Sunday

21st Jan 2018

EU commissioner up for 'fight' on gender quotas

  • Not all female leaders back women quotas (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding has said she is up for an "interesting fight" within the commission itself and with nine member states opposing draft legislation on gender quotas for top jobs in companies.

The legislative proposal, which is still in drafting stage, aims at obliging publicly listed companies in the EU to reach a 40 percent quota of the "under-represented sex" on their boards by 2020. Sanctions, including fines, will be left to member states to decide and impose.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Currently, less than 14 percent of board members are women and it would take another 40 years at least to bridge the gender gap. Binding quotas are needed, Reding argues, because all voluntary systems so far have failed.

Barely had the process started within the legislative machinery before nine EU countries led by the UK publicly stated their opposition to the initiative, citing national competence on the matter.

"We reiterate that any targeted measures in this area should be devised and implemented at national level. Therefore, we do not support the adoption of legally binding provisions for women on company boards at the European level," says a letter signed by the employment ministers of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK and dated 14 September.

Speaking to a group of woman journalists on Monday (1 October), Reding reacted coolly to the letter.

"In practice, this letter means nothing. I am not very impressed," she said, drawing a comparison with another uphill battle she fought on lowering roaming costs, in her previous role as telecoms commissioner. Back then, 17 member states came out against it initially, only for the bill to pass unanimously nine months later.

France has meanwhile come out in support of her initiative with a letter dated 21 September in which both the minister of finance, Pierre Moscovici, and the minister of gender equality, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, state their "strong support for this directive proposal" and urge the commission to speed up work on it.

But within the commission itself, about a third of the 27 members are against the proposal, including female colleagues. Neelie Kroes from the Netherlands, although a personal believer in women's rights, last week told the FT that she supports the goal, but that this "should not be imposed from the European level."

"It will be a very interesting fight," Reding said Monday, still upbeat that she will be able to convince her colleagues.

"You have to understand in politics the moment in history to do something. This is the moment for female quotas."

Reding also feels emboldened by the current blockade imposed by the European Parliament on nominating a new member of the European Central Bank board, which consists of men only.

MEPs have so far refused to hold a hearing of Luxembourg central banker Yves Mersch, in protest of member states not having appointed a female banker on the board. "One can really see this movement is everywhere. For MEPs it was the last drop," she said.

A final decision on the hearing is due later on Tuesday, with the appointment unlikely to be changed this time around. "But for the next time an ECB post is available, I am sure member states will not dare not to appoint a woman."

Future EU commission chief?

The same goes for the senior EU leadership in 2014, when all top posts of EU institutions will be up for grabs. Reding for now says she is enjoying her job as vice-president of the commission and refuses to speculate on her potential candidacy as the commission's first female president.

But the 61-year old also stresses that "it will be impossible to have an all-male candidacy pool" in 2014.

"In case of equal qualifications, the under-represented sex must get the job," is Reding's guiding principle.

She has already tabled ideas for the future of the Union, such as having the EU commission chief also chair the European Council where member states are represented.

Reding wants EU law imposing gender quotas

EU justice commissioner Reding will table a proposal in October or November that would fine or sanction state-owned companies whose supervisory boards are composed of less than 40 percent of women by 2020.

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap