“If Member States do not propose enough female Commissioners, I will not hesitate to ask for new names” — Ursula von der Leyen

The European Union finally enters the 21st century as first ever woman President of the European Commission is elected. European Women’s Lobby: “This significant moment marks a turning point for progress towards the Europe we want.”

For the first time in the European Union’s history, a woman – Ursula von der Leyen – was elected as the President of the European Commission on 16 July 2019. This is a significant step towards true representation of European citizens in leadership positions, with women making up just over half of the European population. The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) welcomes this achievement and is looking forward to working with the new President-elect in delivering on her strong commitment to gender equality, parity democracy and women’s rights.


Ursula von der Leyen


Ursula von der Leyen committed to several of EWL’s key demands set out in the 2019 European elections manifesto during her hearings with European parliamentary political groups. On 15 of July 2019 during her address to the European Parliament, she stated: “We [women] represent half of our population. We want our fair share.” She added, on the specific issue of parity in the College of Commissioners: “And I will start at home by example: I will ensure full gender equality in my College of Commissioners. If Member States do not propose enough female Commissioners, I will not hesitate to ask for new names. Since 1958 there have been 183 Commissioners. Only 35 were women. That is less than 20%”. Finally, she expressed her commitment on working on violence against women and girls: “We also need to talk openly about violence against women. If 1 in 5 women have already suffered physical or sexual violence in the European Union and 55% of women have been sexually harassed, this is clearly not a women’s issue. I will propose to add violence against women on the list of EU crimes defined in the Treaty. And the European Union should join the Istanbul Convention.”

The EWL particularly welcomes the President-elect’s commitment in seeking to establish EU level legislation to eradicating violence against women and girls. Gwendoline Lefebvre, President of the EWL, said: “Together with our EWL members and Observatory experts on violence against women, we have been working for more than 20 years to raise awareness on the reality and the persistence of violence against women and girls and its impact on all women and girls. We have also worked intensively to ensure that violence against women is considered a top priority in the political agenda. The EWL is happy to finally see that violence against women and girls is recognised as a European issue that requires a European policy response. Inclusion of violence against women as a Eurocrime and the introduction of a Directive to combat violence against women would save lives. Strong action at EU level is key”.

Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the EWL, also insisted that, “The most important thing we would like to see is a full political strategy at EU level for achieving equality between women and men. Women are still second-class citizens in Europe and we need Europe to show that it’s willing to put this issue as one of its top priorities. It is now time for the EU to concretely act and the EWL will be watching to ensure the new leadership of the Commission walks the talk. Now that the EU leadership finally entered the 21st century, we must take action to deliver equality for all women and girls.”