Category Archives: Group 2

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

The Irish Problem?

Following the ousting of Fianna Fail in national elections just three weeks ago, a clear message from the people of Ireland that they were not happy with their current financial situation, the incoming Fine Gael party won a landslide victory on the promise that they would reduce the financial burden of the bailout package on the Irish taxpayer. With the European Stability Fund providing €17.7 billion of Ireland’s bailout package, new Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has been seeking to have the interest rate on repayment of this section of the loan reduced from the current level of 5.8%, as it is potentially easier to renegotiate with EU partner states than with the IMF. Olli Rehn, Head of the Commission for Economics and Finance in the EU stated in a parliamentary meeting this past week in Strasbourg that he could definitely see a case to be made for lowering the interest rates on loan packets to Ireland and also Greece, but has not yet since given a more concrete commitment to the situation.

Ireland vs The EU

For Irish MEPs working within the EU, they now find themselves in a unique position, whereby they must work to protect the interest of not only the Irish people, but also work to advance the interests of the European Community. How then, do they resolve this potential conflict? “My first role as an MEP is to represent the interests of the Irish people, who elected me to represent them” says Brian Crowley, MEP. Nessa Childers, an MEP representing the Irish Labour party, who have entered a coalition government with Fine Gael, says “The situation in Europe has changed radically because of this crisis. We have national interests clashing with international interests, and there really is a lot of work to be done on all sides to resolve this situation. But at a certain point, you have to defend your own people.”

With regards to the current interest rate being charged to the Irish Government by the EU, MEP Crowley says “There’s the idea, particularly from a German perspective that the interest rate should be penal, but not exorbitant.” MEP Childers adds that this approach, labelling Ireland as “The bold child of Europe” and using the interest rate to ‘punish’ Ireland is unconstructive. “Whether the Irish people will see it that way, we do not know.” And thus represents a large portion of the conflict currently caused by the crisis of economic governance. With local and regional elections looming on the horizon for Angela Merkel, she has been facing increased pressure from her cabinet and policymakers in Germany to be seen to take a tough stance on debt heavy nations, such as Ireland, Portugal and Greece. As Germany invariably ends up shouldering quite a lot of Europe’s financial burdens they are quite reluctant to soften their stance on a done deal.

Room to maneuvre

This was certainly the attitude of Olli Rehn and the finance commission up to only a matter of weeks ago. Commissioner Rehn had made clear on a number of occasions that renegotiating the terms of any of the bailout packages was not going to be easily done or taken lightly. But as the Irish people voted in a new political party promising a reform of the tough austerity package imposed by the previous Government, it became clear that the people were demanding some sort of change to the current situation. Irish MEP Marian Harkin says “The impact on families, on communities, has been devastating, and coming from Finland which where they know all about the effects of long term unemployment, Olli Rehn knows that. You cannot put the blame for these failures on the shoulders of the citizens of one or two countries. It is unjust. And the European Union cannot be party something that is essentially unjust, then the citizens will lose their trust in it.”

Speaking at a parliamentary meeting in Strasbourg last week, Commissioner Rehn fielded a query from Gay Mitchell, an MEP for the Fine Gael party, asking about the potential progress on renegotiating the interest rate on the EU stability fund section of the Irish bailout package. Commissioner Rehn responded that he could definitely see the potential to renegotiate the interest rates on Irish and Greek loan packages. “I understand it is not pleasant to be in the EU/IMF programme, just ask Brian Cowen, who has recently lost his chair as Prime Minister of Ireland” said Commissioner Rehn. “We are certainly not out of the woods yet. When it comes to resolving this crisis, it is important that we must do it by, for and with the co-operation of all member states, especially as it pertains to the single market.” With these words, Mr Rehn signified that he understood the conflicts of interests which renegotiating bailout deals can present for the European Union. The question now is how can it be done?

Corporation Tax

One potential route towards a compromise may come in the form of bargaining with Ireland’s exceptionally low corporation tax rate of 12.5%. This past weekend has seen this issue fly into the limelight, with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeubl leading the call for Ireland to raise its corporation tax to a level comparable to that of its European partners. And this is not the first time this issue has come up in the EU either. Says MEP Crowley “Every year since 1997, this has been an issue up for debate.” Does he see Ireland being forced into a situation where they may have to use corporation tax as a bargaining chip of sorts? “No. Absolutely not. It’s not just Ireland which is against that. Other countries in Europe, Britain, Denmark, Luxembourg, Hungary, Poland, Sweden would all be opposed to harmonised rates at a European level. Even though the French are pushing it big time.” MEP Childers echoes these sentiments, saying “It would be, politically and economically, suicide to give any way on that. And we’re not alone in being the only country opposed to tax rates being harmonised.”

Irish Enterprise Minister John Bruton stated on Monday, March 14 that Ireland would have to “rigorously and trenchantly” defend its low corporation tax rate, as Finance Minister Michael Noonan meets with other European finance ministers in Brussels to discuss the current state of the Irish banking system which has been held to strict capital investment injections since the arrival of the EU/IMF in November last year so as to prevent a repeat of the situation where there is far too much capital being injected and ‘credit bubbles’ being created and exploited for profit. Speaking about corporation tax, MEP Marian Harkin says “Our corporation tax gives us a necessary competitive advantage. Whether it is unfair or uncompetitive is an entirely different thing, as you have to consider the effective rates. And, some of those screaming the loudest about our low tax rate actually have lower effective rates than Ireland. Certain countries have higher headline rates, but their effective rates are much lower”

MEP Crowley also addresses the potential implications of an increase to Ireland’s corporation tax rate, to a harmonised level across Europe. “Our corporate tax rate is an important tool in our ability to attract industry into Ireland. However, the reality is that a lot of those companies are making decisions about Europe or Asia for their investments. The choice for them, is Ireland or India, not between Ireland and France or Ireland and Germany. So a lot of those companies could be lost to Europe should such a situation arise.” Also addressing this issue to American investors on Wall Street this week was John Bruton, former Irish Prime Minister. Speaking to over 300 business leaders at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, Mr Bruton said “I am absolutely sure we will get through this with not only our corporation tax rate untouched but also our system of corporation tax unchanged.” Addressing the mounting pressure from Angela Merkel and Nikolas Sarkozy regarding the situation, Mr Bruton said “They must remember our corporation tax regime is one of the ways of repaying these loans, so it would be quite perverse to suggest that we should abandon that policy as that would further frustrate our capacity to repay the loans” Mr Bruton added.

The Future?

So what does the future hold for this situation of ‘economic governance’? On one hand, you have the new Irish Government who must make good on their election promises to reduce the financial burden of the current bailout package for the everyday taxpayer. But at the same time they must safeguard the interests of the corporation tax rate, which is the key to attracting foreign investment into what is now an otherwise damaged economy. On the other side of the fence there are the European ‘masters’ who can’t be seen to go soft on a debt heavy nation, and need to keep Ireland in a stable position to prevent a default on its debts which could lead to dire economic consequences. “If Ireland were to fail, and be put in a position where it had to default on its debts, it’s not just Ireland that would suffer. All of Europe would suffer, because that would put the euro currency under stress and strain that it would not be able to cope with. And it would be a domino effect that would move from Ireland, to another country, to another and so on. So it needs to be handled very delicately.” MEP Childers agrees with MEP Crowley on this stating that if the situation is allowed to reach a crisis point “It will push the Euro to the edge of a cliff.”


One solution is to enforce much stricter regulations on both a European level and a national level. The current situation in Ireland sees the finance department being required to submit it’s financial plans and budgets to the Commission for final approval before implementation, and this is a system which will be built on. “The problem in Ireland was not just a problem of banking, it was a problem of regulation of the banking system, and it was also a problem at the European Central Bank. You had German and French banks, along with the ECB giving loans to Ireland, but no one said, ‘Well there’s too much money going into this one country.’ So there was a national regulatory failure, and a European regulatory failure.” To amend this, there are currently eight new pieces of legislation being created to deal with a common, European wide banking regulatory framework to prevent the conditions which led to the banking collapse from emerging again. MEP Marian Harkin says she hopes the situation can be resolved soon “I’m an optimist about, but the past 9 months have been very grim for Ireland at this level. It will be resolved, there is no doubt about that, because the catastrophe which could follow were it not, I don’t even want to think about that, because Ireland will be left in the rubble if it’s not. I would hope that in two years time, there will be considerable restructuring of Irish bank debt, and the burden will be lifted, somewhat.”


Facts Box:

The Irish economy benefitted enormously from European financial policies, leading to the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy growing, thanks to low ECB interest rates, and an ever expanding property market and high tech industry investing in Ireland due to its low corporation tax rate.

The global financial crisis of 2008 caused Ireland to fall into recession for the first time since the 1980s. Ireland’s largest bank, Anglo Irish Bank was revealed to have been involved in distribution of hidden loans to property developers, and the collapse of the property market in Ireland nearly brought the bank down, before it was nationalised.

Economic growth and unemployment ballooned throughout 2009 and 2010, with the Government seemingly having lost control of the economic situation. Emigration of workers began rising rapidly, as the country fell deeper into recession. An emergency budget was passed which saw major cuts to healthcare, education and social welfare benefits. Income levies were enforced, and taxes on goods and services increased in an attempt to recoup some of the huge losses experienced by the crisis.

The public reacts with outrage. Industrial action, student protests and public unrest increase over the months of 2010, as Irish taxpayers feel unfairly burdened by a crisis caused in large part by the greed of bankers and property developers which almost led to the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank.

November 2010: Then- Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen confirms that his Government has had to apply for financial assistance from the European Financial Stability Fund and the International Monetary Fund. On November 28, The EU/IMF and Irish Government agree on an €85 billion bailout package, composed of €22.5 billion from the IMF, €22.5 billion from the European Financial Stability Facility, €17.5 billion from the Irish National Pension Reserve Fund. The Government announces its plans to pass the budget for 2011 prior to the General Election, knowing it will be ousted from parliament.

February 25 2011: The Fianna Fail party which led Ireland into the crisis is voted out almost unanimously all over Ireland, signalling the worst defeat for the party since its inception. Fine Gael, the main opposition party win a landslide victory and enter a coalition Government with the Labour party, seeking to repair the damage of the previous 4 years.

Skepticism towards new consumer rights directive

Skepticism towards new consumer rights directive

A new EU consumer rights directive should make it easier for companies and consumers to trade across country borders. The directive has been under construction since 2008, but while it faces the final vote on March 23rd it is still looked upon with skepticism.

By Tatiana Tilly

He is self-employed and has recently started his own firm. The goal is to sell his product to foreign consumers over the internet. He had the idea that it would be the easy part, but he was wrong. He quickly realized that the consumers rights in the different EU countries are very different, so it would demand a lot of research for him to know his working conditions in the different countries.

This is an example on how the business conditions are today. But the European Parliament is working on a new consumer rights directive that should make it a lot easier to do business across borders of membership countries in the future. That is if they can agree on the very debated and changed consumer rights directive which will be voted on, on the 23rd of march.

Cut the red tape

As it looks today every EU country has its own rules when it comes to consumer rights. This can be an issue when companies want to expand and sell their products in foreign countries because the diversity of rules can become a barrier between company and consumer. Today it demands many resources for companies to work with the different rules, and at the same time it can be difficult for consumers to see through the terms.
If the EU parliament agrees on the directive both will become easier in the future.

In the press release that came with the presentation of the directive on October 8. 2008, it said:

“The aim is to boost consumer confidence and at the same time to cut the red tape which is holding back business within national borders – denying consumers more choice and competitive offers.”
But the directive has met criticism because it in some countries, such as Denmark, Germany and Finland, lowers the consumer rights standards on important areas.

Low expectations

The directive have been under construction for nearly three years now due to the fact that the directive have been criticized for lowering the standard for the consumers. The result is that the current directive has been changed in order to meet the national governments halfway.
Malcolm Harbour is chairman of the Committee on Internal market and Consumers Protection at the European Parliament. He hopes that it will be possible to reach an agreement with as much consensus as possible. Besides being chairman of the committee he is also Conservative and speaking on that behalf he admits that they have been
keen to try and get a reasonable, fully harmonized package.
We think that the biggest dividends will come from encouraging companies to do more cross-border business”, he says.
In the danish Association of Distance- and Internet Business (FDIH) they are skeptic towards the outcome of the negotiations.

In a perfect world the harmonisation is a touchstone for us because it would make everything easier. But our belief in the fact, that they can make 27 membership countries agree on it, is very small”, says Henrik Theil, chief of communication.

In a perfect world

In theory Henrik Theil is very positive towards the principle of a harmonization due to the fact that it would open the market for their members so they could have 500 million possible customers instead of the danish 5 million. But he does not believe that the reality measures up.
“We can sit and clap in our hands when the European Parliament is saying that they want to harmonize, because it sounds good, but they should start by finding a way to enforce those rules.”

According to FDIH the difference between the quality of enforcement in the membership countries is too big. In the working process the commission made a study in the countries to get an impression of how good the consumers rights were in each of them. The study showed that 60 % of the danish companies selling technical goods did not live up to the rules in some ways, where the number was 0 % in Bulgaria. Henrik Theil believes you can find the explanation in the efficiency of the authorities.

We support a harmonization, but we hope it will be considered how you can enforce it across country borders. Because that is what the companies in Denmark needs.”

Compromise is key
Exactly the differences between the 27 EU membership countries is the biggest obstacle when it comes to finding a legislation that is acceptable for all parts. After the first presentation of the directive many countries were skeptic. Therefore has each government prepared a report on the current standards and what consequences changes will have in the specific country. According to the danish MEP, Christel Schaldemose (S), it took the danish government approximately a year to do the report.

This is just an example on how complex the issue is and how difficult it will be for the European Parliament to reach an agreement. Chairman Malcolm Harbour has been in meetings about the consumer rights the past week.
“We have spent nearly three years working on this legislation and the same has all 27 governments. And every country wants to keep a particular point of their own legislation.

We are working here at the parliament but we are keeping an eye on the member states as well. Because if this is going any further we have to find a compromise.”

The mystery directive

The consumer rights directive has especially been criticised for lowering the standards in some country. A big part of the compromise is therefore to negotiate the standards. MEP Christel Schaldemose (S) is a member of the Committee of Internal Market and Consumers Protection and has been fighting for a directive that will not mean a total harmonization in the area of consumer rights but only in the area of product information. As a socialdemocrate she hopes that the directive will not lower the protection of the consumers.
Malcolm Harbour is positive to the outcome but admits that the directive, as it looks at this point, will still have negative consequences in some countries.
“It will only lower standards in minor ways. It is a matter of a couple of days when we talk about return right for instance. But I think on the other hand it will benefit consumers in terms of better choice on the internet.”

What the directive finally will look like is still a mystery until the 23rd of march were the Parliament will vote.




Facts: The Consumer Rights directive

The consumers’ rights directive (KOM/2008/614/)
first presented the 8. of October 2008 and contained a maximum level for all EU membership countries.

The goal with the original directive was to get total harmonisation of the consumers’ rights across national borders to make it easier for companies to do business on the single market.

The directive will be a replacement for the former four directives:

  • Sale of consumer goods and guarantees (99/44/EC)
  • Unfair contract terms (93/13/EC)
  • Distance selling (97/7/EC)
  • Doorstep selling (85/577/EC)





Jerzy Buzek: countries should change the law to introduce more women into politics


The European Parliament on the 8th of March has celebrated 100 years of International Women’s Day by holding a series of events related to the topic of gender equality. It is a great opportunity to look in their own backyard and see how gender equality looks in the European Parliament.




By Anna Baranowska


“There is still not enough women in politics”

This sentence was said by the Head of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek at the special ceremony on the 8th of March. He also added that the European Parliament is only 35 percent women, but it is better than in many other national parliaments. The percentage of women in the 7th parliamentary term is higher then ever. Similarly with the number of women chairing parliamentary committees and sub – committees. In the last term there were only six female chairs, this year there are 10 of them. This means, that the increase by two thirds. The biggest breakthrough occurred after the term of office in 1975. Between 1975 and 1979 the number of women in Parliament increased from 4.9 percent to 16.6. Until 2011 this number had been gradually increasing. In view of the last term the number of women holding senior position in political parties decreased. In 2004 there were three co-chairs and during the current term is only one (Greens/EFA).


Women in National Parliaments

Although women are a minority in the European Parliament, the numbers are definitely higher than in many of national parliaments. Wojciech Olejniczak, Polish MEP from the party S&D involved in defending the women’s rights said, that “ it is difficult to require voters in each country to select women when on electoral lists there is only few of them. The European Parliament is now more actively working on the system, which could help to bring more women into politics. However, much depends on how many female MEPs comes from the member country”. Statistics conducted by the Equality and Diversity Unit are as follows: the representation of women in the EU Parliament is almost twice the world average for women elected to national parliaments, which currently stands at 19.2 %.

Women at high political level – “Things are getting better”

In the European Parliament, more women hold the managerial positions. In the bureau set up by President of the European Parliament there are now six vice-chairwomen of the 14 in total. In addition, two women hold the position of Quaestors, which is 40 percent. In comparison with the number of women in European Parliament, participation of women in managerial positions is much larger. As for the President of the parliamentary committees, their number is 10 to 24 committees in total. Danuta Maria Hübner chair of Regional Development Committee said that “The political maturity of the European Parliament is increasing. Women are chosen on an equal footing with men, only because of their competence. We have to remember that politicians come from different cultural backgrounds, but the so-called. ‘language of humiliation’ is not tolerated in parliamentary environment. What is more, it is not acceptable.” The MEP also added that “the EU Parliament cannot interrupt the process of placing women into politics, because the development of civilization is too slow.” This point of view is shared by Wojciech Olejniczak. According to him, the European Union cannot stop to introduce the various legislative processes, because they are necessary for further development in this area. The MEP provides that the progress associated with the participation of women in politics, including in the European Parliament, will have an upward trend.

Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament agrees with the opinion, that women participation in politics not only the EU but also a national is in a upward trend. “Things are getting better” – he said.

Legislation on Gender Eguality

In the history of legislation in the European Union there were a lot of directives on gender equality. The first was in 1975 and was called: Directive 75/117/EEC on Equal Pay. Then, in the next year, Parliament adopted a directives on equal treatment. By 2010, nine more were admitted. The last one, from 2010 was called: Directive on Equal treatment between Men and Women engaged in an Activity in a Self – Employed Capacity. The European Parliament has also developed a number of reports concerning the equality between women and men. At the meeting of the plenary session on the 8th March, MEPs voted on the report prepared by Mariya Nedelcheva. The report was adopted. The author is a member of the Committee of Women`s Rights and Gender Equality. The policies were also brought into action in the EP Secretariat. One of the plans was adopted by the Bureau of the Head of the EP on the 9th March. It is called: Action Plan 2003-2013 and is made to promote gender equality and diversity in the EP Secretariat (“Women at Administrative level” Equality and Diversity Unit, 8 March 2011). In the text you can read that, inter alia, the Action Plan has to ensure full equality of opportunities for person with disabilities, full equality of women and men, removing any obstacles to recruitment any potential discrimination. As Danuta Hübner said, taking continuous action to ensure that gender equality is a necessity. Such as the reports, plans and materials. Eva – Britt Svensson, chairperson of FEMM Committee, followed up at this statement at the press conference by saying that the EU should not only deal with women’s issues in the case of Women’s Day. This problem should always be regarded.

Mechanisms help increasing the number of women

Jerzy Buzek said at a press conference on March 8, that member countries should change the law so as to introduce more women into politics. To do this, you need to change the electoral laws of individual countries providing more places for women on electoral lists. Different methods are developed for different electoral systems. For example, in the proportional voting system, one of the solutions is so-called parity. This procedure is designed to ensure women and men an equal number of seats in the lists: fifty – fifty. Another involves quotas – a percentage of representatives of each sex on the electoral list. Another is zipping: the electoral list on which names of candidates each sex shall be placed alternately. This prevents the situation where women are at the end of the list. Many politicians approve at least one of these systems. Danuta Hübner is in favour of the quota method, as Wojciech Olejniczak for the fifty – fifty system. Both reject the introduction of counter opponents ‘artificial’ system, saying that an increasing number of women exceeds the powers of men. Moreover, such system would encourage women to actively participation in politics without fear that they will be dominated by a men. Many non-governmental organizations such as the Polish “Equality” conducts special campaigns relating to convincing policy makers to make such changes in the electoral law, to use one of the mechanisms. As Women’s Rights Committee (FEMM) Chair Eva-Britt Svensson noted at the press conference, the European Parliament, “35 % of whose members are women, is the most gender-balanced yet. However, the transition to gender equality is not proceeding fast, and much remains to be done”.