La Treizième Étoile: 01/08/10 - 08/08/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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European countries are still failing to meet MDG 3.3

Thursday, 5 August 2010
Posted on Th!nk3Outlined in the Millennium Development Goals, section 3.3 seeks to address the gender inequality in the “proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments”, and some latest research by a leading EU think-tank will form some rather grim reading for those who thought Europe was well represented by female politicians.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy gestures as he and other EU leaders leave a family photo at the start of the European Council summit in Brussels on June 17 2010 (Photo: AFP)The Paris-based Robert Schuman Foundation, renowned for its research on the European Union, has recently released its latest paper which compares the percentage of ministers and members of parliament across the EU and show how many are women.

The results are quite eye-opening: principally because the EU overall is well below the 50% mark of female representation in the corridors of high-office.

Only Finland and Spain contain an overall majority of women in ministerial positions, with the Scandinavian country setting the standard having recently appointed Mari Kiviniemi as Prime Minister - an appointment that means for the first time in the country’s history the top two positions of state are held by women.

At the other end of the spectrum, neither the Czech Republic nor Hungary boast a single female amongst their governmental ministerial teams.

When it comes to the number of female members in the respective national parliaments, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands top the table and boast more women politicians than the overall EU average (24.32%), although neither quite achieves a 50-50 male-female balance.

In total, 17 EU countries fall below this average, with Malta’s Kamra Tad Deputati and Hungry’s Az Orszag Haza (where following the recent general election only 35 of the 386 members are female) finishing bottom.

When it comes to the percentage of female MEPs representing each European country in the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, the outlook is slightly rosier.

The current 257 female MEPs (of 736) produces an EU average of 34.92% meaning a little over a third of the plenary chamber is female. After the two previous sets of results, it should come as no surprise to learn that again the Scandinavian countries provide the greatest number of female MEPs, with Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Denmark sitting proudly in the top-five.

At the other end of the table, the ‘big names’ to be under-represented are Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, who despite providing a combined total of 144 MEPs, only 31 are not male.

As for the UK, it comes in below the EU average on all three accounts: with females only making up 17.39% of its new coalition government cabinet (EU: 25.75%), 21.88% of the MPs sitting in the House of Commons (EU: 24.32%) and 33.33% of deputies in the EU chamber (EU: 34.92%).

So while the EU can take some pleasure from these figures, there is clearly much to be done to set an example for other countries to follow to meet the MDG 3.3 by promoting gender equality.

While we should undoubtedly try to encourage more females to stand for higher office, substantial effort may need to be made to shake off the notion famously evoked by the UK’s former Minister for Europe Caroline Flint, who in her 2009 resignation letter, said that the former PM Gordon Brown treated women ministers as "little more than female window dressing"...

The Foundation's findings can be viewed by clicking here.

79% support 'important' EU aid but only 18% are 'well informed' about it: the intriguing Eurobarometer findings

Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Posted on Th!nk3The results of a special Eurobarometer survey were released on Monday and contained some rather interesting findings alongside revealing that despite the financial crisis eight out of ten EU citizens (79%) still believe it is important the European Union provides humanitarian aid to countries outside its borders.

The Special Eurobarometer 343 on Humanitarian Aid sought to gauge the EU public’s opinion on four major issues including the importance of EU humanitarian aid activities for EU citizens, their awareness of humanitarian aid and EU actors, their knowledge of EU humanitarian aid activities and whether they perceived any difference in the common or national approaches to humanitarian aid.

The main finding of the survey is that 79% still believe it is important that the European Union continues to provide humanitarian aid to countries outside its borders, such as it did following the earthquake in Haiti back in April.

However, perhaps inevitably, the financial crisis took its toll on the results as the approval rate of EU aid dropped 9% from 88% in July 2006 when the last survey was carried out. This decline indicates a clear and naturally-expected link between the individual financial situations of citizens and the giving of external aid - those who have problems paying their bills expressed less support.

Nationally, a decrease in support was noted in all EU countries with the exception of Cyprus where the approval rate remained at the same high level (95%) as in 2006.

Countries in which the largest fall in support was observed are Latvia (70%, down 18%), Lithuania (68%, down 15%), while in Belgium (71%), Denmark (80%), Poland (79%), Romania (74%) and the UK (75%) support dropped by 14%.

Public awareness still high - but not of the EU's projects...

In terms of awareness, 85% can name at least one organisation providing humanitarian aid on the ground and 72% can name at least one organisation funding humanitarian assistance, with the organisations most widely-known among EU citizens are the Red Cross and UNICEF.

A Haitian schoolgirl stands alongside some EU-provided aidAnother positive finding for the European Commission, albeit bittersweet, is that 18% spontaneously name the EU, the European Commission and/or the Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) as an actor funding humanitarian aid.

Although this represents a rise of 11% compared with 2006, it will serve as further proof that more work needs to be done to increase public awareness of its aid work since remember that the EU as a whole – Commission plus member states – is the world's largest humanitarian aid donor, with the Commission alone claiming to have spent on average nearly €800 million annually in the last five years (€931.7m in 2009).

Yet despite the fact that this is not actually the EU's role, 12% spontaneously name the EU, the Commission and/or ECHO as a provider of humanitarian aid on the ground.

Still on the subject of public awareness, 86% said it was important to be informed about EU humanitarian aid activities yet only 18% answered they are “well informed”. This last figure is down from 2006, and perhaps more worryingly 31% of respondents feel "not at all informed".

Aid 'more efficient' through the EU, but not popular in the UK

Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, International Cooperation and Crisis Response (Photo: BGNES)
When it comes to what level the financial aid should be provided through, a majority of EU citizens (58%), and a relative majority in each individual member state, think aid is more efficient when provided by the EU through the European Commission - something that Kristalina Georgieva, the Commissioner responsible, will certainly be pleased to learn – with only one quarter of those questioned (24%) preferring relief funds to be channelled through member states instead.

The strongest support for a common EU action is found again in Cyprus (71%), Spain and Portugal (both 68%), Belgium (66%), France (65%) as well as in Bulgaria, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands (all 62%). On the other hand, support for a common action below 50% is found in four Member States: Ireland and Romania (both 43% support) and Lithuania (46%) and the UK (49%).

Amongst all 27 member countries, only a few generally favour a national approach to humanitarian aid, including most notably the UK (32%) where the relevant government department (DFID) has seen its budget exceptionally ring-fenced in order to fulfil its MDG obligations.

The Special Eurobarometer #343 on Humanitarian Aid was carried out in the 27 EU member states and candidate-country Iceland. 26,800 citizens were interviewed face-to-face between February and March 2010.

The full report is available to download in PDF format from here (EN only, 12mb).

Special Eurobarometer 343 on Humanitarian Aid 2010: the Questions posed

Can you name some organizations involved in providing humanitarian aid? By providing aid, we mean that they provide on-the-ground support.
QB2. And now, can you name any organizations that are funding humanitarian aid? By funding, we mean that they provide financial support to humanitarian aid.
QB3. Do you know that the European Union, through the European Commission and its Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), funds humanitarian aid activities in countries outside the European Union?
QB4. How well informed do you think you are about the European Union humanitarian aid activities?
QB5. How important do you think it is that the European Union funds humanitarian aid activities outside the European Union?
QB6. How important do you think it is that European citizens are informed about humanitarian aid activities funded by the European Union, through the European Commission and its Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO)?
QB7. Would you say that humanitarian aid is more efficient if provided by each Member State of the European Union separately or if it is provided by the European Union through the European Commission?

'I believe that in 2015 Poland will be ready' - PM Tusk on its Euro ambitions

Monday, 2 August 2010
Poland's PM Donald TuskAfter Estonia on 1st January 2011, will Poland be next Eastern European country to adopt the Euro single currency? Perhaps, but it will require a little more time as the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk revealed on Friday that Poland will be ready to meet the Maastricht Criteria in 2015.

Being very cautious I believe that in 2015 Poland will be ready,” he said while keen to stress that he was not out to set a concrete date of Poland’s entry to the Eurozone.

Today Poland is meeting the Maastricht criteria to a greater extent than the majority of Eurozone members.

So is a date in sight? In September 2008, before investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed triggering the global financial crisis, the Polish government had unveiled 2012 as its target year for Euro-adoption.

Then last December during a Finance Ministry-organized seminar on the euro-adoption process, Polish Deputy Finance Minister Ludwik Kotecki revealed that “2015 is more likely than 2014, but it's not like 2015 is a new date which would replace 2012, it's not that kind of target.

Soon after that seminar Mr Tusk himself said 2015 was a "realistic and not overly-ambitious goal".

The Maastricht Criteria determine whether a country is ready to adopt the Euro as its national currency. To satisfy these criterions, the country’s inflation rate must not be more than 1.5 percentage points higher than the average of the three best performing (lowest inflation) member states of the EU, the ratio of government debt to GDP must not exceed 60% at the end of the preceding fiscal year and budget deficit must be below 3% GDP.

Today Poland only fulfils one of these criterion as it’s ratio of government debt to GDP stands at 53%, but it’s budget deficit in light of the financial crisis needs addressing as it currently stands at 7.3%.

Even if all criteria are met, adopting the single currency will require a referendum in Poland since it would require a change to the constitution.

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.