image Women: participate in the European elections in May for a chance to see real change to gender equality.

On 2 March 2009, the European Parliament and the Commission published the results of a survey on women and the European elections.

The survey revealed that women did not consider their needs were sufficiently taken into consideration by the European Union and that discrimination – in terms of salary, the workplace setting, violence against women – was still far too frequent

And men and women did not consider the EU to be close to its citizens and that those feelings impacted upon a willingness to vote.

This willingness was also gendered: fewer women than men voted.

This year, at a seminar marking International Women’s Day 2014, the European Parliament said the 2014 elections will be different.

This year’s European elections, on 22 May, will give voters the chance to influence the future political course of the European Union when they elect the 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to represent their interests over the next five years.

In the 2009 post-electoral survey women emphasised areas directly affecting day-to-day life as reasons which did or would encourage them to get involved in the elections and vote for change – issues such as economic growth, unemployment, the future of pensions and public health were all cited as important and relevant factors for women in their decisions to vote.

Why does the European Parliament consider 2014 to be any different?

The European Union is trying to pull through the economic crisis and EU leaders are reflecting  on what direction to take in the future, so the European Parliament considers this year’s vote to be the most important to date.

Women are being urged to participate in these elections quite simply because if women do not vote, they cannot influence the major factors affecting their lives.

The elections will not only allow voters to pass judgement on EU leaders’ efforts to tackle the economic crisis in the eurozone and to express their views on plans for closer economic and political integration, they are also the first European elections since the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, which introduced a number of new powers for the European Parliament.

The European elections now give voters a clear say as to who takes over at the helm of the EU governmental system and who is voted in as president of the European Commission.

This  means that when EU Member States propose a candidate they must now take into account the European Election results.

In the UK we have 73 seats and almost a third (32 per cent) of the UK’s MEPs are women – significantly higher than the level at the Westminster Parliament (22 per cent).

The Hansard Society is hopeful of better representation for women in the UK after the May elections: ‘It seems to be traditional that there are proportionately more women elected to the Parliament in Brussels than in Westminster.’

According to their recent research the European elections look set to continue the trend.

But although this 32 per cent does at first glance, looks positive, if we compare ourselves to our nearest neighbours in western Europe we don’t fare so well; only Ireland and Italy have a lower percentage of female MEPs than the UK.

If more women MEPs were voted in, it would provide a greater opportunity for the issues that really matter to women to be represented in the European parliament.

Nan Sloan, director of the Centre for Women and Democracy (CWD), said: “Over a third of candidates placed first on the parties’ lists are women, and although many of these are MEPs seeking re-election, there are enough new candidates at this level to make a difference if they are elected.

“If most of the parties (including UKIP) manage to get their top candidates elected, UK women will be better represented in Brussels.

“Which would raise even more awkward questions about the likely fortunes of women at the next UK general election in 2015.”

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