In her opening statement at the Commission hearings yesterday afternoon (01 October), Věra Jourová, Commissioner designate for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, spoke passionately about her enthusiasm and the sense of responsibility she has for the role.
She said her commitment was to deliver on the European values and fundamental rights described by Vaclav Havel and quoted his address to the European Parliament in 2000, in Strasbourg.
Her mandate will be characterised by focussing her efforts on three areas: the need for citizens to have choice, the protection of citizens’ rights and the need to build trust across the judicial systems within the EU.
On women she asserted that vulnerable women who suffer violence “need our voice”, adding: “Whether its women who suffer domestic violence or the inhumane practice of female genital mutilation. These are incompatible with everything the European Union stands for.”
Later on during questions Jourová, she said she would ensure all member states ratify the Istanbul Convention (about preventing violence against women which will be signed in 2015). Until now only eight member states have signed it.
The Commissioner designate, if ratified, will have responsibility for a new portfolio and she said she hoped that she would be able to build bridges between national legal systems and build a fairer single market. She said: “It will help to build economic growth because a sound and predictable justice system is a prerequisite for economic growth and a business friendly environment in which cross-border trade can flourish.”
Jourová also promised to tackle the ‘glass ceiling and assured us that she will defend the Women on Boards proposal.
Jourová, spoke passionately about being the victim of injustice and the lengths she went to clear her name. “It was this”, she said, “That pushed me to study law”.
During questions she was asked if she will support the European Parliament’s roadmap against discrimination of LGBTI in Europe. She responded: “We are dependent on the member states that need to fight against this, but I will use awareness campaigns.”
Following this she was asked if action against specific member states will be taken but Jourová’s response was vague and she said it is something to discuss with individual countries to see if such barriers exist.
Her answers on gender equality were a bit more promising, albeit rather general and she said women must have equal access to services that men have at their disposal.
She was also asked about female representation in the European Commission and if she is willing to start a campaign for more female commissioners. She said she would “be presenting proposals to increase gender equality in the Commission.”
In her closing comments she admitted she was a little general with her responses. It is true that her answers lacked detailed. However, her portfolio is new, extremely complex and covers a very large area; in addition she was questioned for three hours.
Although a member of the ALDE group (Liberal group) I found her remarks on women, in particular, very encouraging.
Lord Hill’s hearing was also yesterday running at the same time as Věra Jourová, so I was unable to see it but you can read more on that here.