[Brussels, 24 October 2012] The European Commission on Monday failed to back Viviane Reding’s draft legislative proposal aiming to increase the number of women on boards of administration in the corporate sector. Following internal discord within the College of Commissioners, Ms. Reding postponed the announcement of the draft directive until 14 November in view of ’legal’ consultations.
The EWL is extremely disappointed with the recent developments, and notably with the lack of support shown by individual Commissioners for these measures already a year and a half in the pipeline. The measures have already been watered down so much since their conception (to only cover non-executive posts and leaving sanctions up to the member states) as to be virtually toothless. But still many Commissioners are succumbing to mounting pressure from national governments and business interests and publicly speaking against these meritocratic measures.
The EWL points out that this is firstly undermining the democratic process whereby the Commission is meant to act independently in the interest of all European women and men, and propose legislation for the European Parliament and governments sitting in the Council of the EU to democratically debate and decide.
Secondly, the Commission is the “guardian of the EU treaties” which set equality as women and men as a fundamental value and task the EU to protect and promote this value. The EU has long-established competence in the promotion of anti-discrimination in employment, including through legislating positive measures.
Thirdly, it is reported that a majority of the female Commissioners are opposing the draft directive and the merit of quotas. The EWL would like to remind them that their appointments would most certainly never have taken place without the EWL and the European Parliament effectively imposing a 1/3 quota on the nominating Council in 2009. Their qualifications and competence alone would unfortunately not have been sufficient to ensure consideration for these top posts. Indeed, 17 of the first 20 countries to nominate their Commissioners chose men. It was only under extreme pressure from women’s associations, the European Parliament and a public outcry that the final seven ensured the quota would be respected. The Commissioners would do well to remember this and instead of undermining their own credibility, show some solidarity with women across Europe and work to change the system which has long discriminated against them.
The European Commission will be hard pressed to ignore this message. The EWL has mobilised to raise awareness and press for the due process of democracy, with coverage in key European, national and international media, including:
- European Voice
- The Parliament Magazine
- The New York Times
- International Press Service
- BFM TV
- Radio France International