Society Trends

Gender equality: Brussels moralises at its own peril

15 November 2012
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Frankfurt

How a country ensures equality is its own business. Brussels should not interfere. The meddling is hardly helping women, and Brussels is making itself even more unpopular by its moral interventionism, writes a German columnist.

Yes, it is still there: the famous glass ceiling that keeps women from being promoted to important positions.  But ceilings are not destiny. There are people who decide on promotions, and there are people that determine the conditions and the environment that changes in the profession take place in. People? Most of them are men. They increasingly have to justify their existence – and for that reason alone, no one can claim that nothing is changing.

Promoting women to positions such as “deputy of the the deputy” (who is a man, of course) or sudden gushing professions of faith by elderly heads of departments in favour of a strict quota for women are but smoke and mirrors, all the same. If they’re to be believed, they should resign immediately. After all, no-one is irreplaceable, and we’re not short of qualified women – who would deny that?

Commissioner Reding is right: there are indeed enough qualified women in the EU. Individual European countries have been trying for some time to comply with their own constitutional directives and human rights obligations and to enforce gender equality in everyday affairs. This is far from being merely a legal requirement. Every free society has a vested interest in ensuring that everyone can pursue happiness in his or her own way. How the society does that, as it balances out its many interests, especially when it comes to professional occupation and family life, is truly a national issue – and not one that can Brussels may arrogate.

EU is sawing off the branch it is sitting on

Neither does a women's quota for supervisory boards solve the problem of the many mothers who are left hanging in their profession – by employers and by their own husbands alike.

And finally, the EU is continuing to saw off the branch it is sitting on. Mrs Reding’s desire that the Commission be even more political (is that even possible?) is opposed by very different desires from the states that support Union. If Reding gets her way, the mantra of "more Europe", which is still accepted even in the midst of the debt crisis, will stop being parroted.

It is, in fact, the general competence of the EU in practice, often supported by Member States, that is considered one of the causes of Europe's crisis of confidence. When moral interventionism enters the fray, it becomes clear that the Union needs some pause for reflection.

Translated from the German by Anton Baer