Posts tagged ‘European Commission’
On June 12 2012, Caroline Wunnerlich, Managing Director of Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels, was invited to bring her European expertise to a panel discussion on improving the gender balance on corporate boards in the UK and across Europe. The discussion was hosted by the British organisation ‘The 30% Club’, a group of Chairmen voluntarily committed to bringing more women onto UK corporate boards, in conjunction with one of the world’s leading international fashion houses, Louis Vuitton.
The discussion was particularly timely considering the recent European Commission consultation on increasing women’s participation on corporate boards. The outcome of the consultation will impact the Commission’s decision on whether it will take mandatory legislative measures to increase female participation, including binding quotas. The consultation, which ended on 28 May 2012, received over 400 replies from corporations, the public and private sector, business associations and women’s associations, demonstrating just how important this issue is to a range of people and organisations.
This consultation followed the launch of the ‘Women on the Board Pledge for Europe’ by European Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, in March 2011. The initiative calls for publically listed companies in Europe to sign a voluntary agreement to raise female representation on their boards to 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020. Despite the promise of self-regulation only 24 companies have signed the pledge, a disappointing statistic. To add insult to injury, between 2010 and 2012, the percentage of female board members in the largest companies listed in the EU only increased by a fraction, from 11.8% to 13.7%. It would appear that despite encouragement, company chairmen have not assumed full responsibility for the issue by taking proactive steps to generate a change long overdue. At the time of the launch of the ‘Women on the Board Pledge for Europe’, Viviane Reding alerted the European business world to count on her ‘regulatory creativity’, if significant progress had not been made to enhance women’s participation in decision-making.
The debate on increasing female participation has revealed a wide diversion of views. While a majority of stakeholders agree that increased female participation is desirable, there is a disagreement on whether binding quotas are appropriate or necessary to achieve this goal. During the summer of 2011, the European Parliament adopted a resolution supporting binding quotas if voluntary measures proved to be ineffective. The use of mandatory gender quotas is of course a heated debate and many corporations participating in the discussions, as well as a number of MEPs, have warned against such measures. However, the Commission, whilst analysing the responses to the discussed consultation, is also assessing the success of gender quotas that are already in place in Norway and across a range of Member States including France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.
Norway was the first out of these countries to introduce mandatory gender quotas, which have been in place for the board of publically listed companies in Norway since 2003. Companies in this country were called to fill 40% of the seats of their corporate supervisory boards with women. As does all regulation, the implementation of the quotas faced criticism. A particularly interesting denigration is that of the ‘Golden Skirt’ theory. This suggests that a powerful clique of women were provoked into collecting supervisory appointments, often holding 10 or more positions at a time. Whilst I envy any human-being who can successfully hold that many positions of responsibility, despite such suggestions, these quotas have actually achieved results. In Norway, before 2003, 7% of seats on supervisory boards were filled by women, today that figure is 40%. More than double the European average.
If mandatory legislative measures are to be introduced, they can be expected in the latter part of this year. Despite the controversy surrounding such actions, one thing is clear, at present self-regulation is not going far enough, fast enough. To this end, alternative options, regulatory or not, must be explored.
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a new instrument whereby the European Commission has to put forward legislative proposals to respond to a petition that has gathered one million signatures within a year coming from at least 7 EU Member States. Although some organisations such as eBay or Greenpeace have already started ECI-like petitions, the first “official” ECIs are expected as of February 2012 in order to allow Member States to take the necessary measures to implement the new scheme.
Much has been said and written on the European Citizens’ Initiative. Discussions however have mainly focused on whether it would be a success or a failure, the potential risks of the instrument – more than the opportunities – and what its impact could be on the EU decision-making equilibrium. Few commentators wondered whether there had already been pan-European petitions that reached one million signatures, and if there had been, how they managed to do so. We had already raised this point in the panel we organised in October at the Personal Democracy Forum with MEP Marietje Schaake, Julius van de Laar from Avaaz, and Euroblogger Jon Worth.
As we like the ECI so much, we have pursued our analysis in our brand new FH paper, looking specifically at how pan-European petitions have managed to gather one million signatures in the past, how the Internet has helped them do so –our favourite topic- and what the first European Citizens’ Initiatives might be about.
[10 April, 2012: In light of unintended perceptions of our services around the ECI, we are revising our paper to clarify our offering. We stress that our support on the ECI would not extend to organising citizens’ initiatives as this is not in line with the Commission’s rules on the ECI. We apologise if the paper appeared to state otherwise. We shall be uploading the updated paper asap but please bear with us, it’s Easter.. As ever we would appreciate any input from readers.]
Yes we are making predictions! Let’s see in two years from now if we got them right. I’m personally very curious to see how the European Citizens’ Initiative will evolve. Will it be overexploited or hardly used at all? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure: it has the potential to change the well-established dynamics of the Brussels bubble and take us out of our comfort zone.
Europe is gearing itself up to update the way it deals with privacy in today’s modern society. After almost a year of public consultations, hearings, conferences, the European Commission has finally published its first substantive document outlining how it wishes to play out the review of Europe’s Data Protection legal framework.
This is only the first step in what is likely to be a long and arduous process. But let’s leave the nitty gritty of the document to the army of lawyers, managers, government officials and activists that are undoubtedly leaving no syllable unturned in assessing the legal, business and fundamental rights ramifications of what the Commission is proposing.
I for my part would just like to take a step back and have a look at what exactly we are trying to achieve. In today’s modern and digital society, data has become a valuable traded commodity. An entire industry has been built around the ability to store, ship, sell and manage all forms of individual data and its broader implications on privacy have not yet been fully comprehended. This however is where the problem begins – our modern societies thirst for information and our quest for efficiency, convenience and security has come into direct conflict with our own proclaimed fundamental rights.
But where does that leave Europe’s citizens and is a trade off needed? Consumers and citizen’s are becoming increasingly transparent not only through their own behavior in the internet but new technologies allow for a more targeted tracking, profiling and storing of data. In return consumers receive convenient and tailored user experience, services and applications.
The question remains, can Europe tailor a regime that will ensure citizen’s privacy in the digital age without dampening innovative technologies and services?
Or will a child cry out that the Emperor is naked?
The European Commission has finally published its anxiously awaited European Digital Agenda, or “EDA” to add a further official acronym to the alphabet soup of the EU. During the past few months the European Parliament, Council, consumer groups and industry have all been frantically busy drafting and presenting their recommendations and advice as to how the final document should look. Well, the framework programme is finally here and given the importance of this document, it’s worth taking a few minutes to take a closer look at what it actually says. After all, this framework will be the ICT’s contribution to Europe 2020 and will shape EU policy in the area for at least the next 5 years.
All in all, the document ceremoniously presented by the Commission met the general expectations. From a political observer’s perspective, the framework has taken a good middle ground and has been carefully worded so as not to overly offend the extreme positions on most of the contentious issues a stake, i.e. copyright aka Intellectual Property Rights and net neutrality. The framework paints a vision of an interoperable, trustworthy digital environment, where digital goods and services can move freely throughout the market and that all levels of society can truly benefit from the technologies that are out there. It tackles this vision by addressing Europe’s infrastructure (100% broadband deployment), legal regime (copyright) and technical specifications (standardization).
The Commission has essentially identified the most important areas in the sector. The art now will be to deliver a coherent and complementary implementation of all priority areas to ensure that Europe benefits from the “sustainable economic and social benefits from a digital single market based on fast and ultra fast internet and interoperable applications.” Europe must not be tempted to address the various priorities as isolated areas independent of each other. This won’t be an easy task, because as it happens, the devil tends to be in the detail. As the framework begins to be translated into concrete deliverables we are likely to see the various old conflicting interests emerge. Europe must look beyond specific commercial interests and national egos to avoid being trapped in , on all levels, a fragmented ICT market.
Europe should see the EDA as a fresh start, a tabula rasa where new and practical ideas can develop to ensure that citizens across Europe can enjoy the full benefits of innovative technologies and services on an equal footing, at last catapulting Europe into becoming a truly digital society.
Yesterday at the FH/Barclays Capital Conference on Financing Energy Needs, a lot was said about financing mechanisms for energy investments and climate mitigation measures.
As argued by Philip Lowe and Jos Delbeke, the lion’s share of funds will have to come from private sources, because of Member States’ reluctance to dedicate national funds in these times of economic crisis. Another source of revenue will eventually come from carbon markets, but with current low carbon prices, this is a long-term perspective rather than an immediate solution. A high carbon price is deemed necessary for expensive technologies such as CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage). Participants generally argued in favour of a global carbon market, which would yield more benefits and generate more revenues (estimated at $2 trillion by 2020 if the U.S. gets on board).
Jos Delbeke underlined the Commission’s willingness to link up cap-and-trade systems by 2015 at a global level. Today this perspective seems unrealistic, given that other big emitting countries are still far away from adopting a model comparable to the EU ETS.
It is still unsure whether the US will enter the race. As described in The Economist last week, the cap-and-trade provision in the US Senate Climate Bill will not be a centrepiece of the legislation, as it should only apply to electrical utilities and leave out transport and industrial emissions – at least for now. Reasons for this are threefold: industry reluctance, skepticism for market mechanisms as a result of the financial crisis and fear for the US competitiveness when China does not intend to put a cap on its emissions for the time being.
In Japan, the Cabinet approved a Climate bill early March, but its provisions on a cap-and-trade system have been watered down. The text will now be examined in Parliament and industries covered are still to be defined, but for the same reason as in America, the end result may differ greatly from the EU ETS.
In sum, there are still several hurdles to a global carbon market…