Etikettarkiv: European Union

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.

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,

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, “Europe’s costliest failure.”

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.


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.

5 points to better Public Affairs

As discussed in earlier posts I’m “at the receiving end” of several Public Affairs campaigns and efforts, and I am often mystified by them. After all it isn’t that complicated and a lot can be achieved by using simple common sense. With 2013 drawing closer here are 5 points for better Public Affairs:

  1. Put yourself in the receivers shoes
    Sounds very simple but it doesn’t seem to be done. But if you ask yourself how you’d like to be contacted and lobbied if you were the lobyee many small mistakes would be avoided.
  2. Keep in touch with us even if there isn’t an issue
    Odd as it sounds, ”just keeping in touch” isn’t such a bad idea. So, if you have other meetings in the Parliament just drop by and say hello. Even if we keep your name and issues on file, there is always something you can speak about and we will remember you easier next time there is an issue. Same thing if you have some information or background you feel would be beneficial for us in our work.
  3. Do what you say you’ll do
    I have noticed an increasing trend of emails and letters in which we are contacted by eager lobbyists saying they will contact us to book a meeting. One group is so eager they have faxed us, sent a letter and mailed – all three with the same message. But they still haven’t booked a meeting. In what book have you read that this is the way forward? Let me tell you, it isn’t. If you want to book a meeting, book a meeting. That simple. And if you want to know about how to navigate in Brussels, go no further than to “Activist Guide to the Brussels Maze”. Activist or not it will provide you with all the information you need. And the advice are valid outside the Brussels bubble. It’s quick, simple and cheerful.
  4. Plan ahead and check the Parliament calendar
    You’d be surprised how many times we get contacted by people who want to book a meeting in Brussels on dates when the Parliament either is in session in Strasbourg or just plain closed. Even more interesting is that they then get annoyed with us when we come back and propose a time when we are present. In particular if you are travelling some distance to meet with the MEPs one would think a simple look in the calendar would be prudent before buying your tickets. To simplify your task for next year – here is a link to the Parliament calendar and the various committees you can find here Committees’ calendar.
  5. Take some time and develop a good subject line
    I don’t want to brag but on a normal day we receive hundreds of emails. If you want your email to be read, which is very likely the case, I propose you start with developing a good subject line. In particular if this is the first time you contact an MEPs office. Or even, maybe, call ahead. But sending emails with subjects like READ NOW, To A Commissioner or Protest will almost certainly mean your mail ends up being thrown away without being read. And that isn’t really how you hope to influence European politics, is it?