After the scandal with American film producer Harvey Weinstein and the recent disclosure in Sunday Times of several cases of sexual harassment in the European Parliament, the MEPs discussed yesterday this issue with Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. “The phenomenon is everywhere and I wonder why we are talking about it only today – maybe because we have reached a turning point,” said Polish Member of Parliament Agnieszka Kozlowska-Rajewicz (EPP).
“It’s time to address this issue and to act,” said Anneleen Van Bossuyt (N-VA/ECR). “Awareness is an important first step. Everyone needs to speak-up against inappropriate behavior. A position of strength must never be misused,” she continued.
Spanish MEP Iratxe García Pérez (S&D) recalled that “45 to 55% of women” had already been exposed to sexual harassment. “Sentences like “she likes to provoke” or “you saw how she dresses” contribute to this phenomenon. Existing instruments in the parliament to fight the problem don’t work. We are asking for an external review,” she said.
Belgian MEP Marie Arena (PS / S & D) shares her opinion and is asking for an external investigation of sexual harassment in the parliament. “When you recognize that there is a problem, you have to know the facts,” she said.
The Sunday Times reported a dozen cases of harassment in the parliament. The Politico site has received more than 100 reports of such cases in the European institutions and those related to them. A resolution concluding the debate in Parliament will be put to the vote today.
A spokesperson in the European Commission declined to comment on the situation in the Parliament but stated that the Commission has zero-tolerance for sexual and moral harassment and follows strict ethical rules. The Commission has a special unit dealing with complaints against inappropriate behavior.
Asked by The Brussels Times about the number of cases, the spokesperson replied that in the past five years, an average of 13 persons have formally requested assistance each year. Disciplinary sanctions for inappropriate behavior were imposed in four cases on average each year.