Gender equality – not so equal in the European parliament

The number of women elected as European members of Parliament in the elections of June 4th, 2009 has risen from 30 percent to 35 percent. A good result but not yet good enough. Malta failed to elect one single woman, while Finland is keeping the lead of having the most female representation in the European parliament. Finding the road towards gender equality is through patterns of national culture. At least that is where they put the blame.

The European Union has 27 membership countries. There are 732 members of the European parliament (MEP). About 35 percent of those are women. Malta is the only membership country who doesn´t have any female representation. Finland, on the other hand, has a female representation of  62 percent. In their national parliament they are also doing far better off in gender equality, than any other EU membership country. About 40 percent of the members of the Finnish parliament are women, and they have a female president. What is their secret? Sari Essayah, a Finnish MEP of the European People´s Party, believe that the media coverage has a lot to do with it.

–          In Finland the media is watching over the political parties carefully and they really care about gender equality. If a party has a very unequal amount of men and women, then it will definitely be on the news. This makes the parties strive for gender equality because, of course, they don´t want bad publicity, says Sari Essayah.

The Hawkeye of media may be one of the reasons to why Finnish women are almost about as equal as men in the political scene. But Finland also have systems implicated in their parliament, to secure the strive for gender equality. In the committees there is a quota that says that at least 40 percent has to be of the opposite sex. Satu Hassi, a Finnish MEP from the Group of the Greens, says that quotas are necessary because people tend to engage in different issues, partly depending on gender.

–          There is a tendency, proven by studies and opinion pulls, that all the professions that women tend to emphasize is more focused on soft values, such as health care and environmental issues. These different values of men and women can be seen in the parliament. For example there are more women in the environmental committee. So the quotas is a good thing because it forces both men and women to activate in all areas, says Satu Hassi.

Finland is famous for its sauna culture and this steams up the Finnish parliament as well. Sari Essayah tells us about how women experience the male sauna as a threat to gender equality.

–          The male politicians sauna together very often and a lot of women in the parliament used to feel like a lot of the important decisions were made in there. But as a strike back, women of the parliament formed a network against the sauna culture. They basically did the same thing but in another room, says Sari Essayah.

In Malta the warm climate doesn´t demand a culture for saunas. Nor is there a need for a room in the parliament, into which male members can go to exclude women from the decision making. The parliament of Malta houses 69 members. Only six of them are women. That is nine percent. Edward Scicluna, from Malta, is a member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European parliament. He thinks that the national culture of family values is holding the women back.

–          Something is blocking our system and it is not the educationally quality or lack of opportunities. It comes from employers and maybe also the employees. It has to do with culture. The husbands’ don´t want their women to work. In Malta women are not expected to work after they had kids, but to raise them until they are grown up, says Edward Scicluna.

In Malta it is difficult for women because men are looking at women as a minority at work and many men would feel uncomfortable with having a female manager ordering them around. This will reflect on politics. But why do so few women offer themselves for politics? In the last election for members of the European parliament there were five women, out of 12 candidates, going for the job. But they were not voted for. Edward Scicluna sees two reasons to this problem.

–          First of all, less women offer themselves to politics, therefore they have a reduced chance of representation. But more importantly, women do not trust women. When a woman wants to have a career they ask themselves “why is she so ambitious to get away from her husband and kids?” because it goes against their culture, says Edward Scicluna.

In order to break the glass ceiling, Edward Scicluna thinks that quotas would be a good solution. But successful women in Malta are not in favor of quotas, just as most women in Finland. One of the arguments against quotas is that it is to help women who are weak and poor, but the opposition arguments that quotas will not force companies to hire unqualified people only due to gender.

Eva-Britt Svensson is chair of the committee of Women´s Rights and Gender Equality. She thinks that the balance of men and women in the European parliament isn´t good.

–          The atmosphere here is very manly. But it is hard to make a change because it is up to each country to work on how to let more women in to politics. It´s a lot about attitudes due to different cultures. I would say that here in the European parliament gender equality is not at all prioritized, says Eva-Britt Svensson.

In the European parliament nothing concrete is being done to enforce its membership countries to increase their female representation. Discussions are being held, but moving slowly. On March 8th, the 100th anniversary of International Women´s Day, gender equality was high on the agenda. José Manuel Barosso, the President of the European Commission, said that the main focus of this year should be gender equality. He also said that he was pleased with the current situation on women´s progress in the fields of work and politics. He is happy that nine out of 27 commissioners are women, although this is one less than last period. To this, Eva-Britt Svensson shakes her head in despair. Many female MEPs, such as Satu Hassi and Sari Essayah have a dream that young women in Europe will soon stop to associate the European parliament with male politicians. Edward Scicluna feels shame as he walks into plenary sessions and debates.

–          Of course I am embarrassed of the fact that we have no women representing us in the EU parliament. We have a joke between us MEPs form Malta, saying that when we go in to the plenary we laugh and say “let´s put on our turbans” because we feel like we come from Iran or some place where they really suppress women, says Edward Scicluna.

Louise Wernvik

List of sources:




–          Eva-Britt Svensson, chair of EU´s committee on Female Rights and Gender Equality

0046 706331546

–          Britta Thomsen, Danish MEP and member of Committee of Female Rights and Gender Equality

0045 20716740

–          Satu Hassi, Finnish MEP

0032 22845437

–          Sari Essayah, Finnish MEP

0032 22845178

–          Edward Scicluna, Malta MEP

0032 22845543


–          Roger Falk, assistant of Eva-Britt Svensson

0032 22847105

–          Meria Eräpulku, assistant of Sari Essayah

0032 22847178

–          Aino Valtanen, assistant for Sirpa Pietikäinen

0032 22845264

–          Desislava Demitrova, assistant for Louis Grech

0032 22845235

–          Benjamin Fox, assistant of Edward Scicluna

0032 22845543

Organisations and experts:

–          Åsa Dahlvik, Information on Human Rights for the United Nations

–          Petteri Nyman, information, Finnish parliament

–          Lina Olsson, Feministiskt initiativ

–          Drude Dahlerup, statsvetare


–          “Special EB 100th anniversary of Women´s Day: Bridging the gender gap in the EU EB75.1-March 2011”, opinion pull made by European Parliament and “tns opinion”.

–          “Sexism thrives in the EU bubble”, anonymous journalist, New Europe, February 27th, 2011






EU member states lag behind on energy efficiency targets

EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard announces the Low Carbon Roadmap to 2050 at the March parliamentary plenary session. Photo: Biwa Kwan.

EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard has identified energy efficiency as a crucial tool in the EU’s battle to reduce carbon emissions but it is often overlooked by the EU member states, who are currently on track to only meet half of the 20 percent energy efficiency target by 2020. Biwa Kwan investigates why.

Energy saving light bulbs. Better insulation for houses through the use of double glazed windows. Fixing leaky energy ducts.

Not to be confused with carbon emissions, the idea of energy efficiency measures is to encourage consumers to use less energy by making smarter, more aware choices.

It is an area which has plenty of untapped potential to mitigate against climate change simply because it is cheaper and quicker to cut back on energy you already consume, said Vera Hoefele from the German think tank, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy.

“If you have to change your production process to reduce emissions you will only have costs, but if you improve your energy efficiency you will also save energy costs. Therefore most energy efficiency measures pay back rather quickly or at least during the lifetime of the product or building – you will save more than you had to invest originally,” she said.

EU member states performance below par

The European Commission has calculated the possible cost savings of energy efficiency to be 100,000 euros per household annually. Yet politicians of the EU member states are failing to achieve the EU’s 2020 energy efficiency targets, despite political statements of support for the approach.

Commissioners revealed in a high level ministerial meeting in February that based on current rates, the EU member states would achieve between 9 and 11 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020, only half of the 20 percent target.

“I think it has always been seen as the kind of the Cinderella, if you like, of the climate objectives. Everyone says how important energy savings is but then it’s always seen to be the last to get any attention. It is certainly the last [climate change policy area] to receive resources and funding,” said Catherine Pearce, senior policy officer for the umbrella NGO group, European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

“Many people regard it as a very difficult policy area, in terms of the number of people and stakeholders you’re trying to reach – it’s across the whole supply chain…and in terms of what ministers and what big heads of government like, they like big projects that you can see.”

The winds of change?

At the formal presentation of the European Commission’s “Energy Efficiency Plan for 2011” and the “Low Carbon Roadmap to 2050” earlier this month, Hedegaard renewed the call for member states to ramp up efforts to achieve their energy efficiency targets, saying such action would enable a further 5 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2020.

“If we deliver on our energy efficiency targets that would, alone, bring us to the 25 percent [to make the transition to a low carbon economy cost efficient],” said Hedegaard.

But the proposed measures to require 3 percent of all public buildings to be refurbished each year and have better energy labels on products were criticized by NGOs for the lack of measures to ensure the enforcement of the plan among the member states.

Energy efficiency targets are the only part of the EU’s “20-20-20” climate change policy package that is not binding.

“The impact assessment that supports the plan, says itself, that there is no guarantee that any of the measures will meet the 20 percent energy savings target. It says that the few measures that are proposed are left to the individual ambition of the member states,” said EEB’s Pearce, adding that binding targets were needed to ensure member states followed through on their stated intentions.

Energy Commissioner Oettinger has said member states will have until 2013 to improve their energy efficiency through voluntary actions, when a review will take place to determine if binding targets are needed.

To date individual member states have been against mandates from the EU on energy efficiency.

EU Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger and Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard. Photo: Biwa Kwan.

Burden on member states

Without binding targets, enforcement of the individual member states’ National Energy Action Plan (NEAP) has been problematic.

The stated energy efficiency goal within the 2007 energy efficiency action plan for the newer EU member state of Poland, is a reduction in the Polish economy’s energy intensity to EU 15 level.

Wojciech Stępniewski, head of climate policy at World Wildlife Foundation Poland, has carried out an analysis of the Polish government’s energy efficiency action plan to conclude that little has been achieved in recent years.

“Poland is not on track with its action plan, basically the majority of the actions are not done, the majority of the measures proposed are not undertaken,” he said.

In the coal-intensive economy of Poland, where about 90 percent of its energy is derived from the fuel source, politicians remain unconvinced of the cost savings benefits of energy efficiency projects.

“In the view of the finance minister, energy efficiency is not a measure to save money for the budget. He thinks of it only as a cost and not as a form of income in the future,” said Stępniewski.

He said only 2 percent of available funding from the EU’s structural and cohesion policy goes into energy efficiency projects in Poland, with the majority of investment being funnelled into large infrastructure projects.

“I think that it is essential that the [energy efficiency] target is binding because if the target is indicative it doesn’t give any obligation to anybody to fulfil this, so it should be binding.”

Denmark recently ranked in the top three European countries, with the UK and Ireland, who used the least amount of energy per unit of GDP in the eight years until 2008, according to a Commission report released earlier this month.

But even considering its track record on the energy efficiency front, the voluntary national targets on energy efficiency of 9 percent reduction by 2016 do not inspire confidence, said senior scientist Kenneth Karlsson from the DTU Climate Centre at the Technical University of Denmark, who has done future projections on Denmark’s energy-use for the Danish Climate Commission.

“With what has been started with Denmark’s energy strategy, I don’t see how they can manage to reach the 20 percent target of energy savings. My guess is around 15 percent or so in 2020, depending on whether they put up new measures after the presentation of the government’s new energy strategy [released last month].”

Although Karlsson conceded Denmark is “one of the most efficient countries when it comes to energy “, he identified electricity use in households and industry, and incentives for energy efficient household appliances as areas in need of improvement.

EU compliance measures

Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said a voluntary approach from member states until 2013 would enable the EU to use more of an incentives-based approach to encourage the compliance of member states.

“There are many tools that the Commission has – and of course through the budget, it could be a possibility to say: why don’t we give a higher priority through the EU budget to energy efficiency, so that you make carrots instead of always sticks,” she said.

But NGOs and experts said there was little evidence of strong compliance measures within the Commission’s updated Energy Efficiency Plan.

“We have a lot of good approaches, good ambitions, but the implementation is a problem here, and this is something that is not mentioned in the new energy efficiency plan – that it is important to improve the compliance and implementation of the existing legislation,” said Wuppertal Institute’s Hoefele.

“For example, with the energy performance of buildings directive. It really is a good directive for what its goal is and what is written down there, but the problem is, the directive is not implemented correctly at a member state level. There are also many delays [with the energy performance of buildings directive] and with the eco-design directive.”

As the NEAP deadline approaches in June and the European Commission releases its white paper on transport later this month, the EU’s energy efficiency policy is likely to come under increased scrutiny.

Meanwhile, international developments such as the oil crisis, puts even greater pressure on the European Union to examine its energy efficiency policy.

“I believe that in the time we are now in, where the oil prices are increasing as much as they are, I think the whole attention towards energy efficiency will be much bigger in the months and years to come than in the years we have been in since the crisis hit,” said Hedegaard.

European Commission should increase strictness on Environment

Nicole Cairns

Countries such as Poland are not abiding by European standards on the environment.

The European Commission’s follow through and enforcement of environmental legislation has shown to be a concern.  Many countries have not adhered to a range of standards outlined in legalisation by the European Parliament.
Poland has not been meeting a range of standards that are required of the European Union.   Eva Lichtenberger, Green Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and the rapporteur for annual report on the implementation and enforcement of EU law, showed her concern about the situation.

The European Parliament, Strasbourg

“The European Parliament is very ambitious when it comes to environmental standards” she said. “It is a major problem when less significant problems, and infringements incur consequences, and yet there is not enough respect for the environment that consequences are taken seriously.”

Lichtenberger posed an thought provoking question: “If a two year old EU legislation doesn’t get respected, we need to then ask why do we make laws for if no one respects them?”
Areas for Poland to improve

In February of this year, the Europa website released a range of press releases explaining their communication with Poland over different environmental issues.  Poland is soon to be taken to the European Court of Justice over not adhering to the EU nature protection law, where birds have not been protected.  Also according to the articles, Poland has been sent a reasoned opinion due after not complying with the standards for their quality of surface water.  They have also received another reasoned opinion over failing to protect their seas, as well not meeting requirements to reduce pollution to levels that minimise the harmful effects on human health and the environment.  If these matters aren’t responded to in the next two months, the Commission will take them to the Member State Court of Justice.
Lichtenberger recognised that the environment is not Poland’s number one priority currently.  “New countries to the EU have a focus on economic policy and growth and then with the growth, time and finances can and then will take care of the environment”.

European Commission must do more

Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter criticises the commission for not enforcing the standards.  “The Parliament puts in place very high standards, but the commission has always been very relaxed when it comes to the environment, and the council has always been the weakest” said Schlyter.
Lichtenberger agreed with this: “The environment is big reluctance of the commission”.    Lichtenberger also blamed Barroso.  “Less has been done since Barosso has been in power as the environment is not a priority to him, hence the commission don’t act”.
“It is so important that the European Parliament, and the Commission act in a transparent way.  Citizens should be able to clearly see what the issues are and how they are being enforced.  That way, concerns can be heard, and the Parliament and Commission can act on the situation for what it really is” Lichtenberger explained.

Polish MEP states Poland’s case

Polish MEP Boguslaw Sonik from the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) has seen an improvement within Poland in regards to the environment.

“Environmental awareness has increased incredibly amongst Polish people over the last decade.  People no longer look at being environmentally friendly as being forced into an annoying task, but rather an investment for the future,” says Sonik.

Boguslaw also explains that it has been an issue of the economy why more has been done.  “If we reacess how Poland’s revolution in 1989 was only 20 years ago, we can see how Poland is a young country and how our priority has been rebuilding our economy, rather than making changes to the environment that we are now implementing.”

When the Commission halted the construction of the Via Baltica (highway) through an EU Natura 2000 protected area of the Rospuda Valley, Poland learnt a lesson stated Sonik.  “Decision makers in Poland after that incident realised the importance of abiding by the European Union guidelines.  You can’t outwit such a large body,” he said.

Environment continues to fall behind in many countries

Flags of the European Union in Parliament House

Poland is not the only country with environmental concerns.  Schlyter sees Spain as the country with the most concerns within the European Union, as they are failing to meet requirements met within the Kyoto Protocol.
Swedish Green MEP Isabella Lovin, working on the fishery issues, sees the same issues with Iceland.  “If Iceland wants to be a part of the European Union, they must sign up to all of the policies.  Fisheries are part of those policies… Of course Iceland can apply for an exemption on the matter, there are exemptions to many policies, but I don’t think that EU will make an exemption for this matter”
New plans

On the 8th of March a new energy efficiency plan was introduced. In a press conference discussing this new plan, Danish EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard has been asked what is being done to enforce new and old policies on the environment many times. She has the view of looking at each country uniquely, and examining their unique situation before enforcing consequences.

“You cannot compare countries.  Richer countries like Denmark and Sweden are in a different situation to Romania and Bulgaria. In the past EU countries have not held standards for the environment. Even the most energy efficient countries can do more”.

Lichtenberger says that Poland has the resources and knowledge to make improvements now; it just has to become their priority.  “Poland has excellent technicians who should be given a chance go develop ways of becoming a more environmentally friendly society, as an alternative to money being invested further into the coal industry.”
Sonik as seen changes and believes they will continue only to get stronger.  “Slowly we are able to see the changes in the Polish mentality” he said.


After 100 years women still fight for equality

“In all its activities, the Union shall aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women.” [ Article 8 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU states] Gender equality is a fundamental right also guaranteed by Article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. After 100 years since the first International Women’s Day gender equality has not been achieved. The European Parliament (EP) is committed to strengthening women’s rights.

By IEVA SLIZIUTEM. Nedelcheva's report was accepted.

Celebrating 100 years anniversary

The special ceremony to commemorate 100 years of campaigning for women’s rights was held on March 8 during the EP’s plenary session in Strasbourg. One hundred years ago women were fighting for a right to vote, they were striking for peace and equality. Vice-president of the European Commission Catherine Ashton said: „This important occasion has marked the economic, social, political and cultural achievements of women around the world. We take this opportunity to reiterate jointly our commitment to promote women’s rights and gender equality“.

The EU has made significant progress over the last decades in achieving equality between women and men: equal treatment legislation, gender mainstreaming and specific measures for the advancement of women. Although inequalities between men and women still exist. EP President Jerzy Buzek pointed out: “In 100 years we have managed to change Europe, but not enough”.

Inequality still exists

Women continue to be significantly underrepresented in leadership and decision- making positions in the corporate sector. Corporate Europe is still a man’s world: women account for an average of just 3% of the presidents of the largest quoted and just one in 10 board members at Europe’s biggest companies.

The central bank of each country across Europe is led by a male governor and more than four out of every five members of key decision-making bodies are men.

Politics also continues to be dominated by men. Women make up around 53% of Europe’s population but they occupy only 35% of the seats in the EP.

Only 52 of the 202 head unit posts at middle – management level in the EP are occupied by women. The top two levels of the civil service in each of the EU Member States comprised 68% men and 32% women. Women account for nearly one in three (31%) judges of supreme courts at national level.

The pay gap between women and men remains persistently wide: on average and across the whole economy, women in the EU earn 17.6% less per hour than men. Although there are successes to applaud and positive trends are emerging, it seems that old stereotypes die hard and many of the largest employers in the EU still do not seem to be open for female talent to flourish in particular in top positions.

Different suggestions – one aim

Achieving gender equality is also vital for the EU’s growth, employment and social cohesion objectives. The Europe 2020 Strategy is the EU’s key document for that. Studies show that businesses with more women at the top outperform “men only” companies. Their operating income is higher and they are better at attracting talent and understanding customers.

The commissioner Viviane Reading asserted: “Gender is a business issue, not purely a “women’s” issue. Women mean business!” According to her, making the most of Europe’s female talent in the workforce is not just good for business – it also benefits the economy and society as a whole.

V. Reading met chief executives and chairs of boards of publicly listed companies in Brussels on the 1st March to discuss the under-representation of women on corporate boards. They were asked for a voluntary commitment to increase women’s participation on corporate boards to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2020.

“In one year’s time, on 8 March 2012, I will take stock and monitor the progress achieved. If self-regulation fails, I am prepared to take action at EU level to help achieve a breakthrough and get more women into top jobs”- said V. Reading.

Mariya Nedelcheva (PPE) in her report on equality between women and men in the EU – 2010, also takes stock of the equality between sexes and addresses challenges still to be tackled.

The draft resolution calls on Member States to take effective measures, “such as quotas, to ensure greater representation for women in major listed companies and on the management boards of companies in general”, citing Norway as a positive example, followed by Spain and France.

Some suggestions were rejected, but the resolution in whole was accepted. “I am delighted of the outcome of the voting, the large majority were in favour”, – said Silvana Koch – Mehrin, Vice – President of the EP.

Quotas system still very controversial

The various approaches promoted by governments, the social partners and companies to increase the percentage of women in decision – making positions and the results they have achieved, reflect Europe’s diverse cultures and the lack of a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

The most effective, albeit controversial, strategy to be achieve gender – balanced boards seems to be quota legislation, as Norway’s experience shows. Since Norway passed a quota law in 2006, the number of women on the boards of large companies has risen sharply.

Although during the debates there were some strongly demurring opinions about the gender quotas. Nicole Sinclaire maintained that proposal for quota system has lost touch with the reality: “I am against all kind of discrimination, even positive and in favour of women”.

ECR Women’s Spokesman Marina Yannakoudakis MEP has welcomed EU Commissioner Reding’s self- regulatory initiative. However, she was very categorical about the gender quotas: “Let’s not patronise women. Let’s make sure that women are getting the top job because they are excellent at what they do, not because they fulfil a quota.”

L. Andrikiene does not think that quotas are the bes solution.Gender equality in Lithuania

One of Lithuania’s strategic directions is to encourage gender equality, especially after opening the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) in the capital of Lithuania. Lithuania has the first lady president Dalia Grybauskaitė, The Lithuanian parliament (Seimas) now is presented over by a lady speaker Irena Degutienė, Ministries of National Defence and Finances are also headed by women Rasa Juknevičienė and Ingrida Šimonytė.

Lithuanian MEP Laima Liucija Andrikienė said: “Situation in Lithuania is not bad, but inequality, all those stereotypes and tunnel vision is still felt strongly”. In 2004, Seimas considered gender quotas, but it was rejected as contradictory to Lithuanian Constitution.

After the success of quotas in Norway and Spain and after this law was adopted in Iceland and France Lithuanians are still very sceptical. Due to the Eurobarometer only 12% of Lithuanians think that it would be effective.

“I don‘t think that quotas are needed. Constitution states that everybody is equal. One cannot be more equal than others. Actually, Reading’s voluntary settlement is more attractive for me”, – explained L. Andrikienė. “Even though, I do not think this will work in Lithuania, probably there will be changes only after regulation, when they will be forced to do that”, – she added.

Adviser for Public Relations in Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Valdas Dambrava also has negative opinion: “Then what about quotas for age – groups, national minorities, different religions and others? Gender cannot be excluded and more emphasised from all other discriminations.”

Virginija Langbakk, Director at EIGE explained that “Inequality is still obvious in many areas. Situation has to be changed.”

EIGE has produced a list of 100 Inequalities to illustrate that, although there is much to celebrate, there is still a long way from achieving gender equality.

“I am convinced that equality will become the norm and that International Women’s Day will cease to be an occasion for highlighting a problem and become instead a day of celebration”, – EP Vice – President S. Koch – Mehrin concluded.



Discussion in Brussels suggest solidarity among member states

The unrest in North Africa has put the EU asylum and border policy on the agenda. The commission issued a statement encouraging member states to show solidarity.

By Mette Hagedorn                                  

The European leaders gathered on Friday the 11 of March to discuss the situation in Libya and to reach agreement of possible action against Ghadaffi`s reign of terror on the Libyan civilians and rebel forces. The final statement also declared that European Union would show solidarity towards member states mostly affected by the increased flow of immigrant and refugees. Member States were also encouraged to support Frontex, the border agency that deals with border security in the EU, with technical support and crew.

The situation in North Africa has put a strain on the asylum systems in Europe. Since the upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt started in January more than 6000 refugees has arrived on the Italian Island of Lambedusa. The Italian government warned: as many as 300.000 refugees might arrive to the Italian coast. This number might be exaggerated, but there are signs that the refugee flow from Libya might be much bigger than from Tunisia as the unrest has spread to Libya the possibility of rise in economic migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe is increasing, according to PHD student Martin Lemberg Pedersen.


The EU issued a statement in which they urged member states to speed up the process of implementing the asylum package. This will allow states to show solidarity by sharing the affair of the asylum seeker system.

Most of the current migration from Tunisia to Lampedusa appears to be for economic reasons, said Ms Malmström. However, developments will be watched very closely, she added, stressing that  

 “Frontex and Member States may not push away people in need of international protection”.

Dodgy deals

In order to keep refugees and immigrants out of the European Union, the Commission and Frontex travelled to Libya in 2004 and 2007 and made deals with the Gaddafis regime to combat, what they call, illegal migration. Frontex has since then reported that the number of immigrants to Malta and the Italian island of Lanbedusa has fallen. In 2010 the agency reported that the number of immigrants in the central Mediterranean had fallen from 16.000 to 3000 in September 2008.

According to MEP, Søren Søndergaard, who is for the Greens, this is in a bid of the long term policy of the EU to keep immigrants out of the European Union.

  “There was a silent agreement in the commission that Ghaddaffi was to hold refugees and imimigrants out of Europe. He met with Prodi and Barosso and the understanding was that Ghaddaffi was to be the gatekeeper of Europe.” He says.

The principle of free movement of Labor in the EU means that once people are allowed in, it is hard to get them out. The Metock verdict of 25 of June 2008 states that you can be unified with your spouse after only a few weeks stay in any European country. That is why the EU works on keeping immigrants out of the Union.

New approach is needed

The border agency Frontex that is currently operating in Italy has been critised by NGO`s to breach international obligations for the right to seek asylum and to generally be a short sighted solution that will make the politicians seem to take actions, thus seem more appealing to voters.

According to Amnesty International Executive Officer Anneliese Baldaccini the EU should change the approach towards border control and stop collaborating with states that does not comply with human rights. According to Anneliese Baldaccini, Amnesty International supports the humanitarian aid to neighboring countries to help set up and run temporary refugee camps. But she does not understand why the EU does not open allow more refugees to come in the Europe if they have family members in member states countries.

She also says that there are no economic migrations to the EU, but that we are talking about people trying to escape unrest and violence in the native countries.


Danish MEP and part of the Alde group in parliament, Jens Rohde, is in favor of member state helping member countries that are under a lot of sudden pressure.

  “Imagine the number of asylum applicants suddenly rose dramatically within a year in Denmark, and then we would need help, if we do not, the countries affected cannot see any advantage of being part of the Dublin Convention and they might leave” he says.

According to Jens Rohde we must help countries like Italy and Greece in an emergency like the ongoing in North Africa. Asylum seekers need their case processed quickly and that Denmark should participate

  “We ought to help processing the asylum cases, but we need to do it in the countries affected. We should send personnel to help, and the asylum seekers that arrive in Denmark we should deal with ourselves,” he says.

He does not support the view to abolish the Dublin Convention and impose refugee quota amongst member states

The Dublin convention

According to the Dublin Convention, every asylum seeker that applies for asylum should have their procedure looked through. Prior to the Dublin convention, people could be sent back and forth, because member states thought other countries were obliged to treat the asylum cases. The Dublin convention was also designed to avoid so called asylum shopping, the situation were asylum seekers could apply for asylum in all member states, and thus overload the system. One of the disadvantage of the Dublin Convention is that you deprive the applicant to make his own choice of country to seek asylum to.

  “It can be obvious to seek asylum in a country where the applicant has family, job possibilities, knows the language or other affiliations. Also in relation to the subsequent integration process.” Says Thomas Gammeltoft Hansen. 

According to Thomas Gammeltoft Hansen the foundation for the Dublin convention is that every member state has the possibility to treat asylum seekers, which is not the case at the moment. It is very hard for Greece to cope with the increasing numbers of asylum seekers and immigrants. It is also becoming increasingly more difficult for Italy to comply with the minimum’s rules, according to Thomas Gammeltoft Hansen.

Character: 6.265

Libya: The Gordian Knot of EU’s foreign policy

By Jana Vrbková


During the last ten years, only three international incidents had such a significant impact as to warrant an extraordinary meeting of the European Council: the September 11 attacks, the Iraqi war and the Georgian war. However, the recent turmoils in Middle East and North Africa – especially the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya – have forced the European Union to once again call for such an emergency gathering of leaders of the 27 member states.


The result of the assembly held on 11th March in Brussels is a declaration supporting the democratic uprisings in the region, as well as vowing to ensure the safety of the civilian population of Libya under the attack of the pro-regime forces by “all necessary means”. To this end, the European Union is planning to cooperate not only with the United Nations, but also with the African Union and the Arab League. However, while the 27 European nations are unanimous in their demand for Gaddafi’s immediate demission, the opinions on what actions should be actually taken in order to achieve this goal differ greatly among the respective countries involved. Just as they seem to differ even between the various institutions of the European Union itself, too.


The Libyan rebels themselves are absolutely clear in their request for international help, though. “We need all kind of assistance,” stated Mahmoud Jebril, a delegate of the self-appointed Libyan Interim Transitional National Council, during his brief visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Pleading the cause of the anti-government rebels a day before the parliament’s voting on a resolution concerning Libya, the Head of the Crisis Committee has briefed the members of the European Parliament as well as a group of media representatives on the core areas of EU’s potential assistance: official international recognition of the rebel-led Council as the representatives of Libyan people, humanitarian aid and limited military support. “For the no-fly zone – if that’s the way for us to stop this killing machine, then so be it. But under one condition. No physical presence of any foreign soldier on Libyan soil,” the delegate resolutely drew the line for any possible further international military intervention.


The fight over a no-fly zone


Yet while the very idea of an internationally imposed and externally maintained no-fly zone over Libya, supported mainly by England and France – as well as being backed by the United States and the Arab League – seems to perfectly fulfil the Council’s conditions, in reality, the same demands might turn the establishing and upholding of such a demilitarized air zone, which would prevent the pro-government armed forces from launching air attacks on civilians, into an unfeasible goal.


“This is a non-starter,” argued Steve Clemons, the founder and senior fellow of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation in his analysis for BBC. “The systems required to maintain on-going surveillance and interdiction of aircraft are considerable and cannot all be run from near-docked ships and from NATO’s military base in southern Italy,” he pointed out, adding that a no-fly zone is also a “very high-cost, low-return tactic” with only a limited military impact, while simultaneously carrying potentially enormous political risks.


Nevertheless, in its voting on 10th March, the European Parliament has adopted a resolution supporting a potential no-fly zone with an overwhelming majority of 584 votes (compared to the remaining 18 votes against and 18 abstained). The subsequent extraordinary meeting of the European Council, which took place only a day later, however, was far from being as unequivocal in its discussions about Libya.


While only one of parliamentary political groups – the rather small European United Left/ Nordic Green Left group – has expressed itself against the notion of any external military intervention in the discussion preceding the parliamentary voting in Strasbourg, in Brussels, leaders of several European countries have voiced their reluctance to take such a step. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she would reconsider the establishing of a no-fly military zone only if a legal base for it were to exist. Václav Klaus, the president of Czech Republic, went as far as to liken the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya to a “declaration of war”.

The fight over the future


The Czech leader, otherwise well known for his sceptical view of the European Union, has also expressed his disagreement with another of the steps of EU’s newly adopted policy towards Libya. Even with the European Parliament and the European Council both agreeing on Interim Transitional National Council becoming European Union’s new “political interlocutor” in the region, Klaus has called this decision a “complete mistake”.


“As we, Czechs, would say among ourselves – some kind of a national council has basically formed itself in Benghazi, in the east of Libya, and declared itself a government,” Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, elaborated on the critical nature of the Czech stance towards the rebel-led Council. He also pointed out that two of the Interim Transitional National Council members used to be members of Muammar Gaddafi’s government, with Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the Chairman of the council himself, being the former Libyan Minister of Justice and the Commander in Chief of the council’s armed forces, Abdul Fatah Younis, being Gaddafi’s former Minister of Interior.


In the light of European Union’s ambiguous past relations with Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the recent calls for the EU to support democracy instead of stability in the North African and Middle Eastern region, the statements made by the Czech president and Minister of Foreign Affairs take the shine out off the newly formed partnership between the European Union and the anti-Gaddafi movement, which should have symbolized the beginning of a new era in EU’s neighbouring policy.


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EU Targets Fake Drugs on the Internet by Tanya Abu Ghazaly

Parliament protects patients from fake drugs

The war against fake pharmaceutical drugs in the EU has intensified as the Parliament recently expanded their hunt for scams on the Internet. According to the new law passed on February 16, pharmaceutical drugs sold online should be traceable and approved of by the EU to be sold legally.

The new law aimed at protecting patients has been voted for by the Parliament but is still awaiting the approval of the Council of Ministers, according to the official European Parliament’s website.

One percent of drugs in the EU and 30 percent of them in the world sold through the legal supply chain are counterfeited. The global figures have skyrocketed by 92 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. Experts are calling this a low-key, international pandemic.

Fake drugs sold on the Internet

Counterfeit drugs are silent killers that disguise themselves as genuine medication but that are actually ineffective or poisonous substances.

According to the European Medicines Agency, the manufacturers use cheap and often toxic ingredients ranging from printer ink and chalk, to amphetamines and anti-freeze.

Although these drugs can be bought from pharmacies, they most often travel from fraudulent producers to unsuspecting patients via the Internet.


Purchasing drugs off the Internet is not always a safe option.


In fact, the European Medicines Agency reports that about 90 percent of counterfeit drugs are sold on the web.

As well as the risk posed by unknown ingredients, Internet drugs circumvent traditional healthcare and this poses its own risks as underlying health conditions could be undiagnosed if people don’t seek medical advice, says Dr. Graham Jackson, a cardiologist at the Guys & St Thomas Hospital in London and an activist against fake drugs.

Developed countries at lower risk yet not immune

Although developed countries are at a much lower risk than their counterparts due to stronger regulation, expensive lifestyle drugs such as hormones and steroids reach EU households. More recently, an increasing number of life-threatening drugs such as diabetes, AIDS and cancer-related medication has infiltrated the EU market, reports the European Medicines Agency.

Jakob Bertelsen is a Danish diabetes patient and a victim of counterfeit drugs. He bought Glucophage, a drug meant to regulate blood sugar levels, from an allegedly Swiss-based website.

After the side effects of his condition reappeared two weeks after beginning his treatment, he took the drugs to a local pharmacist where they were tested and found out to be imitations.


Counterfeited drugs often appear identical to real medication.


The website, the packaging and the drug itself seemed identical to me so I never had a shadow of a doubt. That is what scares me the most. It is fortunate that I consulted professionals or one bad purchasing decision could have ended my life, says Bertelsen.

Regardless of a country’s wealth, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that counterfeit medicines are a threat to communities which is why there should be a general consensus that protects patients in the EU and globally.

Boguslaw says that a universal agreement as to what is permissible needs to be addressed. Countries within the EU and outside of it exchange drugs despite the fact that they have different laws governing drug manufacturing.

Obstacles catching online criminals

Newly implemented safety regulations that ensure the identification, authenticity and traceability of the product in question will reduce incidences of online drug scams, says Vice-chair of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety MEP Sonik Boguslaw.

Websites approved by the EU will feature common “trust logo” to prove their legitimacy, according to the official European Parliament’s website.

However, the crackdown on Internet scams aimed at baiting unknowing customers could be a challenging task.

Crime rings that are behind the scenes of online drug fraud will falsely claim to be based in the US, Canada or developed European countries to increase credibility, according to the Partnership for Safe Medicines.

A Russian-based crime ring arrested in October 2010 had domain names registered in Monaco, Australia and France, reports the Partnership for Safe Medicines.

More than 50 percent of medication found on websites that do not provide their physical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses is counterfeited, according to the World Health Organization.

Pharmaceutical companies raise awareness

Pharmaceutical companies are more and more active in raising awareness about this issue now that they are aware of the severity of the situation, says Boguslaw.

Several drug firms such as Roche, the world’s largest biotech company, offer its clients online fact sheets in order to warn them of the potential risks and how to protect themselves which is a great improvement to the attention given to the problem five years ago, says Dr. Jackson.

This raises another concern and could even be counter-productive, believes Portugese MEP and member of the left side, Marisa Matias. Since this information is available for all on the Internet, scam artists can now view the list of precautions and modify their products accordingly, Matias adds.

Ineffective legal sanctions

In some cases, producing counterfeit medicine can be ten times as profitable per kilogram as heroin, yet in the UK someone can face greater legal sanctions if they produce a counterfeit T-shirt, says Dr. Jackson.

He adds that the Internet’s shield of anonymity, the low risk of being caught by the authorities and the potentially high profits makes this illegal industry highly appealing to those motivated by greed.

Shouldn’t those who defraud pharmaceutical, wholesalers, pharmacists, and especially members of the public whose lives are at stake be given more than a simple slap on the wrist for their crimes? asks Bertelsen.

The absence of legal framework encourages counterfeiting, an organized crime. We have been witnessing a huge growth of this criminal activity, with an increase of 400% in seizures of fake drugs in 2005, says Matias.

What next?

A new method being developed in the UK uses the Internet in a constructive manner to help fight counterfeit drugs, according to the European Medicines Agency. By taking a picture of the product packaging and submitting it to an online database, the patient can find out whether the drug is authentic or not within a matter of seconds.

Scientists and pharmaceutical companies are taking the creation of new anti-counterfeit technology more seriously and want to ensure everyone’s safety by putting a complete halt on these crimes, says Dr. Jackson.

NGOs smell something fishy about proposed discard policies

The proposed EU fisheries policy is doing little but not enough to ensure healthy fish levels for the future.

By Damien Currie

The current Common Fisheries Policy is due to be revised in the European Parliament in the next few months. This has lead for calls from Non Governmental Organizations, such as the World Wildlife Foundation, to improve the current overfishing issue concerning waters in the European Union and beyond to ensure that fishing practices are sustainable for future generations.

Member states of the European Union are distributed a quota each summer as determined by relative stability. Environmental Non Governmental Organizations contend that these quotas are set at a rate that is too high, which lends itself to overfishing of certain species of fish in European waters.

The European Parliament, Strasbourg

Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Discarding, Maria Damanaki (Panhellic Socialist Movement), released a proposition earlier this month in Brussels to end the process of discarding on European fishing vessels.

The World Wildlife Foundation views this measure as a step in the right direction, but not adequately killing the problem at the root to guarantee sustainable fishing for future generations by ensuring that livestock will be preserved and making fishing practices more selective. In their opinion this is the way to overcome the problem of overfishing.

Ms. Damanaki told the commission on 1 March that discarding practices were “unethical, a waste of natural resources and a waste of fisherman’s effort” during her proposal to see an end to discarding.


What is the process of discarding?

Each commercial shipping vessel is equipped with a quota of the total number of fish it is allowed to bring back to the shore. This number is decided by the European Union on a member state-by-state level. Not every nation receives the same quota as another and there are many elements that influence this figure, including economic and political pressures.

Fishermen cast their nets into the ocean and retrieve a mixed batch of different species that they have caught. Within this assortment, there may contain species of marine livestock that they do not have the appropriate quota to take back to land. Therefore they throw it back overboard. Similarly, if they catch too much of the one kind of fish then they are permitted to, they must return it to the sea.

By the time excess fish stock are returned to the ocean they come from, they are dead 99 percent of the time.

This means that even though quotas exist to reduce the amount of fish that is caught, it is inefficient in accurately monitoring the amount of fish and marine livestock that are killed by fishing practices.


Total Allowable Catch

The Total Allowable Catch that governs the amount of fish that fisherman can take is only measured on what they take back to land. This does not include that they take out of the water. Therefore, fisherman have the opportunity to fish as much as they like when at sea under the current condition, as they are only accountable with what they take with them back to the shore.

The total allowable catch relates to the quotas each member state is issued, based upon fish levels that are evaluated yearly. These evaluations, however, do not take into account the discards that commercial shipping vessels throw overboard.


Opinions are divided

Louize Hill, Head of the European Marine and Fisheries Policy at the World Wildlife Foundation, explains how this process is flawed.

“Discards are a huge problem. Total allowable catch are often set in excess of science so fisherman are already given more fish than are actually available to catch [and they are] given access to more fish than is available, “ she says.

Swedish Member of Parliament Isabella Lövin (Group of the Greens/ European Free Alliance), a member of the Fisheries Committee, supports Commissioner Damanaki’s proposed discard ban.

“You’re perfectly allowed to do anything out there. You could catch ten times what you’re allowed to land and then you discard it all,” she says.

“I think absolutely [the discard ban] will have a very positive effect on fish stock. If we have a discard ban one of the consequences will be that you could rely very much more on scientific advice.”

“Scientists now have a very hard job to try and estimate how much fish is out there when the only data they get is on landings,” says MEP Lövin.

As long as that is the management method the European Union are employing, it is very difficult to monitor what is killed by being removed from the water and what is actually counted by being returned to the land.

“One of the positive things of a discard ban will be that you have better data which gives the possibility of giving better advice,” says Lövin.

MEP Isabella Lövin and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki. Photo: European Commission Audiovisual


More needs to be done

While the lobby group, The World Wildlife Foundation, has welcomed the proposed discard ban, Hill maintains that the European Union are not doing enough to ensure that fish stocks will remain sustainable in the future.

Hill commented that the World Wildlife Foundation would only accept a discard ban if it were adequately accompanied by the right technical measures.

According to her, 72% of European fish stocks are overfished. This is due to poor fishing management, quotas set too high, fishing season set for too long and too many boats out at sea.

“These quotas need to be reduced. They need to be determined by science.”

“We need a reduction in the number of fish killed, a reduction in quota and a reduction in discard,” says Hill.

Hill suggests that the reason why the European Union does not reduce the fishing quota is due to political pressure from member states. Fishermen ask for more quota as a means to make more money. If the laws are adapted so that fisherman are responsible for all the fish that they remove from the sea, Hill predicts that these fishermen will instead focus on maximising what they already can catch and stop more waste.


Killing the problem at the root

For the European Union’s revised Common Fisheries Policy to be truly effective in delivering sustainable marine options, they must “kill the problem at the root”.

“We need to have protected areas where fisherman don’t fish or don’t fish at certain times of year according to the distribution of the actual fish in the sea,” says Hill.

The proposal for the revised Common Fisheries Policy will be released this summer.


Fact Box

The State of the World’s Fisheries and Agriculture (SOFIA) report in 2010 recorded that:

  • 53% of the world’s fish is fully exploited.
  • 32% of the world’s fish is over exploited.

The European Commission state:

  • 72% of fish in Europe are overfished.
  • 59% of fish in Europe are at a high risk of depletion.












Mackerel and cod on the European agenda!

The European Unions’ Common Fisheries Policy from 2002 is currently undergoing a reform to ensure sustainable fisheries in the EU in the future

By Rose Raes

Scientists estimate that in 2048 there will be no more fish for human consumption in the European seas – That is, if the current quotas and regulations are not changed to more sustainable alternatives. Currently 88% of the European fish stocks are currently overexploited. Also in Danish waters fish stocks are suffering under overfishing.

The reasons for the missing sustainability of European fisheries are many; too high fishing quotas, too large fleets of fishing vessels and conflicting interests between sustainability and economy being the main issues.

The Swedish member of the European Parliament, Isabella Lövin, went into politics after writing the book “Silent Sea” about the challenges of the fisheries area. She is a member of the Green Party, and has been a member of the European Parliament since 2009, where she is a member of the Fisheries Committee.

“ Experts and everyone else agree that the current Common Fisheries Policy are not sustainable,” Isabella Lövin says,  “therefore a reform is necessary in order to secure the survival of the fish stocks.”

Denmark is located in an area, where also countries like Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Russia from outside the EU are fishing. This gives some different challenges in the cooperation on fisheries policy than in areas where only EU-countries have fishing vessels.

Norway has been pressuring EU for more sustainable fisheries policies, but Iceland has taken a different stand to the question of Fisheries Policy – They want to be able to fish more, than the EU will allow.

Mackerel wars

The mackerel stocks have been under a lot of pressure, but thanks to a great effort from, amongst others, the Danish fishing industry, the mackerel stocks are now back to a sustainable level. However, global warming have caused the ocean streams to change, so now the mackerels spend 6 months of the year in Icelandic waters, something they have never done before. Because the mackerel spend half the year in Icelandic waters, Iceland claims that they are entitled to half the total mackerel quotas. This means that Iceland instead of sticking to the EU quota of 2.000 tonnes, Iceland fished 130.000 tonnes of mackerel.

“It’s a big problem,” Isabella Lövin Admits, “and nobody seems to be able to find a solution to it. The EU are starting to raise their voice a little towards Iceland.”

Already in September 2010, Maria Damanaki, the Fisheries Commissioner of the European Union, critisised both the Iclandic but also the Faroe Isle‘s mackerel fisheries policy. At a press conference in Brussels on September 26th, she suggested that the Islandic fisheries policy might be a problem, as Iceland wishes to join the EU. This speech was answered by a press release from the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Argricuture saying that:

„The EU, the Faroe Islands and Norway carry no less responsibility than Iceland for keeping the fishery within a sustainable limit. It should be emphasized that it is the joint obligation of the four coastal States to establish a comprehensive management of the mackerel fisheries in order to ensure their sustainability, and Iceland´s right to fish in this context is no less than the right of the others.“

The Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture have set the mackerel quota for 2011 to 146.818 tonnes.

Also, the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture criticised the agreement of quotas for mackerel fisheries between EU, and Norway in a press release from November 2010:

„Obviously, these parties have disregarded the legitimate interests of the other coastal States, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and of Russia. The quota decision of the EU and Norway is in fact a decision that the total mackerel fishery next year will exceed the recommended total allowable catch and these parties bear full responsibility for that.“

This statement followed an agreement that EU and Norway total mackerel quotas for 2011 amount to 583,882 tonnes, or more than 90% of the recommended total allowable catch.

The EU, Iceland and Faroe Islands had a three-day meeting last week, but still haven‘t reached an agreement on the mackerel issue.

The new discard ban

The cod are the species in the North Sea that are most vulnerable at the moment. The quotas are simply too high to be sustainable, and app. 93% of the cod are fished before reaching sexual maturity.

Fishers are only allowed to land a certain amount of cod, and only specimens over 39 cm. Therefore it is an economical advantage for the fishers to throw all smaller fish back into the ocean, even though they cannot survive after being caught. This procedure means that small cod that haven’t yet reached maturity are killed, thus destroying future generations of cod, and is one of the reasons the cod stocks in the North Sea are under pressure. In the North Sea the annual discards are estimated at 500.000 to 800.000 tonnes.

On March 1st, Denmark, England, Germany and Norway signed a joint declaration of banning discard. Norway has had such a ban for years, so Danish vessels fishing in the Norwegian seas have been sailing into Danish waters to dump fish from Norwegian waters instead.

“Norway has wanted EU to become more responsible on the matter of discard for years,” Isabella Lövin explains.

This joint declaration means that discard now will be forbidden in the waters of all nations in the agreement. In Denmark, there is an ongoing project where cameras are installed on the fishing vessels, to make sure that the discard ban is being respected. This is still only a trial, but could be a part of the solution to the discard issue.

Also in the EU Parliament a complete ban of discard of fish are currently being discussed.

What will the future bring?

“The quotas should be calculated from the amount of fish that are actually fished, not just the amount that is landed.” Isabella Lövin states.

This way, discard is no longer an advantage for the fishers.  Also, scientific results and advice should be taken more serious, and science and sustainability should always be taken into consideration before anything else. For example the Iceland situation, where Iceland wants to fish more, than what is sustainable, because of the bad Icelandic economy.

“Scientists need to raise their voices” says Isabella Lövin says, “and politicians needs to listen more to scientists than to other interests.”

The Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries is positive towards the Common Fisheries Policy reform. In a rapport on the matter from the beginning of the reform in 2008, the ministry underlines that from a Danish perspective, the most important issues are dealing with the discard problem and making the legislation on the area more simple and understandable.

The Common Fisheries Reform will be implemented in 2012.

The European Parliament are currently working on a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to be implemented in 2012


Egyptian uprising raises the demand for Europe’s support

Europeans sympathize with Egypt’s pro-democracy revolution January 25 that overthrew President Mubarak’s 30 year reign. The European Union and the Council of Europe are ready to assist state institutions and national forces, to facilitate economic reform and youth movements. But Egypt, not Europe, must dictate outcomes and define solutions.

By: Effat Mostafa

France, Brussels – The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and security policy presented a forum on “Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean” on March 11th, 2011. One of its crucial goals is to identify how Europe can support the momentous economic and political reforms in Egypt and the Middle Eastern region.

“The European Union has the experience and tools to help countries in the Arab region as they make the journey to deep democracy,” said Catherine Ashton, Vice President and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

During her speech in Brussels, Catherine Ashton emphasized that the European Investment Bank EIB could provide approximately six billion Euros to the Mediterranean region in the coming three years if the Council approves the additional lending envelope of one billion Euros, as recently proposed by the European Parliament. The EU proposed to double their investment in Egypt through infrastructure projects to create job opportunities for Egyptian youth.

Egypt must make the first move. “It would be premature to announce a support package for Egypt until Egyptian authorities make a specific request for assistance that prioritizes needs,” said Mario David, the European Parliament’s Chair of Delegation for Mashreq countries.

EU should understand the complexity of Egypt’s problems.

Dr Amr Hamzawey, Cairo University political science professor and a research Director at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in Washington, noted that in formulating an aid package of technical and financial assistance directed to Egyptian institutions, the EU must consider how this aid will function in the context of constitutional and legal reform, political engagement in the organization of the referendum on constitutional amendments, and presidential and parliamentary elections.

Hamzawey also emphasized that cooperation between both the EU and the Council of Europe are crucial to map a plan that transfers European expertise assist the transition to democracy, while addressing state founders, national forces and civil society.

In the wake of Egyptian protests, economic and political challenges have emerged and the EU, in supporting the quest for the democratic principles and value, must have a clear understanding of what these challenges entail.  Said El-Khadraoui, Vice Chair of Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries, explained that the EU can offer Egypt significant expertise –culled from individual governments, the European Institutions (European Commission and European Parliament), local and regional authorities, political parties, foundations, trade unions and civil society organizations.

El-Khadraoui also pointed out that the EU will review its neighborhood policy with the countries in the Arab region in accordance with changes impacted by recent political reform in Egypt. He added that the EU will focus on Egypt’s economy.

Dr. Charles Tannock, a member in the Committee of Foreign Affairs in the European parliament, announced that the EU is ready to mobilize full support for the Egyptian people and has started a dialogue with the recently appointed Egyptian government. He added that the EU welcomes the suitable delivery of first proposals for amending the constitution and encourages Egyptian authorities to continue in their commitment to political reform and to create an environment for thorough democratic transition, including lifting the state of emergency law.

The Council of Europe, another aid partner, is communicating with the EU in an effort to support Egypt during this transitional period. Jean Claus, Adviser in the External Relations committee in the Council of Europe, said that Egypt already participates in some of the activities supported by the Council, and notes that “This participation will facilitate our support to the country after the revolution.”

Claus added that the Council is offering a partial agreement called “The Venice Commission” dealing with constitutional and electoral issues, and Egypt is entitled to ask for membership. Claus adds that “the Venice Commission” can offer Egypt useful advice in building democratic institutions, in the principles of accountability between the authorities and society, and the reduction of corruption at all levels of society.

Influence of Egyptian revolution on Tourism.

Egypt’s protests have triggered a significant economic crisis, and the aftermath is manifested in the country’s GDP growth rate. Before the revolution, which officially began on January 25th, a Reuter’s survey of financial analysts predicted 5.4% GDP growth in 2011, the fastest for an Arab country after Qatar.

According to the Egyptian stock market, each of the 18 days that the uprising lasted cost Egypt’s economy $1 billion in capital outflow, as foreign investors took money out. The uprising also affected the country’s infrastructures, key institutions, and its tourism industry, which accounts for 11% of GDP and 10% of jobs. Banks estimate the total loss to the Egyptian economy at over $30 billion.

Egypt’s lucrative tourism industry will not recover soon. Dr. Laila Nabhan, Owner of Five Continents Travel Company, said she counted her family-owned company’s loss at about 80% since the revolution, when many airlines, including Delta, cancelled flights. Five Continents is the Delta representative in Egypt. “We’ve had group and individual cancellations,” says Naban, “up through winter of 2011. Tourists will not return until there is stability in the country.”

The amount of revenue that Egypt lost as a result of the revolution came under discussion of the proposal of Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean at the recent EU conference in Brussels. Catherine Ashton observed that if the European Council does not revitalize tourism in the Arab world, notably Egypt, the loss of national income could undermine recent democratic reforms by jeopardizing the compromised stability in the region.

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Fact box:

  • Before the uprising, Egypt’s GDP was $217 billion, half the GDP of Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s GDP relied on foreign investment, tourism, and transit fees through the Suez Canal.
  • “A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity  with the southern Mediterranean” is a joint communication  to the European council, the European parliament, the council, the European economic and social committee and the committee of the regions
  • The European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission, is the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters. Established in 1990, the commission has played a leading role in the adoption of constitutions that conform to the standards of Europe’s constitutional heritage.
  • The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the European Union’s financing institution. Its shareholders are the 27 Member States of the Union, which have jointly subscribed its capital.



Danish School of Media and Journalism 2011