The United States and the world have been focused on the US election. We have all been fascinated by the prospect of a woman president or a black president. This powerful country of over 300 million came close to being led by a woman.
Ironically, there is another political campaign going on in our midst that is almost entirely hidden from Americans' view. It is the race for the presidency of one of the most powerful conglomerates of assets and people in the world: the race for the presidency of the European Council. The European Council is the highest political body in the EU. It chairs the organization composed of 27 countries with a total population of over 500 million and 30% of the world's GDP. In truth, Americans don't know that much, generally, about the European Union, the politics of it, what its bodies are all about or who runs them.
Believe it or not, there is a woman whose name is being raised as a possible candidate for the office of European Council presidency. The candidate's name is Margot Wallström, not a household Hillary Clinton name here, but one of five European Commission vice presidents and a powerful person in a powerful position.
Like US politics for centuries, there are the usual suspects being considered for the EU Council presidency, including former Prime Ministers like Tony Blair of the UK. Should Wallström win, she will be moving through as intransigent a glass ceiling as anything America has. Yet, Margot Wallström's reach would be greater than Hillary Clinton's would have been in many ways.
Like Barack Obama, Margot Wallström also embodies a generational shift. She is under 50 and part of her current Commission portfolio includes all the latest technology developments for Europe. She has wires, blogs, uses websites and interactive chats to get Europeans to feel more connected to the European Union.
Similar to the US, the European Union has been a closed club for its presidential existence. It is new, it is modern, but it is still male-led. Margot Wallström quoted the Dutch economist, Hellen Mees, in the Financial Times recently, "Male dominance works like a cartel; it impedes proper functioning of the market by barring talented women from top jobs. The old boy network should be busted like any other cartel."
The European Parliament looks slightly better than the US Congress in the representation of women: about one third of EPs are women, versus 16% in the United States. Yet the top jobs in the powerful EU bodies have consistently gone to men. Even the politicians in the EU say that the search is on for a "Mr. Europe." The European press is looking for "Three Wise Men" to fill the upcoming EU positions at the highest level.
Margot Wallström, a former minister in the Swedish government, has made it clear that she is capable to perform the job that she is considering to run for and she, like other women such as Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is more than qualified . She has the nerve to step forward and declare that. Sounds like someone we have known in the United States.
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