The European Union nominated two right-leaning women to head two important commissions in a bid to achieve “perfect gender balance.”
The European Parliament Tuesday nominated two Neoliberal leaders to lead two important commissions in a bid to achieve “perfect gender balance”.
France’s Christine Lagarde has been nominated to head the European Central Bank (ECB) and Germany's Ursula von der Leyen to head the European Commission (EC).
“We have chosen two women and two men for the four key positions, a perfect gender balance,” said Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council.
However, in order to achieve the “gender balance,” the European Union conveniently sidelined social democrats and gave power to two women known for their leaning towards the neoliberalism.
Dutch Social Democrat Frans Timmermans, who served as the Vice President of the EC, was supposed to take over the European Commission and was considered as the better-qualified candidate for the position. However, Leyen surpassed him at the last minute in what critics called a closed-door negotiation.
The negotiations were done to satisfy eurosceptic Visegrad Group consisting Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and the right-wing government of Italy.
“It is unacceptable that populist governments represented in the council rule out the best candidate only because he has stood up for the rule of law and for our shared European values,” said the Socialist MEP leader, Iratxe Garcia.
Christine Lagarde, who has been the head of the International Monetary Fund for eight years, is nominated to run the ECB but her nomination also comes as a shock as she apparently has no experience in monetary policy and not even an economist.
The IMF is historically known for stepping in to "help" countries in economic crisis, providing billions of dollars in loans in return for harsh austerity measures, reducing government and its workforce by firing thousands of public employees, and cutting social programs. Such policies have proved catastrophic in many countries including Argentina, Greece, Ecuador and Egypt.
"This backroom stitch-up after days of talks is grotesque, it satisfies no one but party power games," said Greens leader Ska Keller.
The socialists' leader in the assembly, Spain's Garcia, called the agreement "deeply disappointing".
“A backdoor deal with candidates emerging to please the national leaders from Germany, France, and Spain. This is not the change that was promised to European voters,” Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout wrote on Twitter after the announcement.
Under the deal reached by the EU leaders, and backed by conservatives, the center-right will have the presidency of the parliament in the second half of the five-year legislature.
Lagarde is a French lawyer and politician who held several ministerial positions in France. She became the first woman to head the IMF. Her nomination has been supported by global bond market who believe under her leadership, there will be an era of ultra-loose monetary policy in Europe.
Von der Leyen’s surprise nomination was not received even by her own countrypeople. The 60-year-old former gynecologist and economist was the defense minister of Germany who generated negative reviews from the German army and citizens.
“The other fury is that Ursula von der Leyen is already a compromised defense minister in Germany because of her defense contracts,” an anonymous source told the Guardian newspaper.
"It's an unparalleled act of political trickery," Sigmar Gabriel, a member of Germany’s center-left SPD said about Von der Leyen’s appointment. He called on his party to block the nomination.
Even though Tusk said these appointments point towards greater gender equality in the EU, a “balance” is far from achieved.
Out of 28 member states of the EU, only four are led by women. In the ECB, only two council members are female. Only five of the 28 member states sent a gender-balanced group of Members of European Parliaments (MEPs) to the parliament.
They are Sweden, Finland, France, Slovenia, and Luxembourg. After the recent elections, only 39 percent of the seats in the parliament were won by women which is a three percent increase from last elections.