Etikettarkiv: European Parliament

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.

Annonser

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.

Martin Schulz, European elections and Social Media

I found this excellent blog post ”What Happened During Schulz’s #AskMartin Chat 0n Social Media” that discusses certain aspects about Martin Schulz’ chat #AskMartin. The chat took place May 19 and is a part of Mr Schulz bid to the post as President of the European Commission. Actually this is a post nor he nor his competing candidates actually will be elected to by the EU citizens since the Commission, including its President, is agreed by the European Parliament. So in itself it’s a strange situation.

As much of this election campaign this event was rather discreet, in fact the chat was a complete surprise, I only noticed it when RTs started to appear in my feed, and I concur with the critics that the answers were few, far in between and bland. Fine, he got 1 700 tweets during the hour allotted to the Twitter chat, it goes without saying that no one can answer that many answers at least not over the course of an hour. Still the answers that were given could have been more poignant.

But as Mr Ricorda rightly points out in his post, there are technical limitations to how many answers you can provide. But what communications strategy doesn’t take that into account? I must say from my angle it seems like Mr Schulz team had a brain wave:

We must do something with Social Media! Twitter! He should Tweet. That will make him stand out as a cool politician. And German (German since EP elections still are national) twitters is a really interesting demographic group. And properly managed we’ll get a really good reach.

I can hear the applause.

More than any other tool in the communications mix, technology is a factor in any Social Media strategy and if not managed properly you will end up like Mr Schulz, kind and well-meaning, but a bit lost in [Social Media] space. Technology has to be taken into account and managed. Questions like:

  • Can others in his entourage answer tweets while keeping the authenticity?
  • Can we continue to answer questions even after the chat is closed?
  • Can we create a pop-up page on the campaign website and answer the questions by grouping them in themes?

There are many other questions to be asked and answered. But as long as there is a sense of no one even thinking about the basics before organising an [on-line] event like this it will only be considered as a well-meant measure that got botched.

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 election campaign, Parliament style

This week, 10 September to be exact, the European Parliament will unveil the 2014 election campaign material in Strasbourg. A few lucky had the opportunity to a sneak preview past week.

The campaign has the overall slogan “This time it’s different” (isn’t what they all say?) this is the trailer and it is a dire affair to say the least. According to the EP Communication office they are trying to reach the next line after the already converted, i.e. the group of politically interested that has the intention to vote but for some reason forgets about it when the time comes. Fair enough. But will making slight of refugees’ plight make you vote?

As the rest of the world the European Union is living through a crisis of seldom seen severity, and following the wishes of the EP Presidency the communication department shouldn’t show a happy, preppy, jumpy EU. The film makers certainly succeed in that. So do we understand correct that this campaign isn’t so much a result of long-time branding strategy but more a case of “what the President wants, the President gets”? If so, since when is that a good way forward and for basis for a communication campaign? Also this crisis have managed to draw the attention to the EU, and everything that doesn’t work with the Union, but for the first time almost in its history EU citizens actually realise that it play a role in our everyday life. No, all attention isn’t good attention, but I think there should be a way for the EP to capitalise on this realisation and to encourage voting that way.

We also have the small question about the content as such, sure it is a good thing to fire up the masses and hopefully achieve a good voter turnout. But after watching this do we even know WHOM may vote and stand for office? It isn’t the reason for the film someone says, no, but as you soon will see nowhere in the rest of the material is this said either.

Now, I understand, or rather I cannot even begin to imagine the number of considerations one has to take when developing a campaign like this. Numerous doesn’t begin to describe it. Still, I remain unmoved in my belief that communication strategy is based on research and a long-time vision of how you want to be seen. I have a hard time seeing this happen here. But I hope I’m wrong.

 

The European Parliament – should it communicate around elections?

A parliament can be considered a non-partisan spokesperson for democracy. But should it, as an institution communicate? And if yes, where do you draw the line? Where does a non-partisan stand point become partisan? Should it communicate on any other business than the issues that are being treated?

I’m most interested in communication in relation to the upcoming elections to the European Parliament (EP), May 2014.

Simply put if the EP can communicate for the elections it can only be in the lines of ”Vote!” A party can communicate along the lines of ”You should vote on us because…”

The only voting communication the EP can do is to communicate with the aim of raising participation in elections, because voting is still almost the only way for citizens to influence in democratic societies. Another way is to get directly involved, but face it, it is a minority that join parties and various movements. And unless you become a member of an elected body, you still only influence the society with your votes. Past years has seen a healthy resurgence of movements. Notably the Occupy this or that, and the Los Indignados but fact is despite a lot of attention and media coverage the actual changes these movements have achieved are minimal. So it still mean that, whether we like it or not, voting is the only way the majority can make their (our) voice heard in a democratic society and the only way there is to have a direct societal impact.

But could it be that the only communication the EP should do around elections is to provide a well-functioning infrastructure for the votes? And for the rest of the mandate period “just” provide simple to access information about issues and “What’s on in the European Parliament?”