Viviane Reding

James Fontanella-Khan

Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, triumphantly claimed that “data protection is made in Europe” after a committee of European lawmakers reached a compromise agreement yesterday to overhaul the bloc’s pre-internet privacy rules.

But for those who have not been following the EU’s data protection process closely, particularly in the wake of the ongoing NSA spying scandal, Ms Reding’s declaration of victory may have seemed a little premature. Read more

Peter Spiegel

Viviane Reding announces her plan for female quotas on corporate boards in November

Remember EU commissioner Viviane Reding’s effort last year to get the EU to adopt 40 per cent quotas for women on corporate boards? Well, last night, in the words of one EU diplomat, it may have finally become “brain dead”.

At a meeting of employment ministers from all 27 EU members Thursday night in Luxembourg, a group of ten northern and eastern countries – including Germany, Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands – submitted a statement saying they would block the plan. Combined, diplomats said, the countries had more than enough votes to prevent it from ever seeing the light of day again. Read more

James Fontanella-Khan

Reding, far left, and Orbán, second from right, during a 2011 Commission meeting in Budapest.

For Viviane Reding, it appears that any opportunity to step into a hornet’s nest is a good one. This time around, the media-savvy EU justice commissioner has seriously upset the Hungarian government after she questioned the independence of the judiciary in the EU member state.

In an interview in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Reding said the recent moves by the government of prime minister Victor Orbán to amend the Hungarian constitution in ways Brussels finds questionable made it understandable that Ireland had refused to extradite an Irish citizen convicted of killing two Hungarian children in a 2000 car accident.

Budapest didn’t appreciate Reding’s remarks, prompting a tart letter from Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s deputy prime minister in charge of justice affairs, which called her assertions “outrageous and absolutely unacceptable” and requesting she “kindly refrain from making public statements that lack sufficient grounds as well as general benevolence”.

Both Reding’s remarks and the full text of Navracsics’ letter after the jump… Read more

Peter Spiegel

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

James Fontanella-Khan

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

Peter Spiegel

Viviane Reding, left, confers with José Manuel Barroso during a July meeting in Cyprus.

Over the last couple of days, we’ve been chronicling the increasingly contentious effort by EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding to enact legislation requiring all major listed companies in Europe to have at least 40 per cent of their boards comprised of women.

The UK and Sweden– as well as some free-market oriented Reding counterparts on the European Commission – are not enamoured of the idea, which the Luxembourger is hoping to introduce next month. As we reported in today’s dead-tree edition of the FT, the UK has circulated a letter to other EU countries which would lay out their objections to Reding and her boss, commission president José Manuel Barroso.

As is our practice here at the Brussels Blog, we thought we’d provide some more detail on the leaked documents we’ve been basing our reporting on. First, click here for a copy of the draft legislation that has been making the rounds within the commission. After the jump is the text of the draft UK letter that’s now being circulated on the topic. Read more

Viviane Reding seems to revel in picking a fight with France ahead of summit meetings in Brussels.

In comments to several European newspapers in the run-up to Thursday’s heads-of-government meeting, the EU’s justice commissioner went after French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his German counterpart, Chancellor Angela Merkel, for a deal they struck last week on proposed eurozone budget regulations in characteristically unvarnished language.

“The decisions of the European Union are not made in Deauville,” she said, referring to the swanky French seaside resort where Merkel and Sarkozy made their deal, according to an account in Belgian daily Le Soir. The pact, she said, was nothing less than “a Franco-German diktat”. Read more

Viviane Reding was the star of the European Commission’s surprisingly blunt condemnation of France for its treatment of the Roma. And rightfully so. The prepared statement read by the famously helmet-haired commissioner on Wednesday forcefully punctuated weeks of caution and dissembling by the commission. More than one Brussels correspondent expressed shock at the outbreak of bonafide news at the typically somnolent midday briefing. Read more