European & International News

Greens hit out at ’lack of women’ in new EU diplomatic corps

By Martin Banks

Parliament’s Green group has accused EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton of "reneging" on her pledge to recruit more women into the EU diplomatic corps.

Ashton announced the first, and most senior, batch of appointments on Wednesday.

They include 28 heads of EU delegations in various parts of the world, only six of whom are women.

However, more appointments are to follow in the coming weeks and a source close to Ashton said that while the aim was to recruit the "brightest and best", she was equally keen to see more women in the new service.

Even so, the relatively few women in the first tranche of appointments brought an incensed response from the Greens group which has campaigned for more women and eastern Europeans to be appointed.

The attack comes as MEPs are set to decide which of the 28 delegation heads will be invited to appear before them in the coming weeks.

Franziska Brantner, foreign affairs co-spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group, said, "The announcement confirms our fears that the EU’s external action service would become an old boys’ club.

"Only six of the 28 top jobs have been allocated to women. This distorted recruitment policy is an insult to 250 million European women.

"Not only has Ashton reneged on her promise to make gender balance one of her top priorities, she is also ignoring legally binding EU provisions to ensure gender balance in recruitments the European external action service.

"Parliament cannot accept this and the Greens will be seeking to ensure that MEPs do not approve any budget for a cigar-smoking gentleman’s club.

Her comments were endorsed by Ulrike Lunacek, foreign affairs co-spokesperson of the group, who added, "It was a Green initiative to make it a legal obligation for Ashton to ensure gender balance in the European external action service.

"We will insist that these provisions are respected. Ashton should keep in mind that parliament has not approved a single cent for the European external action service yet."

On Monday, parliament’s foreign affairs committee will decide which of the new appointees to invite to appear before them.

Before taking up their posts, EU special representatives and heads of delegations to countries and organisations which parliament considers "strategically important" have to appear before the committee.

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