For the Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM), Mikael Gustafsson (Radical Left, Sweden), Europe "talks" a lot about gender equality but is still very "patriarchal".

Has women's cause advanced during your committee's mandate or regressed?

Both, in fact. On the one hand, gender equality is getting a lot more attention, people talk about it. But on the other, women have been hit harder by the economic crisis in Europe. They more often work part-time, take care of the household responsibilities and have less freedom of choice. The problem is not so much one of will as of putting things into practice and allocating financial resources.

But certain key EU proposals on maternity leave and quotas for women on boards are at a complete standstill

Exactly, we talk a lot, but in practice there is still so much work ahead. According to the index created by the European Institute for Gender Equality, the EU has an average of 54% gender equality [based on different criteria like work, money, knowledge, time, power, health, inequality and violence - Ed]. That is really a bad score. Even the top countries, like Finland, Sweden and Denmark, only score around 74%. On maternity leave, countries tell us that they cannot offer 20 months because of the crisis. But as I often repeat, we manage to find billions of euro for banks.

What do you tell those who criticise your committee, saying that it spreads itself too thin, doesn't draft its own reports and has to cope with tension among Conservatives?

The EPP is divided on gender issues. But in the Committee on Women's Rights, we work together extremely well even if we don't always agree. Of course, I could be accused of defending my committee. But we always have solid majorities on gender equality, including with Conservatives. I have never heard criticisms of the fact that we deal with too many subjects. In my view, those making such claims do not really support gender equality. The problem is that the other committees are interested only in quotas for women on corporate boards. We deliver a huge number of opinions because we want gender equality to be taken into account in different reports. It is a human right. As for drafting reports, we in fact want to share our responsibilities with other committees, with the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) on quotas, for example, although it is a fact that we produce fewer legislative reports.

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