I really appreciate that the European Economic and Social Committee marks the International Day of Peace by organising an event to "Eradicating domestic violence".
As you know the European Parliament is also very committed to combat gender-based violence and to promote the implementation of all useful legal instruments.
Indeed the European Parliament has been insisting for years for the European Commission to propose a directive on combating violence against women:
- In 2009 we already called for a directive.
- The 2010 International Women's Day event in the EP was dedicated to it.
- The Svensson report adopted on 5 April 2011 called for "a new comprehensive policy approach against gender-based violence, including a criminal-law instrument in the form of a directive against gender-based violence".
- This year we once again called for actions in In't Veld report in march. We said that's were a "need for the Commission to present an EU-wide strategy to end violence against women including a legislative criminal-law instrument to combat gender-based violence as requested by Parliament in several resolutions".
We also called on the Commission to establish 2015 as the EU Year to End Violence against Women.
What is important to understand is that the EP is not asking for a piece of legislation for the sake of having it. Members are actually worried that there is no common standards in the EU. Indeed prevention and prosecution of gender-based violence varies a lot from country to country. Since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has increased competences in criminal law matters, so why not enjoy the new power to improve the life of its citizens? Yes, to fight violence against women and domestic violence.
As you know, contrary to parliaments in MS, the European Parliament does not have the possibility of tabling a legislative proposal. It is dependent on the European Commission which holds this power. After Lisbon Treaty, the EP can adopt a so-called "legislative initiative report", in which we request the EC to propose a piece of legislation. But that report is not binding and the EC is still free to do as they wish, if they explains why to the EP.
The argument we hear the most these days - at least for any kind of legislation which is in the "social" field - is that Member States cannot afford to spend more money.
Neverthless it is estimated that gender based violence costs around €16 billion annually. So addressing these issues is also spending money wisely.
In the absence of a legislative proposal, the Parliament takes the opportunity of other instruments to combat - partially - forms of violence against women. Inside the EP our Committee was involved in dealing with various proposals of legislation and could improve their gender percpective: - the directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims, - the European Protection Order (adopted in criminal matters, the civil matter case still under negotiation) - the recently adopted directive on minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.
I will now say something about an other important work to fight Mens violonce against Women. Its the Convention on preventing and combating violonce against women and domestic violence, the Istanbul-convention by the Council of Europe.
Both institutionally and personally, I am very committed to promote the implementation of all legal instruments to combat gender-based violence. Therfore I think the Convention adopted by Council of Europe, is a milestone in the fight to end violence against women.
I was last week in Tirana, where the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Equality and non-discrimination launched a Handbook for parliamentarians on the Convention with a view to help parliamentarians to better promote the Convention and other instruments on combating violence against women.
Yesterday, during our last committee meeting, we held an exchange of views with representatives (staff) from the Council of Europe on the Convention. I also know that lawyers in the European Commission are looking into the issue and I hope that the EU as such will be able to ratify the Convention. That would be instrumental to push the EU and Member States to adopt adequate legislation in the matter.
I hope that all our joint efforts, our common strong political will, the support of the Cypriot Presidency and hopefully of the upcoming Irish Presidency, and the Council of Europe's convention, will be instrumental to prove what should be done at EU level. I will do my best to have the Convention signed and ratified at EU level and in the Member States.