Van Rompuy discusses EU budget with Finnish prime minister Jyrki Katainen last week.
Sometimes draft communiqués Herman Van Rompuy sends around to national capitals ahead of an EU summit are interesting for the proposals that are in them. And sometimes they’re interesting for what the European Council president has left out.
The “draft guidelines for the conclusions” distributed earlier this week to national delegations ahead of the February 7 summit – obtained by Brussels Blog and posted here – falls very clearly into the second category.
While there is a lengthy section discussing the need to expand trade ties with the US, Japan, Canada, Russia and China, and another on the need to support “democratic gains” post-Arab Spring, the two most interesting topics are listed as “p.m.”, or pour mémoire, which loosely translated means “to be added later”.
The first pour mémoire topic is Mali, where the EU has been trying to catch up with events after Paris sent troops without much consultation with EU allies. And the second is the 7-year EU budget – known in euro-speak as the Multiannual Financial Framework, or MFF.
Now here is an striking quirk in European Commission recruitment: an institution dominated by men from old member states has taken a shine to women from new ones.
For all its preaching about gender equality, the Commission is conspicuously top heavy with men, particularly when it comes to policymaking jobs (so-called administrators). According to the latest Commission stats, women are outnumbered 45 per cent to 55 per cent; three out of four senior managers are men.
The situation is worse if you look at staff by nationality, especially for longstanding EU members. A meagre 23 per cent of Dutch Commission officials are female, 26 per cent of Belgians, 29 per cent of Brits and 31 per cent of Germans. In the top three civil servant ranks of the Commission, the Dutch ratio of men to women is an extraordinary 31:1.
No doubt the Commission want to see a better gender mix. But it seems the effort to improve the situation is generating some imbalances of its own.