Research Service.
When asked, Heidi Meinzolt emphasises that we, as women, got our voting rights 100 years ago. “In the European elections, we should use our voting rights and vote for women, in particular, for women who have clear ideas on how to strengthen equality and peace.” Lina Hjärtström adds that “women need to vote in their own self-interest, by voting for candidates that have shown to have a feminist agenda in practice.”
Most importantly, Europe needs feminist approaches to peace and security, which is why we must vote for candidates that support our vision of a peaceful and feminist Europe.
What Do Women as Voters Need to Do?
Jennifer Menninger highlights that “before voting, they should get familiar with nominated local political parties and decide which one gets their vote, depending on which party represents their views in relevant matters” such as women’s rights, children’s rights and others mentioned above.
For Lina Hjärtström, it is important that women “ensure that the party they are considering to vote for, has previously supported gender equality, abortion rights, equal opportunities and other rights that affect them as women in the EU.”
What Should We Look for in Candidates?
If you, like WILPF support the nuclear ban, and in particular, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, see which Members of the European Parliament have taken a pledge to support the treaty.
You can also check this scorecard made by Women Engage for a Common Future to see which political EU parties care about issues such as plastic use, period equity, access to safe, clean and affordable water.
Heidi Meinzolt stresses that we look out for candidates:
- Who promote concepts to move the money from war to peace;
- Who work in their parties and political groups to implement concrete strategies for disarmament and de-militarisation;
- Who have a gendered analysis of political challenges and declare gender equality as a guiding principle in all their decision making and in negotiations within the EU and in EU external relations;
- Who declare the implementation of women’s rights (including sexual and reproductive rights) and protection from violence as one of their priorities for sustainable development and a caring economy;
- Who have the courage to stand for women’s rights as human rights and a humanistic asylum politics guaranteeing legal access for refugees to Europe and the right to seek asylum; and
- Who stand for a tolerant and democratic society, against nationalism, exclusion and fear.
What Does a Peaceful and Feminist Europe Look Like?
A peaceful and feminist Europe “is a place in which all people have the possibility to live in a clean, non-violent environment, where public spending is not used for militarisation and border security. Instead, it funds education, infrastructure, arts and culture. No one dies while trying to reach European shores. Cities, regions, and countries work closer together transnationally. Lastly, there will be peaceful solutions for conflicts, such as in Ukraine and Cyprus,” tells Jennifer Menninger when asked about her vision for a peaceful and feminist Europe.
Heidi Meinzolt shares the same vision as Jennifer Menninger. A peaceful and feminist Europe is a community that guarantees “equal rights and freedom: from equal pay to meaningful participation, protection from violence, prevention and prosecution.”
Lina Hjärtström continues that “a peaceful and feminist Europe demilitarises its external borders and reshapes EU foreign policy to engage with other countries on a platform based on solidarity, equality and justice. Gender equality becomes the guiding principle in all its external relations. A peaceful and feminist Europe remembers its past and ensures that nationalism and fascism have no place in the EU or its member states. Instead, a peaceful and feminist Europe ensures ways of safe and dignified pathways into Europe and upholds the fundamental right to asylum.”
What Needs to Change for the Vision of a Peaceful and Feminist Europe to Become a Reality?
“Young people should get a high-quality education in which they become democratic citizens who have the power to decide the future of Europe. The EU should work more efficiently and offer more possibilities for participation. People from disadvantaged and minority groups, such as women, youth, migrants and LGBTIQ+, should get encouraged to become politicians and use their voices to demand a fundamental change of the patriarchal, racist, and capitalist European system,” resumes Jennifer Menninger.
The EU must work on “disarmament and decolonisation of our minds and memories, openness for the added value of diversity, a push for feminist economic principles, and a sense of humour and positive creative energy,” explains Heidi Meinzolt.
Lina Hjärtström finalises by stating that “representation in the decision making bodies of the EU needs to be gender equal, as well as inclusive of people from different backgrounds. The EU also needs to ensure that an intersectional feminist perspective guides all decision-making. Lastly, funds must be diverted from the military cooperation and invested in human security; in environmentally sustainable production and transportation that can allow people to live safely in and around Europe for a long time to come.”
How Can I Vote?
Where Can I Find the Election Results?
The election results are expected to be available on May 26.
At WILPF, we want the elected candidates to the European Parliamentary elections to uphold the stated goals of the EU to promote peace. Read our Open Letter to them and make sure to share it.