Margrete Auken
Margrete Auken, MP

Political Development

Party Affiliation

Profession/ Current priorities

Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments




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[ European Commission, DG V ]

© Jan 2001

European Database: Women in Decision-Making

Margrete Auken

Political Development

What made you decide to go into politics?
I became a Member of People's Socialist Party (SF) on 3 October 1972. It was the day after Denmark joined EEC (now EU). I was a very, very, very energetically against EEC. It is funny to think of now.
I was at that time also against atomic power and pollution of the environment. I had joined the movement against atomic power. But I did not become active in the party until 1975, when I found out that SF was positive towards atomic power. That was too much, and I decided to be active in the party. I found it very natural to transform my engagement from my grassroots activities into party politics.
In 1975 I participated in my first national congress, I became a candidate in 1975, and I was elected for the first time in 1979.

Do/did you have a role model?
No, I cannot say so. But my mother's engagement has in some way been a model for me. She was very active, participated in the public debate and gave lecturers all over Denmark. Most parties urged her to be a Member and a candidate, but she refused. At last she decided to be a Member of the Social Democratic Party.

Does political involvement or policy making have a tradition in your family?
I have been brought up in a very political family and environment, but party politics was not central. My parents discussed quite a lot politics at home. They had been active in the resistance movement and "Dansk Samling" (Danish Gathering) during World War II. Social indignation characterised our home to the highest degree.
We are 5 sisters and brothers in my family, and it happened that three of us now are active in politic. My brother, Svend, is Minister of Environment for the Social Democratic Party, and my sister, Gunvor, is now Vice-mayor in the municipality of Frederiksberg, also for the Social Democratic Party.

Have you been engaged in political grassroots activities before your involvement in party politics?
If so, in which function?

I have been very much engaged in political grassroots activities, before I went into party politics. I became environment activist already in 1971. That was very early. I knew some cultural personalities who were environment activists, and who influenced me. In 1972 I lectured on these questions. I was at that time very engaged, but not in an organisation.
Some years later I became active in the Movement against Atomic Power. I participated in the marches against Atomic Power, and took part in the debate.
Moreover, I have supported actively the Women's Movement. I believe very much in positive discrimination and quotas. But I have not myself been a member of women's organisations or women's groups.

Where there disruptions in your political career path and why?
Yes. In 1990 I was not elected to the Parliament. That meant that I returned to my full time job as a vicar at Frederiksberg Church. I continued with this full time job, until I was elected in 1994. Then I continued with my vicar job as a part time job.

Where there disruptions in your biography that have/had an impact on your political career?
I have been a vicar at the same church since 1972. I have had the possibility to work as a vicar full time for 7 years from 1972 to 1979, when I for the first time was elected to the Parliament. I have always been glad of being a vicar, but I have also wanted to be a Member of Parliament. Then I had 11 years in Parliament from 1979 to 1990, and during these 11 years I had the opportunity to work part time as a vicar (25%). When I did not succeed to be elected in December 1990, I came back to my work as a vicar full time for around 3 years, when I again was elected. Right now I work at the Church 10% of a full time job. I am not any longer preparing the young girls and boys for confirmation, but I have one service a month. I am very enthusiastic about my job as a vicar, and I also use time for meetings with my colleagues.
I think that much of my experience from the vicar job can be used in my political career. The obligation to be engaged, the knowledge on elderly people, the many conversations with sick persons give me experiences which I can use in my work in Parliament. I am also very engaged in bio-ethics, and from my professional job as a vicar I have been trained in evaluating ethical questions. So my professional career as a vicar gives a lot to my political career.

How and why did your objectives change during your political career?
No, I have not changed my objectives. I have changed my political measures in the area of European policy and security policy.
I am now a strong supporter of the European co-operation. In this respect I have changed my mind quite a lot. If the development countries shall have a chance, then we ought to have a free trade - but of course a regulated free trade. I could not see that before. I have really now come to see it another light.
In the middle of the 80's I was about to frighten my party to death, when I told them that I supported Denmark being a Member of NATO, as I realised that this membership solved several problems. I had come to this insight, because I had for more years worked with international policy and security policy. Moreover, I am not at all against a military defence, as it might show up that it is necessary to have a military defence.
It is for sure that I have changed my attitudes concerning these themes over time. But the objectives are still the same. I continue to argue stubbornly to have a better environment. I am still shocked to see what is happening. I know that most parties say that they are green parties, but none of them dare to touch the privileges, which means that our grandchildren will have lots of very serious environment problems. In this respect I think that I have become more rabid than I was before - if possible! When I compare myself with many young people, I think that I am an activist.

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Party Affiliation

What was your motivation to join a political party?
See above.

Which party do you belong to? Since when?
I belong to the People's Socialist Party (SF) since 1975.

Does your party have an equal opportunities regulation?
No, it does not have it any longer. I was very sorry when the party abolished this regulation, because I believe very much in quotas. Moreover, I like to work with women at my own level. It gives me a freedom - and we also take care of each other.

Which function/offices did you hold in your party at the beginning?
From the very start I was in charge of environment policy. I really contributed to making my party a green party. And it succeeded so well that it has never been possible to set up a Green Party in Denmark. SF had politicians with the green views and they were spokespersons for OOA and Green Peace. In the party we have had a very good co-operation with these grassroots organisations.
But I have never had honorary offices, except for my post now in the presidium of the Parliament, where I represent the party. I have never wanted to have honorary offices, because I am no manager type. I am not the type who should have the responsibility for that everything works. On the contrary I am much better to search the borders and find new ways. I am much better to be in that part of the system, even if you get more troubles in your political life.

Do you have mentors within your party?
No, but we help the new politicians as we can. We have recently employed some academics, who are good at helping people. I think that we more experienced politicians are not very good at helping our new colleagues, because we are too busy. Our many new academic employees give us more work and make us even busier.

Did you ever change party affiliation?
No.

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Profession/ Current priorities

How does your profession correspond with your political work?
It corresponds very well. See above.

What kind of vocational training, degrees or other professional qualification do you have?
I am a graduate in Theology from the University of Copenhagen.

In what kind of jobs did you work?
I have been a vicar since 1972. I have kept this job at the same time as being a Member of Parliament, but only as a part time job. When I in 1990 not was elected to the Parliament, I returned to my job as a vicar on full time.

Are you linking both your professional and your political career?
Yes very much. See above.

In which areas do you see your special competencies?
I have my special competencies in environment, transport, and security policy. When I first was a Member of Parliament, I was mostly engaged in environment questions. But when I left Parliament in 1990, because I was not elected, then I had to leave this area. When I returned to Parliament in 1994 I could not choose it once more, because my brother had become Minister of Environment. As brother and sister from two different parties we could not focus on the same policy area. That was why I in stead chose transport and traffic policy. Transport and traffic questions have now developed to be an environment area. So from that angel I still deal with environment policy.

Which are your political priorities?
My political priorities are still environment, transport, and security questions.

Which are your main fields of action?
Environment policy, transport policy, security policy, and I have also been involved in legal questions as a Member of the Committee on Justice.

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

Which objectives would you like to achieve through your political work?
See above.

How and why did your objectives change during your political career?
See above.

Do equal opportunity strategies - in your opinion - have an impact in your country to promote women in decision-making?
I think that positive discrimination is completely decisive. I make fun of men when they are being positively discriminated, what they have been for many years. When that is the case, noone is complaining. Men have a very fin sex, so it does not matter that they are more stupid. Because of their very fine sex, we will have to see to that they are involved in decision-making. It is not humiliating for them, if they are recommend to for instance commissions, because they are men. But it is humiliating for us women, because our sex is not as fine as the men's are.
I think that it is very comical. I think that also the men should be quotated, because the society consists of two sexes/genders. I should like to see that the adults in the political life were mothers and fathers - and that they reflected mothers' and fathers' roles. If one could feel that persons who were for instance economists or bio-technicians were fathers, then they would also radiate masculinity from being a father. I cannot understand why they whimper. The patriarchate has vanished a long time ago, so the father role is quite vacant as a masculine role. We should get away from the role that the child has a right to a father - and in stead move on to the role that a father has an obligation to be a nice father.

Did you benefit from these strategies?
No. I have been hit of the regulation in the party, when we had it. I was once quotated down. I gave my place to a man. I have never benefited from these strategies personally.

How do you judge these strategies?
I am a great supporter of these strategies. I was deeply shocked when our young women in the party abolished these regulations, and it has gone as it could be predicted: in our party fewer women than before are now represented in the Parliament.

Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in "conventional" policy making?
No, I do not think that we see direct discrimination, but I am sure that indirect discrimination exists. Men are Homo-social. They associate with someone of the kind - someone from their own group. I think that if they to a higher degree were fathers, there would be more room for the mothers. The men are rather a-sexual at work, and these working places are not places, where women feel comfortable.

What is it that keeps women from committing themselves to politics?
It has to do with what I just said. Moreover, being in politics is a very hard job. I cannot really say what to do about it. If women at managerial level think that they should leave work at 4 o'clock, what happens then? Then everyone leaves at 4 o'clock. If you are a director you should not be the one who comes first and leaves last. It will not work. You need a strong support form home, if it is going to function.
Political life is nowadays not attractive. The well-educated men want to earn money. They do not want to go into politics. Because women are not so greedy as men are, it might change the picture. That might indicate that more women in the future would become politicians.

What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome in their endeavour to participate in political decision-making?
See above.

Which are the obstacles you had to fight in your own political career?
I am always confronted with the fact that there are too many weak men in politics. If strong men had surrounded me, then I think that I would have had a splendid time. It is nice to have good playmates, but the good playmates are few and far between.
I am married with the same man for 32 years, and I have three children. The youngest was only one year, when I was elected for the first time. I have not at all felt my family as an obstacle. Not at all.

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