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. Read more
As we note in today’s dead-tree edition of the FT, the European Commission is out with its latest assessment of Portugal’s €78bn bailout. But buried in the report is a two-page box that raises the intriguing question of whether the bailout is actually bigger than leaders have disclosed.
In its small print, the box – soporifically titled “Euro Area and IMF Loans: Amounts, Terms and Conditions” – makes pretty clear that Portugal’s bailout will actually be closer to €82.2bn (we’ve posted the box here). Elsewhere, another table (posted here) says it’s actually €79.5bn.
Why the sudden increase? About €1.8bn of the rise is pretty straight forward. The International Monetary Fund, which is responsible for one-third of the total bailout funding, doesn’t pay its bailout aid in euros. Instead, it uses something called Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, which have a value all of their own.
Because an SDR’s value fluctuates based on a weighted average of four currencies – the euro, the US dollar, the British pound and the Japanese yen – the 23.7bn in SDRs that was worth €26bn when the Portuguese bailout was agreed last year is now worth about €27.8bn, meaning Lisbon gets more cash just because of the currency markets.
The extra money from the EU is a little harder to explain. Read more
Van Rompuy is, once again, asking summiteers to endorse the idea in draft conclusions.
When José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, unveiled his blueprint for the future of the eurozone last week, aides acknowledged it contained some blue-sky ideas that were meant to provoke debate as much as set firm policies.
But EU presidents and prime ministers may be asked to endorse some of its more controversial ideas if a leaked copy of the communiqué for next week’s EU summit is any indication – including a plan to have all eurozone countries sign “contractual” agreements with Brussels akin to the detailed reform plans currently required only of bailout countries. We’ve posted a copy of the draft, dated Monday, here.
The idea of the Brussels contracts was originally advocated by the summit’s chair, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, ahead of October’s gathering. But in the end, summiteers only agreed that such a plan should be “explored”. Read more
Jonathan Faull, EU Commission's director general for internal market and services
Today’s instalment of the FT series on banking union turned to Britain and its troubled relations with the EU on financial services. We quoted Jonathan Faull in that piece, who runs the European Commission department overseeing the banking union plans.
He is British to boot and as close as it comes to a Brussels celebrity, so we thought it would be worth publishing our entire Q&A since he has some strong views about Britain’s role in the EU. Note the questions were partly intended to provoke; Faull characteristically kept his cool.
1. Are the views of Christian Noyer, the French central bank governor, compatible with the single market? Would the Commission stop the eurozone forcing most euro business to be within the euro area?
The EU’s financial services policy and legislation are for the whole single market, except for specific measures for the banking union being developed for the eurozone and volunteers among other EU countries. No banking union measures will discriminate against non-participating member states. The EU treaties are binding on all members and do not allow discrimination on grounds of location of business within the EU. What happens “naturally” as markets develop is another story. London has to compete!
2. Are there any genuine UK safeguards against the power of the banking union that would not fragment the single market? What are the dangers if the UK is not realistic in what it asks for? Read more
Even before the European Court of Auditors released its annual review of EU spending on Tuesday, negotiations over the bloc’s next long-term budget had already turned tense.
A group of wealthy nations, led by theUK, are demanding more budgetary discipline and tighter controls on EU spending. Facing off against them are the poorer member states, led byPoland, which tend to benefit disproportionately from EU funding and are determined to keep the money flowing.
The auditors report is likely to give fresh ammunition to the first camp, while putting the second on the defensive. It found that there were “material errors” in 3.9 per cent of the bloc’s €129.4bn in spending last year – meaning more than €5bn was paid to those who should not have received it. The error rate was up from 3.7 per cent in 2010 and 3.3 per cent in 2009.
The worst offenders were the agriculture payments for rural development, where the error rate was 7.7 per cent, and the cohesion funds used for energy and transport projects, where the rate was 6 per cent, according to the report. Read more
This issue has always been a potential dealbreaker: how will Germany’s politically powerful network of small public banks — or Sparkassen — sit under the bailiwick of a single bank supervisor? Until now we’ve mainly seen diplomatic shadow-boxing on the matter. But that fight is beginning in earnest.
As is the custom in Brussels, some ambiguous and unclear summit conclusions are helping spur things along. Chancellor Angela Merkel last week hailed a one particular sentence as a breakthrough for Germany: that the European Central Bank would “be able, in a differentiated way, to carry out direct supervision” over eurozone banks.
To her, that vague language was recognition that the Sparkassen would be treated differently — the ECB would concentrate on big banks and those that are facing troubles, and leave the rest to national authorities. Read more
Tomorrow will mark another milestone in the long meandering path towards a international financial transaction tax, otherwise known as the Tobin tax.
What exactly will happen? Well the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will approve a proposal that paves the way for an avande-garde of member states to agree their own Tobin regime. In EU jargon, it’s a proposal authorising “enhanced cooperation”.
Ironically the step forward will come in the shape of a legal admission of defeat, a formal acceptance that there is at present no consensus for a pan-EU levy, let alone enough for a global one.
It is largely a formality. But it means the 11 EU countries that want the levy will be one procedure closer to setting up their own Tobin tax. Such breakaway groups are considered a last resort under EU rules, so any enhanced cooperation must clear various legal hurdles, including proof that a pan-EU deal is impossible for now. Read more
Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, right, with France's François Hollande in Paris Monday.
And Sweden makes 11.
The letter-writing campaign over legislation due to be introduced by Viviane Reding, the EU justice commissioner, this year imposing a 40 per cent quota for women on corporate boards continues apace, with Stockholm becoming the latest in a series of governments to write to Reding and her boss, commission president José Manuel Barroso, announcing their opposition to the proposal.
For those keeping track, a UK-led group of nine member states got the ball rolling with a letter two weeks ago; the Danes followed up with one of their own the following week. France weighed in on Reding’s side last week, but the opponents have more than enough support to block the measure in the EU’s arcane legislative process.
The Swedish letter, which we have posted here, makes similar points to other opponents in that the two Swedish ministers who signed it – gender equality minister Nyamko Sabuni and enterprise minister Annie Loof – argue that while they support efforts to improve “gender balance”, their government “does not believe in legislation on quotas” to achieve it. Read more
French finance minister Pierre Moscovici signed the letter to Viviane Reding from Paris.
Battlelines are being drawn between countries on a controversial European Commission draft legislation that would force public companies across the EU to reserve at least 40 per cent of their board seats for women.
As we reported yesterday, France became the first big country to come to the support of the proposal’s author, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, after a group of nine UK-led countries, which now includes Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary and the Czech Republic, weighed in against.
There are also divisions within the European Commission itself, with several men who hold key economic porfolios – including Olli Rehn (economics and monetary affairs), Michel Barnier (internal market) and Joanquin Almunia (competition) – backing Reding, while most of her female counterparts – including Neelie Kroes (digital agenda), Catherine Ashton (foreign affairs) and Connie Hedegaard (climate) – are opposed.
As is our normal practice here at Brussels Blog, we wanted to give our readers a bit more detail of the French letter we obtained. A copy of the letter, and our translation, after the jump. Read more
Another day, another country opposing a nascent European Commission plan to impose a 40 per cent quota on women serving on corporate boards.
Last week, a UK-led letter to the proposal’s author, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, and her boss, commission president José Manuel Barroso, included nine countries, including the interior ministers of the Netherlands, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
This week, Denmark added its name to the list of opponents, sending its own letter to Reding. According to the letter, obtained by the Brussels Blog, Copenhagen believes more should be done to help women in business, but feels mandatory quotas are not the solution. Read more