Political Development

Party Affiliation

Profession/ Current priorities

Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments




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[ European Commission, DG V ]

© Jan 2001

Elena Valenciano

Political Development

1. What made you decide to go into politics?
I suppose it was the historical period of my teenage and young years, i.e., the end of the Franco regime and the beginnings of democracy. I was 14-15, a student in a non- religious French school with a high degree of political awareness. I got involved in politics almost without realising it. I started militating in social youth movements, following what most of the young people around me were doing.

2. Do/did you have a role model?
I don't have a political role model to follow. Instead of following an individual, my role model is a summary of several people I've met and who became references for me.

3. Is there a tradition of political involvement/policy - making in your family?
It is not because it was difficult to get involved in political life in this country. However, a commitment to freedom and everything it entails was always upheld by my family.

4. Did you take part in political movements before getting involved in political parties (citizen rights movements, parents associations, etc.). If so, in which post and institution did you begin your political career? What made you switch from grass roots movements to a political party?
In Spain, the grass roots movements came after the legalisation of the political parties. Civil associations followed political parties because democratic participation developed in Spain in a belated manner.

5. Were there disruptions in your political career?
In fact, I left politics in 1988 to work directly in the feminist movement. I resumed my political activity only one year ago.

6. Were there disruptions in your biography that have had an impact on your political career? Have your objectives changed during your political career?
The only change is that I have small children, and this makes it difficult to follow a political career with the intensity one would like. I withdrew from all activity during their first years.

7. How and why did your political objectives change during your political career?
My objectives did not change because I did not approach political activity as a career. What I did was pursue equal opportunities for women from the perspective of democratic socialism, and I've done this from various angles. Before being appointed to a position of responsibility last year I was a base militant.

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Party Affiliation

1. Motivation for joining a political party?
Because we didn't have freedom in Spain and we were fighting for democracy.

2. Which party and when?
I belong to the Spanish Workers Socialist Party since 1975, initially in the Socialist Youth and later on in the party itself.

3. Does your party have equal opportunity regulations?
Yes, my party pioneered the promotion of equal opportunities in Spain. Its statutes call for peer democracy and equal opportunities programmes. Basically, peer democracy is established in the Socialist party's statutes.

4. Which office/function did you hold in your party at the beginning? How long after joining? How did you get into running for office?
I never held a position in the party until a few months ago when I became a member of the party political committee, an organic post, and since July 1999 I'm a member of the European Parliament. I was nominated by the party when the list had to be changed to fulfil peer democracy.

5. Did you have mentors within your party?
Not that I know of.

6. Have you ever changed party affiliation?
No.

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Profession/ Current priorities

1. How does your profession relate to your political work?
I studied to become a lawyer but I never graduated, and Political Sciences. I believe both are closely related.

2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
I have a degree in Political Sciences.

3. In what kinds of jobs did you work?
I'm a full-time member of the European Parliament.

4. Do you link your professional and political career?

5. In what areas do you see your special competencies?
In equal opportunities, youth issues and, since a year ago in foreign industry and trade.

6. What are your political priorities?
For women to participate and be counted in politics. For equal opportunities to become a fact rather than a claim.

7. Main fields of action?
To work in the European Parliament and in connection with the feminist movement.

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

1. Which objectives would you like to achieve through your political work?
To end inequalities for women in Europe and the whole world.

2. How and why have your political objectives changed during your political career?
My objectives have not changed.

3. Do you think the equal opportunities strategies in Spain have had an impact on the participation of women in decision-making? (quotas, equal opportunities legislation, etc.)
In this area we are moving forward very slowly. I believe that the equal opportunities policies facilitate women's access to decision-taking levels, but the presence of women in politics is not enough.

4. Did you benefit from these strategies?
Yes, I have benefited from it. Every woman politician in Spain should admit they benefited from that strategy which, by the way, was promoted by women from women's movements.

5. Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in conventional policy-making?
Yes, direct and indirect.

6. What keeps women away from politics?
A patriarchal culture which maintains women in private circles, as well as the absence of work for women, of social services which force women to take care of the weaker members of the family. A long tradition.

7. What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome?
All of the above.

8. What obstacles have you had to overcome in your own career?
All of the above, firstly because women have always been a minority in politics and secondly because I am also a mother and it is very hard to match my motherhood with my public role.

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