“The Maternity Leave Directive that is currently in force was adopted in 1992 and revised in October 2010 on the basis of a European Commission proposal (Estrela Report). The resolution that was then adopted by the European Parliament provided, inter alia, 20 weeks of maternity leave and 2 weeks of paternity leave with full pay, as well as measures aimed at protecting women who have recently given birth when returning to work.

At the beginning of this legislature, the Juncker Commission decided to include the Maternity Leave Directive in its REFIT programme – the proposal will be withdrawn unless the European Council unblocks the procedure by May 2015.

This decision by the European Commission is all the more outrageous as it comes at a time when several EU countries face serious issues related to ageing populations and there is a clear need to promote higher birth rates, which are essential for the development of our societies.

The European Council, on the other hand, has held on to the proposal ever since it was adopted by the EP and has not taken any steps to engage in negotiations aimed at completing the legislative procedure, despite the many attempts to that effect by the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality of the EP and demands from various social organisations. The behaviour of the European Council, composed of the governments of the 28 Member States, is very telling:  it is always in agreement when it comes to cutting wages and reducing workers' rights, but it cannot reach a consensus to raise the rights of families and working mothers.

On 9 March, the EPSCO Council will decide on the establishment of a working group to move forward the negotiations. The decision taken by the Council will reflect the willingness or refusal of EU governments to discuss this proposal. A decision not to complete the negotiating procedure between the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament will affect the lives of millions of working mothers, who will continue to be discriminated by virtue of having given birth to children, and will curtail the dreams of many young families. Such a decision would be in stark contrast to the official discourse of the European Union on the supposed protection of equal rights for men and women, on the right to reconcile family and professional life and on fighting wage discrimination.”

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