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Begrüßungsrede von Europa-Staatsminister Michael Roth bei einem Mittagessen mit polnischen LGBTI-Vertretern und Vertreterinnen der Frauen-Union

14.06.2016 - Rede

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Dear guests,

I am delighted to welcome you to this lunch.

This is my first meeting with the women’s congress. I am curious to find out more about your activities and the challenges of your work. From what I understand, the Polish Congress of Women has grown into one of the main opposition factors in Poland, also in the context of the debate about women’s rights and abortion. This aspect is, of course, very interesting for me as I will meet with KOD activists today.

I am also curious to learn about the Global Summit of Women that took place here in Warsaw last week. I heard that Prime Minister Beata Szydło did not show up at the Summit. But I am sure that even without this prominent support there were some important signals sent out from this Summit – not only with regard to the worldwide situation but also with respect to the situation here in Poland.

This is not my first meeting with LGBTI activists in Poland: I remember a very good meeting here in Warsaw in September 2015. I am looking forward to our discussion on LGBTI, as it is a topic very close to my heart.

My ministry regards itself not only as the ministry for foreign and European affairs, but also as the ministry for human rights. The Federal Foreign Office has a reputation as an open and diverse ministry which promotes human rights and acceptance of minorities all over the world.

That is why I regularly meet LGBTI activists during my visits – especially in countries where sexual minorities are under much greater pressure than in Germany. It is important that you do not stay silent and that you have your say.

Last Sunday we were all shocked by the terrible news from Orlando. Our thoughts are with the victims of this cruel attack, their families and friends. It was a sad day, not only for the LGBTI community.

It was an attack against us all, against our way of life, against our values of freedom and tolerance. This is the time to stand together.

We will keep fighting for the right for everyone to live freely, openly and without fear. Hate has no place in our societies – be it in the USA, in Germany or in Poland.

The commitment to fighting homophobia should be as self-evident as the commitment to fighting racism, anti-Semitism and in general any discrimination of minorities. The EU is not just a single market: it is first and foremost a union of values which should be respected by all member states and lived out by all of us. Democracy and the rule of law, including human rights and the protection of minorities, are not negotiable for a member state of the EU.

I know that the acceptance of LGBTI rights is more of a challenge in some societies in the EU than it is in others. We have countries such as Germany where public acceptance is high and politics is rather lagging behind.

And then there are other countries like Slovenia or Malta where politics is moving ahead but the public still needs to overcome some hurdles to catch up.

In both cases we have to close the gap that exists between political will and public acceptance. Despite all the progress we have made during the last few years, we still have a significant stretch of the road ahead of us. And I would like you to understand this meeting as an encouragement and a thank you for your work!

Ladies and gentlemen,

My experiences with the representation of women in many contexts show me that in this regard, too, a great deal still needs to be done. You may be aware of the initiatives against “panels without female representation”. At meetings with my counterparts we are also often only men. I very much enjoy the meetings with my female colleagues from Portugal or Sweden. We clearly need more woman power in politics, business and science.

In Germany we are really only half way to equality. The gender pay gap is an important issue. Currently the gender pay gap in Germany is 21 percent – much higher than in Poland with approximately 6 percent. Unfortunately, equal pay for equal work is still not the norm. The low-wage sector is a women’s sector. Women take longer breaks during their careers and have longer periods of part-time employment.

During the last few years the German Government has made some efforts to reduce the gender pay gap and increase the participation of women in the labour market. To name just a few examples, my government has introduced the minimum wage, improved childcare availability and boosted the equal participation of men and women in leading positions in the private sector as well as in public services.

These measures are showing some results: Over 46 percent of all employed workers in Germany are women at this time. The female employment quota is now at 73 percent. However, the increase is mostly in part-time positions – more than 80 percent of part time work is still performed by women.

We will have to work hard to fight inequalities that still exist. If women attained the average number of working hours and employment of men, it would be equivalent to over 4 million additional full-time positions.

This is the current situation in Germany. But now I am very curious to learn more about the current state of play in Poland!

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe that it is always very important to talk not only to the government but also to civil society. This dialogue often allows me to gain a different perspective.

I was impressed by the level of engagement at recent demonstrations here in Poland. I wonder how many people in Germany would take to the streets because of a constitutional amendment … Poland can be really proud of its active and vibrant civil society – and all of you are an important part of this remarkable civil movement.

I am here today to learn about the challenges women and LGBTI people face in Poland, and about your work to fight discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexual orientation. I am very much looking forward to our discussion!

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