EWL press coverage

Reding is snubbed - quotas deferred until mid-November

(Agence Europe) - The quota of 40% women on bluechip company boards has been postponed, but Viviane Reding is determined not to give up her highly controversial proposal for a directive. She promises that the dossier will be back on the Commission agenda by the end of November, when it will be stronger and more open to subsidiarity. Reding, who is optimistic, said that after a century-long battle her proposal could wait another couple of weeks.

Lengthy meeting of College. Reding will have carried her female quota proposal at arm’s length throughout a meeting of the College of Commissioners during which knives were drawn between those supporting the proposal - Commissioners Rehn, Tajani, Barnier, Almunia, Andor, Piebalgs and also President José Manuel Barroso - and those opposing it - mainly the women commissioners Ashton, Hedegaard, Malmström, Kroes and probably Geoghegan-Quinn. The debate did not give rise to a vote as it had been thought yesterday but, the commissioner said, it did give rise to ambitious discussions that will lead to a result. She also felt that the exchange of views was very healthy as such.

Postponement until 14 November. The dice has not yet been thrown as the presentation of the flagship proposal for gender equality is to be tabled at the College meeting on 14 November. The Commission spokesman said via Twitter that more time is needed to reach an ambitious consensus. Commissioner Tajani tweeted with optimism, affirming that the proposal was well on course for adoption.

Prospect of weakening? Although the version submitted to commissioners on Tuesday was not much changed compared to the preliminary versions leaked to the press, a great deal of recasting is more than likely in order to convince the reticent commissioners. The Women’s Lobby fears, moreover, that the proposal will be weakened by the suppression of the 40% quota, or postponement of the 2020 deadline. The association’s spokesperson said it is difficult to weaken it more when the quota only concerned non-executive posts and companies quoted on the stock exchange. The commissioner gave her assurance that account would be taken of the Commission’s legal services’ opinion and that her proposal would, on the contrary, be strengthened and more open to subsidiary in its new casting.

EP outraged. Reactions from the Parliament, which spearheads gender equality (see other article), were immediate. The Liberals unconditionally supported Reding. The president of the Socialists and Democrats, Hannes Swoboda (Austria), rapidly commented saying it would “be very sad and regrettable if the European Commission were unable to present a strong proposal on promoting gender balance in the senior management of companies because of pressure from business and prejudice”. Earlier on, at the start of the European Parliament plenary meeting, the leader of the Greens had despairingly urged all women commissioners to take the same course as Reding, pointing out that every woman who has gained influence within the EU should be aware that she is where she is due to her qualifications but that, if she has power, it is because other women have managed to establish quotas. After announcement of the deferral, the spokesman for the Greens on women’s rights, Marije Cornelissen (Netherlands), called for a collective letter to be sent by her group to the European commissioners urging them to support the female quota (on website: www.get-women-on-board.eu).
There was only one discordant voice - that of Marina Yannakoudakis (Conservative, UK) who did not hesitate to firmly state her opposition to any EU intervention in business, even when women’s rights were at stake. She said: “Let’s put a stop to quota nonsense once and for all and talk about the real issue of supporting diversity in business”. (MD/transl.jl)

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