Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

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.

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.

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.

Dutch plan global fund for safe abortion

The Dutch want to lead efforts to make up the shortfall in aid for safe abortions around the world, after Donald Trump announced the US would not fund such projects.

Column / Health Matters

The yin and yang of Chinese medicine

Can traditional Chinese medicine help the modern European patient? Malta thinks so, in a new agreement with China.

News in Brief

  1. Man arrested in Antwerp after trying to mow people down
  2. Marine Le Pen goes to Russia
  3. Dutch post-election talks prioritise green-right coalition
  4. EU summons Turkish envoy over threats to Europeans
  5. British police make first arrests in London terror probe
  6. EU commission has received Facebook reply on WhatsApp
  7. Rome expects thousands of protesters at summit
  8. Dijsselbloem says his comments had 'Dutch directness'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  2. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  4. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  5. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  6. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  8. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  9. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  10. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  11. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  12. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted

Latest News

  1. Hohe Cyber-Bedrohung für Frankreichs Wahlen
  2. 'No zero terror risk', EU security commissioner warns
  3. UN could step in where EU fails in child migrant protection
  4. May: London attacker was known to the police
  5. Ending the migrant deal with Turkey may save the EU
  6. Poland unlikely to face EU discipline on rule of law
  7. Rutte courted Wilders' voters, now he must deliver
  8. Barnier to UK: trade talks will come after settling accounts