Controversial EU proposals for 20 weeks of paid maternity leave were condemned in a speech today by Conservative MEP for London Marina Yannakoudakis. Marina accused the European Parliament of not listening to Member States on the contentious Maternity Leave Directive. Member States had registered reservations about the European Parliament’s proposals.

Marina criticised the European Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee for tabling a question to the Council of the European Union (the EU institution which represents the 27 EU Member States) calling on the Council “to unblock the situation” regarding the directive.

Marina said: “It’s not the duty of the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee to hector the Member States.

“The committee is now trying to push its over-reaching, expensive and unnecessary proposal on the Council.

“The Maternity Leave Directive is not right for women, it’s not right for business and it’s not right for Member State governments in a time of economic crisis.

“I am a mother and a small business woman and I know that 20 weeks of fully-paid compulsory maternity leave, 2 weeks fully-paid paternity leave and breastfeeding breaks of three hours a day are totally unrealistic.

“There is a reason why the Council is blocking these proposals; the Council is the last line of defence for a Member State to put forward its case. National governments are sending us a powerful message. And it’s time that we listened.

“Time and time again rigid rules supporting the so-called ‘social dimension’ triumph over common sense, when what the European economy really needs is to be more flexible and more competitive.”

Marina is the Conservative Spokesman on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in the European Parliament. She was one of the few members of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee to call for a reassessment of the directive.