Wednesday

8th Apr 2020

EU anti-sexism law kicked into November

  • Reding - a vote could have killed the bill (Photo: European Community, 2006)

Disagreement among top officials and legal worries have come close to killing a high-profile EU gender quota law.

The latest version of the bill - drafted by justice commissioner Vivianne Reding - is to force publicly-listed EU firms to have at least 40 percent of women in non-executive posts on their boards by 2020.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It is also more "subsidiarity-friendly" than earlier drafts - it gives more leeway for national authorities on implementation.

But when Reding presented her paper to the college of commissioners in Strasbourg on Tuesday (23 October), her boss, Jose Manuel Barroso, saw enough opposition around the table to decline calling a simple majority vote.

If the vote had said No the law would have gone in the bin.

Instead, commissioners will hold fresh talks on the text on 14 November after their legal services have had a chance to pore over details.

Reding tweeted on Tuesday that the main finance-sector commissioners - Barroso himself, Joaquin Almunia, Laszlo Andor, Michel Barnier, Andris Piebalgs, Olli Rehn and Antonio Tajani - back "an ambitious directive."

The November date might also help because some of her allies did not make it to Strasbourg this week.

Catherine Ashton was in Lebanon and Almunia got stuck in an airport. Maria Damanaki, Kristalina Georgieva, Siim Kallas and Connie Hedegaard were also absent.

"We [feminists] are fighting now for 100 years - so, one or two weeks more, what difference does that make? For me, what's important is that a strong piece of legislation comes out of the commission," Reding told press.

In what amounts to a tough day on gender rights, MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday also roasted EU Council Herman Van Rompuy over the European Central bank (ECB).

EU leaders are preparing to appoint Yves Mersch, a Luxembourger, to the ECB's male-only board despite a plea by MEPs on the economic affairs committee not to do so.

Van Rompuy admitted there is "blatant under-representation" of women in the financial sector in Europe. He also said he "made a strong appeal" at last week's summit for EU countries to put forward more female candidates for the ECB in future.

But he urged parliament not to vote against Mersch in plenary on Thursday despite the fact his appointment will see the ECB board stay as a male-only club until 2018.

Going back to Reding's quotas, EU institutions admit they do not yet practice what they preach.

Reding noted there are 27 percent women in senior management posts in the commission and 33 percent in the college of commissioners. The ECB has about 40 percent female staff overall. But less than 20 percent of its top 80-or-so directors are women.

An ECB contact told EUobserver it mostly employs economists, IT specialists and lawyers - professions still dominated by men.

"It's still a problem for the generation which is maturing to executive level these days. But I don't think it will be a problem for the next generation," the source said.

EU commissioner up for 'fight' on gender quotas

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.

Opinion

Time for real debate on EU chauvinism

Sixty five years after the Treaty of Rome, it is time for an open, democratic debate on EU action about sexism on corporate boards, writes Leanda Barrington-Leach.

Feature

Children? Only if state permits it, says Romanian mayor

The mayor of the Romanian city of Targu Mures has said that the state should screen would-be parents for proof of a stable workplace, financial resources, basic education and the legal minimum age required to care for children.

News in Brief

  1. Norwegian and Romanian health workers sent to Italy
  2. Poland's ruling party forces May election under lockdown
  3. Killer of Slovak journalist jailed for 23 years
  4. WHO report identifies gaps in nursing workforce
  5. China donates masks and testing kits to Italy
  6. EU approves UK's coronavirus state-aid business plan
  7. UK PM in intensive care
  8. Polish deputy PM resigns over May election date

Polish 'LGBTI-free zones' not ok, says EU commission

The European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has said the distribution of 'LGBTI-free zones' stickers or the adoption of anti-LGBTI resolutions cannot be allowed. Some 86 towns in Poland have so far declared themselves 'LGBTI-free zones'.

Feature

Paradox: Nordics' privileged youth feel miserable

Young people in the Nordic countries are among the most privileged in the world - yet many of them feel miserable. The Nordic Council is concerned and aims to find out why.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us