Etikettarkiv: European Commission

Dearth of Women in Juncker’s Commission – But Stop Moping Its Competence Not Gender That Counts

In the wake of President Juncker’s announcement of the members of the new European Commission the overall comments seems to be ”Not enough women.” And yes, 9 women out of 28 is far cry from 50-50. And being a woman with certain aspirations myself; I do find it abysmally bad that the Member States can’t do better on the area of gender balance on senior top positions. But there is one question I don’t seem to find and that is Why? I have yet to see one person officially asking why this skewed situation the case.

Could it be that the national senior posts are filled with only men? (An incredibly sad state in itself should this be the case.) Maybe the Member States didn’t look hard enough? Could it be that the women asked actually weren’t all that interested? We simply don’t know. What we see is a bad result but nothing about the process leading up to this result.

What we do know however, that we are many competent women that are out there that are not considered because it does seem to be that W2M that are then norm.

But what ire immensely in this whole debate is the general approach that it is only gender that counts, and because we are women our competencies are interchangeable. Well, here’s a surprise for you – we are NOT! Just as little, actually are men, but no one seems to think that is the case.

So, yes let’s keep our eyes on the ball – a gender balanced society, but let’s not go overboard on the way getting there.

Branding the European Parliament Post-Juncker

One thing that I have asked myself in these last days during the debacle over instating, or not instating, Mr Juncker as the next European Commission chairman is how this will affect the branding of the European Parliament and subsequently future voting.

As a side note, if it had been me I would have bowed out of the process now. But then again I haven’t grown the rhinoceros hide necessary for high political life.

There are two obvious possible scenarios right now:

  1. Mr. Juncker is instated

  2. Mr. Juncker isn’t instated

But whatever the outcome, what will this situation do for the branding of the EP, the voters will to vote in future elections and the legitimacy with the EP?

Before the elections the EP had dug themselves into the stance that “this time it’s different” when in fact there is no discernible difference whatsoever.  It is true that the Treaty of Lisbon says that the election results should be taken into account and that the EP could identify so-called Spitzenkandidaten. Only no one of the Treaty Fathers bothered to define exactly “taking into account” means. Added to this the main candidates where national only since there is no such thing as pan-European parties. ”Taking into account” could mean that the European Council automatically instate the person the EP has identified as their preferred choice, which is how the EP defines it as. Or it could mean that the Council acknowledges the EP’s choice and then goes on to identify a completely different candidate. A possibility the Council has an open door to. However, there is a certain ping-pong feeling about this process since the EP has to approve the candidate proposed by the European Council i.e. in the case of Mr. Juncker the EP has to approve their own candidate.

But to claim that Europe’s voters have spoken and want Mr. Juncker is a very difficult argument intellectually. The argument is actually more emotional and thus difficult to defend oneself against, but numerically it does not hold all the way.

Voter turnout in the parliamentary elections went up with ten percent, 43.00 to 43.09 between 2009 and 2014. At about 400 million eligible voters one tenth equals about 400 000 more voters. This corresponds to about the number of voters in Sweden who chose to vote (if we take into account that the number of eligible voters increased from 2009).

This turnout is likely not getting higher if the EP doesn’t manage this situation properly.

But to go back to the initial question. Exactly what arguments will be possible to use in a situation that easily can be turned around to a message that the voters’ will is not taken into account? And just to complicate matters it can equally be claimed that even if the Council comes up with another candidate it takes the voters’ will into account, since the Council consists of the elected Heads of State of the Member States and these were elected in free, open and democratic elections and that the Treaty of Lisbon doesn’t say that the election results automatically instate the EP preferred candidate as the EC chair.

Now it’s getting fun, isn’t it? Everybody is listening to everybody and all claims no one is listening.

The main issue, which have nothing to do with branding, is really what “taking into account” means and how to identify this sentence.

Having this debate now, after the election is to turn us voters into losers, however this debate ends … branding or not. Or maybe this is the branding we are left with? A situation, that at least I would be very sorry for.

Post #EP election: is back to basics for the #EU the way forward and to continued peace? or What should the club look like?

In the aftermath of the European elections with results that were expected and although I am uncomfortable with the results I can only state that the elections where free, fair and open and its results must be respected. No, it wasn’t Voltaire that said “those” words; it was Evelyn Beatrice Hall writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906), as a summation of Voltaire’s beliefs on freedom of thought and expression.

I myself join the large choir of critics saying that too much power have moved to the Centre and sincerely don’t think that more power to “Brussels” is the way forward is the answer to the situation we’re in now. It might be interesting to have a kind of “political memory” and to remind of that General de Gaulle himself, and many with him, considered that the way forward for Europe was an “imposing confederation” of European states. Maybe we should resuscitate that vision?

Being a staunch defender of the original reasons for creating the European Union, in particular the peace keeping, I feel that the EU stands in front of one of its biggest challenge since its creation – to keep the peace in Europe and our neighbouring regions.

No, I am not ”just another non-Federalist” but I do think that discussing what the club we are a member of should look like is something we need to do, and that this should be an ongoing discussion. And we need to take the good with the bad. I feel that this is the only way forward to achieve higher credibility for the European construction.

Could it be that “Back to basics” is the way forward?

How Netflix almost ruined EU Net neutrality

Now when the debate sparked by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ blog post on net neutrality “Internet Tolls And The Case For Strong Net Neutrality“ has died down and the European Parliament have voted in favour of Net Neutrality and against specialised services, I’d like to take the opportunity to vent my grief a bit. What I say in the header is a tall order, I know. But it is not far off.

First of all, as you might know, when I discuss companies or persons in my blog I don’t mention them by name. This is for several reasons, first of all there is an element of the Golden rule, second the industry is rather small and I hope to continue work in it, and, in the case of Netflix, I don’t want to come across as a disgruntled almost employee. Although, I remain rather unimpressed by Netflix’ EU hiring practises. Further, I think that Netflix doesn’t take their responsibility when it comes to making it simple to be legal on-line seriously. Nor do they go far enough in their actions. This time I felt it was warranted to mention names simply because anything else would have complicated the text beyond means.

But I digress.

In my everyday job I work as Policy advisor to a Member of the European Parliament concentrating on issues like net neutrality, e-commerce, telecommunications, cloud computing to mention a few. This is why I can speak with some certainty of this process since I was involved behind the scenes. And yes, I am a staunch defender of Net neutrality.

I am not going to go into the debate at heart here. The point I hopefully will make is to highlight a view that I often see from US-based companies with EU branches; there is seemingly little or no insight that points of view put forward in the US might affect EU legislation. They also join forces with their EU corporate counterparts in not entirely realising that the European Parliament actually is a parliament with powers and influence.

In his post Mr Hastings made a case for net neutrality and against specialised services, but instead of business, he based his argument on fees for traffic. In his text Mr Hastings state that if telecommunications companies get their way we might not see a new Skype or indeed Netflix again because the fees charged would stop any new ideas from being implemented. Had he stuck to this argument I don’t think there had been any debate; no one wants to be accused of stifling competition, hamper value creation and stop new business from happening.

”Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.” The term was coined by Columbia media law professor Tim Wu.

But in any case, the impact this ill-timed post had across the Atlantic, where a vote on Net neutrality and Specialised services was taking place, was that it gave the telecommunications companies in Europe wind under their wings and they started to lobby for their point of view; that there is no such a thing as a free lunch, and users must pay for bandwidth. Nothing of which is questionable; but it isn’t the question at hand. Rather the real issue is freedom of doing business. Weaker Net neutrality would make it more difficult to run any business on-line. If the vote had gone a different way Mr Hastings could have had to seriously review his expansion plans for the EU. Is that really what he wanted? This attitude towards the European Parliament is something I frequently see amongst companies, EU & US alike. It is getting better in EU companies, but many US companies whose activities’ spans both sides for the Atlantic seems blissfully unaware of that the European Parliament actually produce legislation that have impact on their business. And if they consider it, they seem to think it is some toy Parliament and when you want to lobby it you just send employees with little or no leverage with the C-suite. Or a VP is coming and is expecting the Parliamentary calendar will change to accommodate them.

Is there really no-one within Netflix that has any view on legislative developments outside the US? Because, the state of net neutrality in the EU will affect Netflix business. Is there no-one that could have advised Mr Hastings to hold off the post to a better time? That maybe a better way to push net neutrality is to speak about preserving, maybe even augmenting, freedom to do business? And is there no one that can enlighten him about the importance of the European Parliament? It governs over 500 million citizens which makes it one of the biggest parliaments in the world. 80% of national EU legislation emanates from the European Parliament. OK, someone say; this post was published on Netflix USA Canada blog and was not at all aimed at EU. This is correct and true, but even if all business is local, corporate standpoints for international corporates rarely are. And if someone high-profiled like Mr Hastings speaks on a relative controversial issue this will have repercussions far beyond what one had identified from the beginning.

The Telecoms Single Market proposal (the proposal that was voted on) will now be reviewed by the Council of the European Union. The Council representatives are expected to adopt a final position on the Telecoms regulation later in 2014. Personally, I hope that the Council maintain the safeguards to protect net neutrality and prohibit network discrimination in Europe. This includes ensuring that this principle can be effectively enforced. Achieving this has not been easy, and in case Netflix wonders, the battle isn’t won. In in the meantime, in the relative vacuum that will be during the election period, we are certainly not helped by blog posts of the likes of Mr Hastings.

Swedish and Norwegian men say No Thanks to male only panels

As you know I am not a proponent of affirmative actions to get more women on board (yes, I mean this in the word’s widest meaning). Quite on the contrary. But when asked what I propose as solution to the sorry situation I have been lost for words. Because in order to achieve a change it is privileged class that has to initiate it, and why would anyone voluntarily give up power and influence? So maybe affirmative action was the only way forward?

And then, lo and behold, a miracle happened – someone alerted (Thank you, Megan Browne!) me to this campaign: Men say No, Thanks. The campaign has been going since November 2013 and has this far attracted 200 signatures in Sweden only. According to the Tacka nej-website:

The idea is that men, when they are invited to speak at a conference or participate in a debate panel, will ask whether women are represented on the programme. If not, they will turn the invitation down say no, thanks.

– There is a lot of talk about gender equality, but we decided to do something about it. This kind of initiatives can make organizers to really find the best and most competent persons to put on stage, Fredrik Wass co-founder of #TackaNej in Sweden.

In particular I like the approach that it is competence, not sex, that is the important and deciding factor.

Our goal is to turn Say No, Thanks into a Say Yes, Please yes to more female speakers and more diversity in debates and conferences.

A sentiment I fully support, change through Yes is better and achieves far far-reaching results.

Now, whom will take this up elsewhere? I sincerely hope it will not remain a regional two-country initiative.

European Commission’s communication failures

In March 2012 I had some points about what I consider an epic failure of the European Commission in the area of communication: Another epic fail in European Commission communications, https://goldkom.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/another-epic-fail-in-european-commission-communications/

It created a bit of a stir, but seeing that we are speaking about the European Commission the majority just yawned and went on to other matters. Understandable.

So judge my happiness when I see this article in New Europe’s printed version, www.neweurope.eu “Europe’s costliest failure.”

Affirmative action for women – why should we need it?

The various Board Diversity initiatives intrigue me. As someone whom promote regulation austerity I wonder – do we need it? And if so, why does it seem impossible for the ones fitting into to the W2M norm by birth to change and implement change? And why are we as women seemingly incapable of achieving this change? Is it really true that we are sifted out in the election process simply based on our gender?

And if this legislation come through, what will the consequences for the boards that doesn’t implement this be? Will the sitting management be thrown in jail? Or will they in their turn retaliate by simply taking the company off the stock exchange. 100 companies were privatised this way in Norway when these measures were introduced.

The autumn promises to be interesting…

And one more thing – in my latest post I asked the question if diversity in the board room just meant more of the same but with a skirt. Turn out I was right: Shattering myths and glass ceilings: launch of database of ‘Global Board Ready Women’

European Commission, dialogue and transparency

Transparency doesn’t always seem to mean the same thing. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary transparency is defined as

“the quality or state of being transparent”

which leave the reader a little bit at a loss. The Business Dictionary gives a fuller description:

And finally in Wikipedia we can read that:

Transparency, as used in science, engineering, business, the humanities and in a social context more generally, implies openness, communication, and accountability. Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed.

So we can say that openness is paramount for any organisation that want to qualify as transparent in its actions.

Which is when we come to the European Commission, in particular the Directorate General for Trade because there it seems like transparency equals talking to lobbyists. But at least they do so in the open.

Now let it be known, I haven’t got a problem with lobbying or lobbyists. On the contrary, lobbyists can bring information to the legislative process. But I want them to work in the open and that organisations like the European Commission and the European Parliament to publicly report whom they (we) are meeting with and when.

So now back to the initial question: what is transparency?

The question begs to be asked because apparently elected representatives (and their staff) for Europe’s citizens  doesn’t qualify to participate when DG Trade invites representatives from the Civil Society.

I happen to know this because of a minor exchange myself and a few of my colleagues had with DG Trade just before the summer. There was to be what is called a Civil Society Dialogue meeting, this is a regular meeting between the civil society and the European Commission to discuss aspects of Europe’s trade policy. Something that is very much in vogue right now since a new round of Trans-Atlantic Trade Negotiations have started. Anyway, we were a few from the European Parliament that wanted to participate as observers in this meeting and subsequently contacted the responsible at the Commission asking for practical information. Judge to our surprise when we were told that we were not welcome. The meeting was only open to not-for-profit civil society organisations aka lobbyists. We pointed out that we represented what could be considered the civil society at large i.e. the citizens of Europe and that the European Commission frequently participate in meetings at the European Parliament so surely that openness should be reciprocal? But our arguments were stated to deaf ears.

So in other words, the DG Trade doesn’t consider the citizens of Europe (and their representatives) as the civil society and that transparency is only for lobbyists in their professional capacity. Isn’t that strange?

Below are two links to the dialogue and ongoing consultations:

No debate necessary – the United States of Europe is the future. Or is DIY regulation possible?

Working in the EU bubble has its moments. And almost all of them unexpected. Yesterday, for instance, during a dinner I was labelled as right-wing extremist. I have been called a lot, but this was a new and refreshing take on my political views.

The reason for this labelling exercise was that I was at a networking dinner, there are a lot of those in Brussels (Disclosure – I paid for the €30 dinner myself ) and the person sitting to my right and I started to talk and soon the subject became federalism and the EU. Personally I feel that we have enough of federalism in the EU, that we should stop (or temporarily halt) the integration and give ourselves time to debate what the future EU should look like and how we want to achieve it. Akin the debate that has started in the UK. Or at least will start if David Cameron isn’t only paying lip service to the more sceptical members of his electorate.

The person nearly choked on his tongue, initially he was convinced that I was joking but when it became clear that I wasn’t and that moreover I am not the only one thinking this, he reverted to paternalism telling me ”That surely I must understand that…” and ”Of course you realise that it is clear…” To which I answered ”No” to most of it. Or if such was the argument ”Then I think the processes should come to a halt.”

What worries me in this context is that this guy isn’t alone in his paternalistic arrogance, quite on the contrary. This is the prevalent approach amongst the large majority of the Commission employees I’ve met. It’s like they say ”This is the way it will be. Now stop yapping.” Every time we get a piece of legislation it gets worse, more and more national decision powers are transferred to the Commission, to non-elected faceless civil servants that has forgotten the ”servant” part of their designation. Every piece of legislation must always contain a paragraph which explains why the subsidiary principle can’t be used in this instance – normally along the lines that it is better to coordinate on EU level than not. And even if I cringe when doing so I realise that it is often correct.

But there is a way out: voluntary industry co-operation. Much has been done already in various industries, much is being done but so much more can be done. In my world – in fact it should be done. Every time I meet with a lobby organisation and/or industry representative I strongly encourage them to take back the message that ”Do it yourself. Step up to the challenge and auto regulate. Don’t sit around waiting for the Commission to act.” It is the (almost) the only way we can avoid meddlesome EU regulations in every aspect of our lives while ensuring that our nation states remains nation states.

I, for one, believe this is the way forward.

Legislation, European Commission and good intentions

It is said that Otto von Bismarck once said that:

Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.

Working with the Commission in their endeavours to legislate EU27 turns this saying into stark reality. In particular since there never seems to be any analysis of the consequences of the proposed legislation.

As so often, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

 Let’s take an example.

Currently on my desk there is a proposal with the staggering title:
Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning measures to ensure a high common level on network and information security (NIS) across the Union. 2013/0027 – COM(20139 48 final.

As the reader can surmise the aim with the proposal is to get a better view of civil threats on the Internet and how to co-ordinate any responses. It will be done by reporting breaches on the network. This legislation has partly come about because the affected industries don’t do their own cleaning up. And seeing how many voluntary co-operation groups and industry groups there actually are I can only see this as severe lack of coordination. It is just another example where civil society could have acted to avoid regulation.

My problem here is that no one, not even the proposal writers seems to know what should be notified, to whom and where.

Let’s assume I change my logon password on my PC at home. Next time I logon I type in an old password, in reality this constitutes a breach which should be notified. There is e.g. no way of knowing if this is an honest mistake on my part, if it is a breach in bad faith or if my PC has been high-jacked by someone more malevolent that myself.

But one swallow doesn’t make a summer, as Grand Ma always said. So let’s take another more poignant example – in the German commercial banking sector there are 100 000 new Trojan threats monthly. 100 000 new Trojans monthly. Times 12, (in fact around Christmas there are even more) and times 27 if we want to extrapolate it to EU level. In only one sector in one country.

 Who can deal with that type of mass-information? SHOULD it be dealt with? And then we have the fact that a database like this will constitute a perfect map of EU NIS weaknesses – if that is hacked, and we must assume it will be, it will provide any enemy with a perfect blue print of were to aim an attack.

Well done, the Commission.