Imagine yourself being cramped inside a crate only as big as your body so you can’t physically stand up or move around for 8 days.
This is how Martyn Griffiths, of Eurogroup for Animals, explains the reality that pregnant sows are facing living in a small percentage of farms in Europe, event after the EU’s ban was implemented at the beginning of this year.
Legal procedures have been launched against nine member states who have yet to comply with animal-welfare legislation that bans single-stall housing by the January 1st deadline while pigs continue to endure poor living conditions.
Less than 1 in 11 decision making positions in the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) are filled by women. The Party currently has no policies in place to ensure gender equality amongst their party members or to ensure that women are encouraged to reach decision making positions.
“Women are focused at the bottom of the employment pyramid, and the European Parliament is no exception there”, says Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) Member of Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality committee. Made up of 270 Members of Parliament, 10 out of the group’s 11 chair and vice-chair positions are filled by men.
Within the European People’s Party group (EPP) there are different opinions on which issues are the most important to discuss.
“Some of the men in the group are very active in this question. Approximately half of the group is working in favour of more women in decision making positions, the other half is not. This is not just a subject for women to take care of. Men and women need to talk about it together”, Morin-Chartier says.
EPP Member of Parliament Sirpa Pietikäinen agrees, saying, “The European People’s Party numbers of leading women are very low. This has to be corrected in the next time making elections. Quotas seem the most effective way to achieve this”.
Meanwhile, some of the Parliament’s 7 political groups have succeeded in introducing policies to address gender inequality in decision making positions. The Group of the Greens/Free Alliance have 55.5% women in their Chair and Vice Chair positions, with 5 women and 4 men in their top positions. Group member Franziska Brantner says, “Women are half of the population and therefore equality is needed. We should all aim for 50/50”.
In his opinion on the issue, Commission Vice-President and European Commissioner of Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn says, “Research shows that women in top positions increase economic and human potential. Therefore, improving gender equality is of paramount importance and should be a central element in overcoming our economic tendencies”.
Many are the directives, recommendations and laws regarding gender equality in EU member states. However, 3 out of 7 political groups have less than 10% women in their chair and vice chair positions. The European institutions that regulate this issue do not have sufficient policies to ensure a gender equal workplace in the European Parliament.
By Bethan Williams and Joséphine Simar
A conference for the International Women’s day, March 8th, saw a panel of politicians and experts ready to discuss the impact of the economic crisis on women. Of the 12 speakers claiming to be passionate about the issue ‘Working for Equality’, only one of them was a man.
Gender equality has been an important part of the European Union’s basic values since the Rome Treaty in 1957. The Lisbon Treaty from 2007, states “It (The European Union) shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men…”
European Commissioner for Finance and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn, confirms that too few women holding decision making positions in politics is an urgent issue.
“Promoting sustainable development and governance of gender equality, should not been seen separated from other policy areas. Promotion of economic opportunity should be present in all policies, including gender”, he says.
Positive effects for politics
According to Sylvia Walby, a professor of sociology at Lancaster University, United Kingdom, gender equality in decision making positions proves to be the most successful combination.
As a chair of gender research group UNESCO, Walby states:
“Women are more likely to bring different kinds of questions to the agenda. For example questions concerning child care and gender equality”.
Campaigning for equality
There is a growing debate as to whether European institutions are actively addressing gender inequality. The European Women’s Lobby: an independent non-government organization are critical of this. They aim for all European institutions to reach gender parity by the next parliamentary elections in 2014 by suggesting quotas on gender equality through their ongoing campaign named ‘Europe Back On Top With 50/50’.
Zita Gurmai, of the Social and Democrats, is one of only 5 Members of Parliament that are directly involved in the 50/50 campaign. Reflecting upon why the campaign is needed, Gurmai says:
“Less than 35% of the European Parliament are women, it sounds a lot compared to the average in the rest of the world. We are better than others, but the European Union has committed itself to gender equality yet there is an average of just 23% women in parliaments across Europe”.
Serap Altinisik, the European Women’s Lobby fundraising coordinator and policy officer sees the 2014 parliamentary elections as a prime opportunity for equality to be addressed.
“In 2014 we are going to elect a new Parliament. This is a key opportunity to achieve gender parity after 13 years of male leadership”.
The European Women’s Lobby sees quotas as the only possible way to ensure that gender parity is reached in an urgent, efficient and lasting manner.
“We want women as a priority in the European agenda and not just during the week of International Women’s Day”, Serap Altinisik says. “Quotas are apparently the only way. Self commitment is not functioning; therefore we need quotas to ensure that women are heard”.
See an academic view and the debate on quotas from a Danish perspective below:
“The institution should practice what they preach. Women’s rights are human rights and they deserve legislative support to keep them in place in all workplaces” says Sirpa Pietikäinen: a Member of European Parliament for the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats).
“As a way to reach equality quotas are the most effective way forward, they are just a normal legal protection measure. Opposing quotas reveals the heart of this issue”, Sirpa Pietikäinen says.
During the recent event of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Parliament raised awareness of ways to reach gender parity. In a parliamentary conference titled ‘Women and the Economic Crisis’ the ways for women to get to top positions scored highly on the agenda. Dagmar Schumacher, director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women says:
“We need policies to create gender equality, we need to advance this case as part of the solution”.
By Lasse Skou Andersen and Anders Godtfred-Rasmussen.
Powerful air traffic controllers are proving to be a major opponent for the EU in its efforts to create a common European airspace.
Air traffic controllers are probably not the first people to come to mind, when you think of the politically powerful. But perhaps they should be.
According to Niels Remmer, head of department at the Danish Transport Authority, and member of the EU commission committee on a common airspace in Europe, the air traffic controllers’ unions are having success delaying the Single European Sky – a directive that aims to cut costs and emissions of aviation by merging the national airspaces into blocs.
“Air traffic controllers in especially Germany and France are causing trouble. They are not interested in the common airspace, because they are afraid that they will lose jobs in the process of implementing the Single European Sky,” says Niels Remmer.
Rulers of the sky The air traffic controllers rule the sky. They decide when the planes can leave and land in an airport, and decide if the predestined flight route can be followed. If they decide to strike, the planes are grounded, and air traffic comes to a standstill.
The fear of such a situation is a main factor behind the delay in the Single European Sky, says Niels Remmer. Other sources involved in the work with the common airspace tell a similar story.
The common airspace was supposed to be largely functioning from December 2012, but only Denmark, Sweden, the UK, and Ireland have lived up to their obligations.
‘It’s about safety’ The German air control Union (GDF) are not against the idea of a common airspace in the EU, but the organisation believes that the current goals are unrealistic, Michael Schäfer, President of the GDF, explains:
“Safety is the main issue. In its current form, the Single European Sky will mean fewer employees, negatively affecting the safety in the sky. Therefore, we find the present EU Commission goals to be dangerous and unreliable,” says Michael Schäfer.
The Danish Minister of European affairs, Nicolai Wammen, is concerned that fewer Danes are passing the admission test required to work in EU institutions and that Denmark will lose national influence in the EU system.
EU insiders, like Poul Skytte Christoffersen, career diplomat and current Danish ambassador to Belgium, believe that having civil servants in international institutions is advantageous, not because they will affect any decisions made, but because being represented means being involved.
“Its imperative to have civil servants that are Danish and have Danish values and culture,” he said. “We have created our society in a specific way, and we would like to see our values carried over into EU institutions especially in areas like environment, consumer protection, and climate change.”
Malene Chaucheprat, who passed the EU admission test, thinks that it is important to have sources that are located in key positions at the EU.
It is like having “a set of Danish eyes and ears,” she said.
Wammen’s response to the declining trend of Danish employees at the EU, is the launching of a task force to improve the Danish chances.
By Lasse Skou Andersen & Anders Godtfred-Rasmussen.
A merging of national airspaces was supposed to cut CO2 emissions and reduce costs of European aviation, but so far EU countries have failed to deliver. The European Comission is now on the course of taking legal action against member states.
The EU Commission is threatening to bring member and partner states to the European Court of Justice for failing to live up to their promises of creating the foundations for greener and more efficient aviation through a directive called the Single European Sky.
A source in the commission confirms that opening letters have been sent to 23 member states and 4 partner states.
They have until the end of March to explain why they have failed to implement the directive before the deadline.
Today, because of countries each having their own sovereign airspaces, planes in Europe take detours rather than the most direct route. According to reports from EUROCONTROL, the EU body for aviation, this means CO2 emissions from the sector are 7-12% higher than they could be, were the planes able to go directly.
By Lasse Skou Andersen & Anders Godtfred-Rasmussen.
A lack of coordination between national airspaces means planes can’t take the direct route to their destinations, in turn leading to unnecessary emissions of CO2. Airlines and environmental organisations are furious that the EU has not yet delivered on its promise to solve the problem
It is 9:20 on a March morning in Dublin and SK536, a Scandinavian Airlines Boeing 737, is about to take off on its usual route to Arlanda airport in Stockholm.
But the plane doesn’t go directly to the Swedish capital. Due to a lack of coordination between the Norwegian and Swedish airspaces, the pilot must take a detour over Oslo.
The SK536 is not the only plane taking a detour this morning. According to estimates from the European Commission, the lack of co-ordination between national airspaces means that European planes take a detour of 49 kilometres per trip in average. And with 33,000 flights on a busy day, a significant amount of fuel and time is wasted, meaning extra costs for Airline companies and unnecessary emissions of CO2 greenhouse gasses.
Reports from EUROCONTROL, the EU body dealing with aviation, show that 7-12% of emissions from aviation in Europe are caused by such detours and delays. In total, aviation accounts for 13% of CO2 emissions from the transport sector.
“The reasons for the detours are several and very technical. But one of them is that some air spaces are more expensive to fly in than others in terms of tariffs. This means that it can actually be cheaper for airlines to choose a longer route, silly as that may sound,” explains Niels Remmer, Head of Department at the Danish Transport Authority, who has been working with the topic for more than ten years.
VIDEO: Niels Remmer explains in-depth why planes zig-zag through Europe
Solution there – but not implemented
The problem with the detours was actually supposed to be solved by now. Back in 2004, the EU, Norway, and Switzerland agreed on defragmenting airspaces through a directive called the Single European Sky.
The move was supported by the Association of European Airlines, which believes it could save the industry 4 billion Euros per year in tariffs and fuel expenses.
A key element in the legislation is the establishment of 9 so-called Functional Airspace Blocs (FABs), which would replace the existing national airspaces. The idea was that fewer airspaces with more common standards would enable the planes to take more optimal routes.
The deadline for getting the FABs up and running was in December 2012. But only two blocs – Denmark-Sweden and The United Kingdom-Ireland – have actually been established.
Some countries – for instance Germany – are having second thoughts. While they acknowledge the possibility of cutting emissions, they feel other parts of the directive are going too far. This is especially the case when it comes to how much more cost-efficient the air traffic controllers should operate.
Industry and environmentalists united
The delay of the Single Sky angers environmental organisation Greenpeace.
“Aviation is overall a relatively small emitter compared to other industries, but that is no excuse for procrastination. There is no reason flights should be longer than absolutely necessary,” says Tarjei Haaland, Greenpeace Nordic’s spokesperson on climate.
The airlines agree. They don’t think member states are doing enough to implement the directive, and say the commission isn’t pushing hard enough.
“We believe that the inefficiencies originate equally from the lack of enforcement from the European Commission and the lack of cooperation among the Member States,” says spokesperson for the Association of European Airlines, Viktoria Vajnai.
‘A low-hanging fruit’
The commissioner for climate action, Connie Hedegaard, doesn’t agree that the commission isn’t doing enough. It is up to the member states to live up to their promises, she says.
“When it comes to doing something to help the climate, this is one of the lowest hanging fruits. The member states must deliver. We won’t lower the emission targets,” she says.
Sources in the commission say that transport commissioner Siim Kallas has made it one of his top priorities to enforce the Single Sky directive.
In January, opening letters were sent to the countries that do not yet fulfill their obligations. The states now have until the end of March to explain to the commission why they haven’t established their FABs yet.
This marks the initiation of a process where member states that continue to ignore the directive could eventually be brought to the European Court of Justice.
Danes are experiencing 100% fail rates on the EU admission test as well as a lack of interest in working for the European Union. At the same time, a record number of Danes are retiring, leaving EU institutions void of Danish civil servants.
To address this issue, the Danish minister of European affairs, Nicolai Wammen, has launched a task force, headed by Former Danish EU Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel to curb the failure rate and ensure more Danes end up in EU institutions.
EPSO and the Concours
The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) is responsible for selecting candidates for potential employment at EU institutions. In order to be eligible to work in an EU institution, you need to pass a concours, a general test that can be specific to the applicant’s field of work, such as communication or finance.
The test used to be based on random knowledge about the EU, which required excessive memorization in preparation for the test, something that Danes are not accustomed to.
According to Antonio Gravili, spokesperson for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration at the European Commission, in 2010 there were changes made to the concours, something Scandinavian countries had been pushing for. The change eliminated the emphasis on trivia questions and focused more on the competences and skills the applicant has.
“At the end of the day you can learn (about the EU) on the job, but what matters is that you are capable of learning on the job and delivering results,” Gravili said.
Danish Test Taking Troubles
Danish civil servants say the test needs to be changed, considering no Danish applicants passed the concours last year.
Malene Chaucheprat, who passed the concours, and who now works as a press consultant at the EU Parliament said the applicant failure rate might have something to do with the structure of the test.
“In my opinion, Danes are not used to sitting for examinations like the councours… we don’t have that many tests to begin with and we definitely don’t have tests in the same format as the concours,” she said.
Chaucheprat said she does not consider the test to be too intellectually challenging, but that the whole process is time consuming.
“It’s like a marathon, you really have to train for it,” she said.
Chaucheprat was of the 400 out of 12,000 applicants, who made it through the first round of the concours. She highlighted how French applicants are often more accustomed to taking such exams.
“They have more of a tradition of doing concours for jobs in their central administration,” she said.
Lone Grevy, head of international networks at DJØF, a union for academics that represents members working in the private and public sectors of Denmark, also had the same view.
“In France they take concours all the time, while none or very few institutions in Denmark require an admission test,” she said.
DJØF created a survey distributed amongst its members interested in taking the concours during a seminar they hosted together with the state department. Almost 70% of respondents showed a great interest in working in EU institutions, but only 24% ended up taking the test. The major reason listed for not taking the test was that they considered the application process too long and complicated.
Problems at home
Getting Danes to pass the test is one problem for the task force. Another problem is getting people to apply in the first place, since a EU career offers some challenges.
Poul Skytte Christoffersen, Danish Ambassador to Belgium and long-time EU career diplomat, said he believes capable and talented Danes don’t want to waste their time applying to the EU.
“If you are a ‘high flyer’ in the Danish central administration, applying to the EU is just too slow a process compared to career advancement at home,” he said.
Chaucheprat agrees that some employees do lose out on career advancement but that it depends on the employee’s career path. She said it is a problem for people working in the central administration.
“They get forgotten down here (in Brussels),” she said. “That’s what I hear from national experts who come here temporarily.”
Another contributing factor is money. Ever since the 2004 reforms that saw EU administrators’ starting salary cut by 20%, it has been harder to attract the most talented candidates, especially from richer member states, according to Gravili.
Even though the salary is higher in Brussels, Danes will often be bringing a spouse that won’t have a job immediately, and will therefore need to cover two incomes, he said.
The Danish Central Administration needs to be better at integrating people with international experience, according to Ambassador Christoffersen. Few people in the Danish finance department have international experience, he said, whereas the exact opposite is the case in Italy, where most of the top-level employees have some international experience.
The Italian Job
Italy serves as an example of a country with a high number of employees in EU institutions. Approximately 11% of the EU Commission employees are Italian, compared to Denmark’s 1.3% employment rate.
“Italians have a stronger incentive to move to Brussels than people from most countries,” said Battista Severgnini, Copenhagen Business School’s Italy expert.
There has always been a strong network effect between Belgium and Italy who are both founding members of the European Union, he said.
Specialist in EU institutions and professor at Aarhus University, Derek Beach, also pointed out the fact that Italy’s central administration doesn’t function as well as Denmark’s, which according to him, explains the reason why Italian academics leave their country more frequently.
Ambassador Christoffersen, who previously was the Danish ambassador to Italy, said the different family structures of Italy and Denmark could also contribute to the lack of Danes in Brussels.
“Italians have more of a tradition of stay-at-home-moms, which makes it easier for families to move to Brussels than it is for Danish families,” he said.
Amid these challenges, the task force has a lot to take on in order to reverse the current declining trend. During their first meeting on March 4, the task force outlined a series of future goals to be reached to help increase Danish involvement in the EU.
One of these is to incorporate elements of concours-style testing into the Danish academic curriculum. This will help Danes get more accustomed to the EU admission test.
The task force also plans on pushing the importance of international experience onto the Danish labour market in order to help further career opportunities for Danish employees after they return from working for the EU.
Moreover, the task force will propose to focus on EU positions that do not require the concours admission test such as top positions, specialized agencies and temporary jobs.
If the task force does not succeed in increasing the Danish participation in the EU project, the consequences could be dire, according to Gravili.
“There will be a legitimacy crisis,” he said, “maintaining a balance among nationalities working at the EU is crucial because sooner or later when only a few member states will be represented in EU institutions, European laws will still be applied to Denmark without their involvement in formulating the laws.”
The reform of the European Union’s fisheries policy currently being discussed raises concerns about the issue of the employment of fishermen. This reform, which is to be implemented by January 2014, sheds very little light on the employment factor and mainly focuses on the sustainability of fishing.
The European Union’s common fisheries policy (CFP) is a policy that mainly deals with making EU fishing grounds a common resource by giving access to all member states and to help conserve fish stocks. However, this policy has endured a lot of criticism and 2013 is the year this reform will be discussed.
The European parliament and Council of ministers decide together on this reform. Due to this co-decision process, conflicting views have risen concerning the reform and its effectiveness.
Conflicting reactions to the CFP reform
Members of parliament seem to be split over whether the reform will be effective in fixing the “broken” fisheries policy as the commissioner, Maria Damanaki, once called it. On one hand, Member of Parliament and of ‘Europe of freedom and democracy group’, John Agnew voices his opinion. “I said this before and I will say it again, a co-decision is a no-decision!” he said.
On the other hand, some MEPs were concerned with issues other than the decision-making procedure such as Izaskun Barandica, member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, who said: “It is clear that we need a reform, however, this reform should take care of the fishermen and the sustainability of their jobs as well if we need to build a better future.”
Having considered this division, Greenpeace saw the reform as a process and therefore
could not decide right now on whether it can be effective. Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace fisheries policy director, said: “The CFP reform alone doesn’t necessarily tell you what will happen to employment”. She also added that the diverging positions of the parliament and council make it difficult to comment on a reform but it is very clear that we need this modification in order to secure the future of fishing.
Concerns have arisen on whether the position of the council is strong and significant enough to make a change regarding the fisheries’ future. Suggestions made by the parliament would benefit small-scale fisheries however; the member states are looking for policies that would work to the advantage of large, industrial fisheries. This means one thing; more job losses for the fishermen.
In addition, Richartz brought to attention particular concerns of Greenpeace in relation to the reform: “Ensuring stock recovery by 2015, reducing fishing capacity, and guaranteeing that overfishing is no longer caused by this excessive fishing capacity.”
The discard ban
“One important point to discuss in this discard ban would be the direct influence it has on employment” said Barandica.
The ban of discards acts as the central element of the CFP reform. It bans the dumping of fish back into the sea and obliges fishermen to land all catches.
On February 6th, members of the European parliament voted to ban discards in the reform of the fishing policy. However, the issue of employment wasn’t mentioned in the ban regarding the future of fisheries.
Moreover, the co-decision method that is taking place has ignited many conflicts. The greatest resistance on the scale demanded by Members of Parliament came from France, Portugal, and Spain. Secondly, the council seems to be moving further away from the ambitious vote of the parliament to ban discards.
“Generally, some countries don’t want to limit the amount of fish the fishermen can catch. By accepting the discard ban, this would lead to fisheries being closed sooner than possible and they don’t want that,” said Richartz.
What does this mean for the fishermen’s employment?
Fisheries’ employers are about 139,000 in comparison to aquaculture employers who are around 31,000 as stated by the Eurostat fisheries statistics. This shows that the way this CFP reform sees the future of fishing in aquaculture leaves the fate of the fisheries’ employees undecided.
“The fishermen know that in order to work in the fishing sector they need fish. So, they are aware of the importance of sustainability. However, regulations such as the discard ban poses a huge problem for them in regards to their working conditions,” says Barandica.
According to Richartz it all depends on whether the policies chosen benefit small scale fisheries which generally employ people on a long term basis and provide in principle more employment, or if the policies chosen continue, like governments are doing now, by benefitting large scale industrial businesses which provide much less employment.
“The main reason for job cuts are the low rates of fish in the sea and therefore the restrictions on the amount of fishing that can happen. Secondly, a shift from short scale fisheries to large-scale fishing businesses,” said Richartz.
Therefore, she believes that the potential changes of the CFP, if governments agree to recover fish stocks, will bring about higher quotas. This wouldn’t necessarily imply that there will be more fishermen but at least there would be a stable improvement in the amount of fish that can be taken and therefore amount of income that is available for fishermen.
MEP, John Agnew, blames the CFP that he believes hasn’t been effective for 30 years for causing member states to pay the price socially through unemployment. “Who is telling the fishermen that they need to look for new work? Instead we just give compensation schemes and give grants for better equipment. But how is this solving the actual problems such as over fishing?” he said, “Those fishermen should be allowed to leave this industry with dignity.”
Future of fishing
The two contrasting techniques of fishing which is the commercial fishing and aquaculture both have their supporters.
While commercial fishing deals mainly with harvesting of wild fish, aqua farming is concerned with cultivating fresh and saltwater populations under controlled environments. For better understanding, those two types of fishing can be contrasted in a way of hunting and gathering versus agriculture.
Agnew sees that it is not sensible to carry on catching wild fish and that some species of fish should be made illegal to catch. He admits to the problems concerned with fish farming nevertheless he believes it is important to resolve those problems and adapt to this method.
Richartz agreed about the point that if the EU continues with the practices it has been using for the past decades it will only lead to fewer jobs and lower sustainability. “Aquaculture is being promoted by governments and EU decision makers as a solution but Greenpeace does not consider it a solution to the overfishing problem,” she said.
This is because in terms of quality of the product, Greenpeace doesn’t believe that aquaculture fish is as good as wild caught fish. Therefore, it doesn’t replace the need to go fishing; it just generates a different type of fishery. “It is as sustainable as fisheries for human consumption not more sustainable.”
Although studies suggested that more women on company boards can bring about better economic profit, EU still has not given a green light for the directive. On one hand, quotas are considered a “necessary evil”; on the other hand, they are said to infringe upon the freedom to run a business. Member states have uncompromised attitudes and the opinion is not unified. Only 24 companies have pledged to get 40% women on board by 2020 but if the directive becomes law, about 5,000 companies will be affected. Apart from political divergence, there are also ideological difficulties to be tackled.