Composition of European Commission

I am writing this post due to the fact that Finland´s broadcasting company YLE, which is funded through tax income, today announced that Finland´s upcoming Prime Minister Antti Rinne (Social Democrats) has promised that Finland´s next European Commissioner will be a female.

In its more than 24 years of membership in the European Union, Finland that joined the EU on January 1st 1995, has never before had a female European Commissioner.

Why does this matter?

Well, in the European Commission currently all major decisions are being made by 28 commissioners, one from each current EU member state. EU Commissioners hold the real power, and only 32 % of current EU commissioners are females. 68 % are males.

Antti Rinne, currently running negotiations to create a new government in Finland after the parliamentary elections held in April 2019, said on the YLE news today that it is about time for Finland to elect a female EU Commissioner to break the glass ceiling that has been holding back female candidates from powerful leadership positions for far too long. The EU Commissioner will be assigned by the upcoming government in Finland.

To achieve one of its main goals in addition to being a Union of peace, the European Union should take into consideration how equality, including gender equality, can be reached within the Union. Currently only 9 out of 28 commissioners are females. The vast majority of decisions concerning more than 512 million of inhabitants within the European Union are thus made by males. If we are going to build and to maintain an equal European Union, it is about time for its decision-makers to take into consideration the fact that at least 50 % (or more) of the EU´s members are females. Thus, the representation of females in the EU Commission should represent an equal share (at least 50 % females of Commissioners). How this will be organized is a minor problem to be solved by the European Commission. Rotation could be one possibility, as in the Chairmanship of the European Union.

The European Commission should not only consist of 50 % females and 50 % males, but also be willing to delegate and to share its power to for instance the European Parliament. If 28 people, one from each EU member state, make decisions on behalf of more than 512 million citizens within the European Union, we are far from democracy. If decision-making in the EU were more democratic, perhaps more people would be interested in voting in the EU Parliament elections in the first place. At the time being, it is a miracle that more than 51 % of citizens are interested enough to give their vote in the elections. In Finland, only 42,9 % of citizens with a right to vote gave their vote in the May 2019 EU parliament elections.

Anne-Maria Yritys 28.5.2019





Virtues and Sins Part IV: Diligence vs. Sloth

Diligence refers to hard work, work ethic, and the belief that work is good in itself. As opposed to sloth, defined as spiritual or emotional apathy.

In other words, a diligent person is someone who performs given tasks with high integrity, perhaps even mechanically, without ever questioning why he/she is doing a certain activity? Whereas a sloth is someone who couldn´t care less?

This is one of the things that have been on my mind ever since I have, again, been on the job market. I have asked myself whether being unemployed is equal with being a sloth? It cannot be that simple.

The break-out of the global financial crisis in early 2008 has affected many people´s lives around the world. Not every unemployed person is unemployed because of laziness. On the contrary – most unemployed people want to get back into work life, but how, when firms are constantly dismissing staff and not keen on investing at all. This is the situation in many countries right now, including Finland, where both private and public debt have increased, and where we now all suffer from the aftermath of over-consumption.

The markets have changed. For good. How useful is diligence in countries that are struggling with their economies? States that have outsourced the majority of production to low-wage countries in order to increase revenue (which, by the way, in the long run is probably becoming more costly for these countries´ economies).

Those who have even the slightest understanding of economics in general know how to read between the lines. They also comprehend that investors want a return for the risk they are taking when lending their surplus to diverse firms on divers markets worldwide.

The European Commission is running a strategic program named “Europe 2020 targets”. The main targets are as follows:

1. Employment

– 75% of the 20-64 year-old to be employed

2. R&D

– 3% of the EU’s GDP to be invested in R&D

3. Climate change and energy sustainability

– greenhouse gas emissions 20% (or even 30%, if the conditions are right) lower than 1990

– 20% of energy from renewable energy sources

– 20% increase in energy efficiency

4. Education

– Reducing the rates of early school-leaving below 10%

– At least 40% of 30-34–year-old completing third level education

5. Fighting poverty and social exclusion

– At least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion

Click here to access all the Europe 2020 indicators on the Eurostat website

Features of the targets

  • They give an overall view of where the EU should be on key parameters by 2020.
  • They are translated into national targets so that each Member State can check its own progress towards these goals.
  • They do not imply burden-sharing – they are common goals, to be pursued through a mix of national and EU action.
  • They are interrelated and mutually reinforcing:
    • educational improvements help employability and reduce poverty
    • more R&D/innovation in the economy, combined with more efficient resources, makes us more competitive and creates jobs
    • investing in cleaner technologies combats climate change while creating new business/job opportunities.

According to the European Commission, Finland has progressed both in terms of CSR and fiscal consolidation. Reforms in Finland include:

– Municipal structure

– Healthcare and social services

– Extension of youth guarantee

– Reduction of access to early retirement

– National competition authority

– Temporary tax incentives to support research and investments

Great strategic reforms on paper, but how well will these be executed?

Finland´s main policy challenges include the loss in competitiveness over the course of the past decade (from surplus to deficit). Since 2008 Finland lost 23 % of its share in world exports. Finland is certainly suffering from macroeconomic imbalances.

The main challenge right now, according to the EC, is the ability to attract new investments to the Finnish economy, in order to improve both employment and productivity, and to replace declined industries with new, lucrative options. Finland has an excellent research system which should be better taken advantage of in terms of innovation in both products and services (one good example of this is Finland´s rather new export success Supercell).

The ageing population is another challenge that Finland faces. This should be addressed, according to the EC, by improving labour market participation and by ensuring sustainability of pension and healthcare systems. Restructuring the municipal (healthcare) system is part of the plan.

The EC recommends Finland briefly to:

1. Ensure sustainable public finances

2. Increase productivity and save costs in public services

3. Increase labor market participation, in general

4. Extension of working lives and tackling both youth and long-term unemployment

5. Competition in product and service markets => decreasing regulatory barriers and improving free competition on the local market in Finland

6. Innovation and productivity in the private sector

See how Finland compares with other EU Member States in key areas 2013 European Semester Documents

(Source: European Commission. Europe 2020. Quoted on March 11th 2014).

Diligence is certainly needed not only in Finland, but in whole Europe, to successfully implement the strategy.