EU's captains of industry write script

The real power in Europe is not wielded by MEPs or by unelected officials, but by male-dominated corporations

David Cronin Friday 27 November 2009

It is little wonder that Jose Manuel Barroso is seldom seen without a grin on his face these days. For the European commission chief is one of the luckiest guys in international politics. First, the appointment of a Belgian low-profile as the EU's first permanent president has meant that Barroso will be Able to keep on behaving as if he is the most powerful man in Brussels. And now, it looks likely that Barroso will not need to lose any sleep about assembling his new team of commissioners (even if they do not formally start work until January, a few months later than originally expected).

Theoretically, it's still possible that MEPs will cause him difficulties as they did in 2004, when they objected to the nomination of Rocco Buttiglione as justice commissioner because the Italian Equated Homosexuality with sin. The signals from the European parliament have been that if it wanted to Embarrass Barroso this time around, it would take issue with the grotesque gender imbalance in the EU executive. However, the probability of this happening has lessened in the past few days as the final composition of his 27-strong team emerged. It features nine women - one more than the outgoing commission.

Like many people, I feel slightly ill-at-ease addressing gender issues. Yet it strikes me that anyone who believes in equality should applaud the campaign being run by the European Women's Lobby for more females to be appointed to top jobs. Not only would I be in favor of rules stipulating that there should be an equal representation of men and women in EU institutions, I feel that all the obstacles Preventing a greater female participation in politics should be removed.

During the 1990s, I worked as a press officer for an Irish MEP who married and had a child following her election, when she inquired about the parliament's provisions for maternity leave, she was informed that it had none. I'm sure that steps have been taken to rectifying this omission since then but the way that EU bodies operate in general (with debates continuing until midnight, for example) can hardly be considered as welcoming to people with young families.

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