Monday

27th Mar 2017

Opinion

Time for real debate on EU chauvinism

The European Commission announced in March 2011 its intention to address the gross imbalance of women and men on corporate boards in Europe.

A year and a half later, internal disagreement within the 27 member college of commissioners is blocking progress and undermining the credibility of the institution.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 'Coffee. Two sugars' - 65 years after the Treaty of Rome, 97% of corporate presidents are men (Photo: diepuppenstubensammlerin)

Vice-President of the commission, Viviane Reding was Tuesday due to present a draft directive aiming to increase the representation of women on the boards of private companies in the EU.

Over the past months, the text of the proposal had already been watered down to such a degree that women’s associations were already dubious of its worth.

The application to only the largest publicly-quoted companies meant it would apply to very few employers; limiting the legislation to non-executive positions undermined all claims of improving women’s representation in decision-making; leaving the choice of sanctions up to the member states meant effective enforcement would be unlikely.

But just as the European Women's Lobby was responding to opposition from certain member states by noting that the (leaked) draft directive was "too weak to oppose," the initiative has come under threat before even being put forward for democratic debate.

The European Commission is supposed to be the "guardian of the EU treaties" and the treaties very clearly call on the EU to protect and promote equality between women and men.

The EU has well-established competence in the area of employment and has pioneered anti-discrimination in this field. However, 65 years after the Treaty of Rome, men continue to occupy more than 85 percent of board positions in the private sector and a stunning 97 percent of presidency posts.

In a Union which proclaims equality between women and men a founding and fundamental value, it is shocking to see any actors oppose measures for the equal access on basis of merit of women to top positions.

It is even more shocking to see the commissioners do so.

The European Parliament has called for strong measures and a number of member states have themselves already adopted legislation with targets and sanctions for non-compliance.

There is no excuse for the commission not to put forward a strong text and let the legislative debate take place in a free and democratic manner. Now, they have three more weeks to do just that.

The writer is a campaigner at The European Women's Lobby, a Brussels-based NGO

Analysis

Lukashenka: End of an era?

The political spring in Belarus ended just as the actual season began, but greater changes loom after 23 years of dictatorship.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The Union under threat

The effect of Brexit will be much more profound on Northern Ireland than on Scotland. Some kind of border controls with Ireland seem inevitable.

Birthday wishes to the European Union

With the EU soon to celebrate its 60th birthday, there are still lingering questions about the bloc's future and whether there can be a change in fortune.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The Union under threat

The effect of Brexit will be much more profound on Northern Ireland than on Scotland. Some kind of border controls with Ireland seem inevitable.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  2. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  3. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  4. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  6. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  7. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  8. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  10. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  11. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  12. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People