[WATCH] Muscat: ‘We’ve had enough education, time for MP gender quotas now’

Joseph Muscat 'Our electoral system has failed to give more space to women, so why shouldn't we consider gender quotas?'

Joseph Muscat was speaking at a conference with EC president Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo: James Bianchi
Joseph Muscat was speaking at a conference with EC president Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo: James Bianchi

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stood adamantly behind his call for gender quotas to boost the number of women in Parliament, insisting that education alone will not cut it.

“I must be the only Prime Minister in Europe to have all the females of my parlaiemntary group in my Cabinet, and I don’t think this is on,” he said. “Our electoral system has continuously failed to give more space to women, so why shouldn’t we consider gender quotas at least temporarily?”

He said that there is “an obvious obstacle” for women to get into local politics, but rubbished calls for more education as a solution.

“We can say ‘more education’, ‘more education’, but it’s been about education for the past 50 years and if we go by the same sort of acceleration then perhaps we’ll have six female MPs in each parliamentary group in 50 years time.”

He was responding to a question by Samantha Pace Gasan from the Network of Young Women Leaders at a conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Juncker, full of jokes about Cisk and pastizzi on the day the UK started the process to leave the EU, ignored Pace Gasan’s question on whether he agrees with gender quotas in Parliament.

Instead, he argued that he has a history of roping in more women into politics – both as Luxembourg’s Prime Minister in the past and in his current role as European Commission President.

“Around 40% of the people at the highest levels of the European Commission are now women, which is tremendous considering it was 22% when I had started. It will be 121% when I leave.”

Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday

‘EU critics musn’t be labelled as fascists’ – Juncker

During the conference, Juncker and Muscat extended an olive branch to Eurosceptics, arguing that their criticism of the EU was grounded in reality but that dissolving the union is not the solution.

“It is our duty to not blame the eurosceptics, but to listen to them and discuss with them,” Juncker said. “If someone says that the EU is nonsense, then we mustn’t label them as fascists or populists, but rather take on board their severe criticism and do our best to explain the EU properly to them.”

He also said that political parties should stop only focusing on scandals in political debate, but also discuss “serious issues” that will encourage more citizens to re-invest themselves in political life.

Muscat argued that the rise of eurosceptic movements across the continent is the symptom of a sort of “social malaise” of people who feel that they have been left behind.

Indeed, he used Malta as an example of how a country can overcome euroscepticism, noting that national sentiment of the EU is now extremely positive 14 years after the accession referendum.

“I had campaigned against Malta joining the EU,” he said, prompting Juncker to wryly note that he had campaigned against his propaganda back then. “The way we have come together to make a success of it irrespective of who is in government now and who will be in government in ten years’ time should serve as an example to Europe.”

He struck a positive tone about the EU’s future post-Brexit, claiming that the EU will “surprise people with its resilience and drive to move forwards”.

In response to a question from a student, he also defended Malta’s constitutional neutrality, insisting that it is in the EU’s best interests for one of its members to be a neutral state in the centre of the Mediterranean “where people trust each other instead of arming themselves up”.

Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday

Condemnation of Trump’s climate change order

Juncker and Muscat both criticised US President Donald Trump for his recent executive order to scrap Barack Obama’s climate change policies and instead boost fossil fuel production.

Juncker warned that Trump’s move was “disastrous” for both the US and the world, and said the EU will keep insisting on the objectives reached at the 2015 Paris climate change summit during future negotiations with the US.

During an earlier press conference, Muscat said that he disagreed with Trump’s executive order but that his decision should prompt the EU to adopt a global leadership chance on climate change.