The European Parliament's Committee on Women (FEMM) is struggling to gain respect. The work of MEPs on the committee is often derided or at best ignored by colleagues.

Other committees mock the tendency of FEMM members to adopt reports on issues ranging from prevention of age-related diseases of women, women and climate change, the situation of women approaching retirement age, the role of women in the green economy, to developing women's roles via specific measures under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

In its defence, the issues FEMM deals with rarely come under the EU's competence. So it has to make do with non-binding own-initiative reports. Under this mandate, 35 have been adopted.

However, the EP has co-decision powers on trafficking in human beings and on maternity provisions (the rights of pregnant women and mothers). It has organised itself to deal with these, but it is no easy task. For the directive on the "rights, support and protection of victims of crime," FEMM had to fight hard to keep hold of a dossier which would otherwise have fallen into the hands - and those alone - of the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE). FEMM convinced the Greens and S&D presidents to involve themselves and finally the dispute was settled by the Conference of Presidents. FEMM became a partner with LIBE on the text. "We do not trust the FEMM committee to take forward a legislative dossier," says an EP civil servant, who prefers to remain anonymous. "We arrange things so that FEMM is associated with a more serious committee."


FEMM's work does not give it a good name. The few legislative reports it has handled - on maternity leave and quotas on executive boards - have not yet seen the light of day. Yet in reality, member states are ultimately the ones to blame since the dossiers are blocked in the Council.

"FEMM's work is discredited because own-initiative reports coming out of FEMM and going to plenary are Christmas trees hung with a myriad of demands," says a civil servant. So much so that...

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