Since I wrote the blogpost “One of the 3 top EU jobs must be held by a woman” early October, I’ve been delighted to see that the idea of a woman at one of the top EU jobs has gained momentum, both in social media and mainstream media, both among women and men.
Get a Twibbon!
Just a week ago, after a few EU geek girls met in Brussels, linotherhino launched a clever campaign on Twitter to raise support for the nomination of a woman at one of the top EU jobs. The concept is simple and efficient, you add a pink “twibbon” -a Twitter ribbon- with the motto “Woman @ EU top” to your profile picture on Twitter (you can do it here). The initiative was a dazzling success: my twitter page turned all pink in just one day. And I was very pleased to see that many men adopted the pink twibbon as well, and so did a few MEPs. Join the Woman @ EU top campaign now!
The European Women’s Lobby said earlier this year that “it is hardly acceptable in the 21st century that all kinds of criteria are used for high-level nominations, including nationality, political affiliation, even country size, but never including gender!” This is exactly what is happening at the moment for the EU top jobs selection process. Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström -who has been at the lead of the campaign for a woman at one of the EU top jobs- recently said that the President of the European Council should be a woman. Commenting on the fact that most names mentioned for the job so far have been men, she said that “From a democratic point of view it reduces that 52.6 percent of women to a minority…and I don’t think this is acceptable in the European Union of 2009.” It is a good thing that some top EU women react to this injustice. However, as blogger Julien Frisch wisely told me on Twitter: “Women don’t need more women to support them, they need more men”, which is why I was happy to see Jerzy Buzek, the European Parliament President -holder of the fourth top EU job- say regarding the European Council President post: “I would prefer if we could find a chairwoman because we need gender equality”. European Voice reports: ”He said that after appointing someone from a central and east European country as head of one of the EU institutions, “we should make another step to have a woman as president of the Council”.”
Compared to the list of potential women candidates I compiled in my last blogpost, where do we stand? Angela Merkel was reelected German chancellor, so she’s obviously out. Mary Robinson managed to raise incredible support from online campaigners but she ruled herself out. The name of Tarja Halonen -President of Finland, Social-democrat- has gained more echo for the European Council President job, and so has Ursula Plassnik’s -former Austrian foreign minister, Christian-democrat- for the job of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Meanwhile, new female names have been mentioned. For the President job: Vaira Vike-Freiberga -former President of Latvia, independent- for whom a new Facebook group has just been created. It is difficult to put other names forward as this post is designed for a former head of state or government, and extremely few women have reached this level of responsibility in Europe. For the High Representative job, there are more female names on the line as the experience needed for the job is that of minister of foreign affairs or European affairs, which more women have held. Two new female names have popped up: Elisabeth Guigou -former French minister for European affairs, centre-left- and Dora Bakoyannis -former Greek minister of foreign affairs, centre-right.
As a socialist, my first instinct would obviously be to support Tarja Halonen and Elisabeth Guigou. But here is where it gets a little more complicated. Two-thirds of the heads of government sitting at the European Council are right-wing. So why the heck would the socialists want one of theirs as head of the European Council? In my opinion, that would be a political suicide for our family. This is why the European socialists are pushing to get the High Representative job. French socialist Elisabeth Guigou is a fantastic candidate for this job. However, she’d have to be nominated by the French, and considering the French government is currently right-wing, there is very little chance they would accept their only Commission member to be a socialist. So I believe that given the current state of the race, if a woman is to get one of the two top EU jobs left, it would be that of President of the European Council, and it would be Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Bets are on! Feel free, as usual, to comment and suggest other female names for these jobs.
Then come to the Personal Democracy Forum in Barcelona on November 20-21!
For six years, Personal Democracy Forum has been THE place in America where politicos and technologists gather to learn from each other, network, and glimpse the future. And now it’s coming to Europe!
Topics to be discussed include:
For more information and to register, click here!
On my way back from Barcelona, I stopped at the lovely coastal town of La Rochelle where the Parti socialiste summer university was held. The sun was shining, people were in a good mood, and optimism was in the air. Journalists felt it too as for once in a very long time they wrote positive articles on the PS. What has caused that sudden turnaround? Could they actually feel the activists’ enthusiasm? Have they been seduced by the reforms announced by PS leader Martine Aubry? Or is it simply that they have finally realised that their approach to the PS in the past years has been overly negative? The PS is by far not only about internal fights. The PS is not dead. The PS is an activist party. It is alive and kicking, lifted up by the dedication of its thousands of activists, who relentlessly and voluntarily give some of their free time to the pursuit of their ideals because they refuse fatality, and decided one day to take their destiny into their own hands. I am regularly dumbstruck when I notice the gap between the party’s life as I see it from inside, and the image that is given by the mainstream media. I feel betrayed and usurped. I am happy to see that finally there are signs of change in this regard.
This weekend at La Rochelle, the activists’ enthusiasm warmed up my heart. Among the reforms announced by Martine Aubry in her opening speech, especially two of them were greeted by thunderous applause, spiced up by bravos and hurrays: the first one was about putting an end to the very French habit of plurality of offices, and the second one was about following the American model and opting for open primaries for the presidential election in 2012. Besides these two groundbreaking reforms, Martine Aubry announced the upcoming launch of a social network dedicated to PS activists and sympathisers. This “socialist Facebook” will be called Coopol from “coopérative politique”, political cooperative in French. I am thrilled by these three announcements as they all go towards a greater openness of the Parti socialiste.
Openness to the diversity of society by putting an end to plurality of offices. In order to renew itself, the Parti socialiste needs to promote more women, young people, people of foreign origin, people from any social and economic backgrounds. Not only will it better reflect the diversity of French society, but it will also convey that diversity engenders creativity.
Openness to our sister parties on the left and to the participation of our sympathisers to the party’s life thanks to the presidential primaries. I am convinced that the left needs to unite. We are driven by the same values. What differs is our vision of what is needed to reach our common ideals. I believe that is something we can overcome. The primaries will also give our sympathisers the opportunity to play an important role in the campaign, thus certainly giving birth to new vocations.
Openness to new means of political activism thanks to Coopol. This new tool will allow activists who share common interests to gather and act together despite geographical distance. Opening up the tool to sympathisers will also show that our party is a common place for debate, as well as a laboratory for political innovation.
Openness is a left-wing concept, and so is participative democracy and transparency. It was high time we reasserted it.
As Al Green sings, “a change is gonna come”.
A week ago I published a post about Generation 2.0 that dealt with the cultural consequences of the digital revolution. Yesterday, I discovered on Twitter the term of Generation Y thanks to @boriswandoren. The statement “Generation Y” is used to qualify the generation roughly born since the end of the seventies, which is the first one to have massively integrated the use of digital technologies in their daily lives. Boris Wandoren, Jon Worth and I engaged in a Twitter debate about the necessity of Generation Y values to be represented more in politics, which led Jon Worth to write a blogpost disproving the generational argument, stating that the main issue in today’s politics is more the structural difficulty of political parties to integrate “risk takers, leaders, people with drive, people with ideology, and bind them into a party structure”. Julien Frisch picked up this post, partly agreeing with Jon while arguing at the same time that there is some truth in the generational issue.
I still believe it is a matter of generation. But don’t get me wrong, I do not mean it is simply a question of replacing elder politicians by younger ones. That would be too easy. To paraphrase Jon, “it’s more important than that”. The generation question is not only an age question; it is much more relevant as a cultural question. Many young people still think like older generations while some elder people embrace the cultural changes younger generations bring in. Take the example of the 1960s cultural protest movement. Back then, not all young people were culturally liberal hippies! Some were conservative. They were the same age though. Yet looking back in history, at that moment it’s the values of the young progressive hippies -joined by their open-minded elders- that won the cultural battle.
The relevance of the generation question is more culture than age-related. So what is the specific culture of Generation Y and how does it matter? According to the Wikipedia articles I could read on the topic in English and French, what characterises Generation Y -at least in Western countries- is the following:
This list is certainly not comprehensive, and more importantly not entirely relevant to all geographies, but it is still good food for thought. Although these Wikipedia articles give a good description of Generation Y’s culture, they do not relate it to political behaviours. And that’s where we get back to the point I wanted to make.
The emergence of this new culture will have a long-term impact on politics. My guess is that Obama’s election is the first visible sign of what the political legacy of Generation Y will be. I believe that the future of politics lies in Openness, Ethics and Humility:
There is a growing demand for a new way of doing politics. However, there is still not quite a satisfactory offer. Stay tuned: more posts coming up on Generation Y, the open society and what it means for politics.
Update on 11 July:
Boris Wandoren’s take on the topic: http://www.clermont-citygroup.eu/2009/07/11/is-it-more-important-than-the-generational-issue/comment-page-1/#comment-454
and the amazing article by Kevin Kelly on digital socialism: http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/17-06/nep_newsocialism?currentPage=all
I joined the Twitter community just a week ago. Although at first I was skeptical about this tool, the eye-opener blogposts on the political use of Twitter written by Jon Worth and Julien Frisch talked me into paying a little more attention to it. A couple of days later Bente Kalsnes’s post on political geeks in Europe convinced me Twitter was something to consider seriously. Now I am hooked. The other day I was juggling as usual between the windows of Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and my RSS reader, to name but a few, when suddenly it hit me: ten years ago, none of that was part of my life, and of anybody’s either as a matter of fact.
When I was a teenager in the nineties, just a little more than ten years ago, we had no mobile phones, and hardly any personal computers. In France, we were still using the Minitel. Mobile phones only started to widespread when I went to university. Our teachers still hardly dared to ask to hand in typed papers instead of hand-written ones. Just a few of us actually owned a computer. Ten years later, we are all emailing, browsing the web, sending text messages on our mobile phones, having hundreds of friends on Facebook, posting our ideas on blogs, and participating in lively twittering micro-discussions with people we’ve never met. All that happened within 10 years, and it has profoundly changed our relationship to the world, and especially our relationship with the political sphere.
We are witnessing the beginning of a whole new era. The digital revolution will probably be seen in the history of the public space as the most significant milestone since the invention of movable type printing by Gutenberg in the 15th century. Anyone can have access to any kind of information through a simple internet connection. Information has become a common good. It is not anymore a source of power only reserved for the educated. This is deeply changing the political equilibrium. Anyone can now influence the public debate rather easily, provided they are a little witty, and understand how to make a strategic use of web tools such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Information is not top-down anymore. Information comes from anywhere and from anyone. The public sphere is becoming more and more horizontal. This is having a huge impact on our democracies. For decades, political debates have been led by political parties, journalists, and intellectuals. Now anyone can voice their opinion on the web and get a lot of attention. There is no monopoly of the information anymore. We are just at the beginning of a new era. The tech people call it the digital society. The Commission officials call it the information society. I would call it the open society.
This evolution of society is causing a serious challenge to mainstream political parties. These organisations have heavy structures. The bigger they got, the most top-down they went in the way they operated internally. That doesn’t work anymore because thanks to the Internet revolution, the information is not the monopoly of the few. But mainstream political parties are so frozen in time in the way they operate that they have been having trouble integrating the Internet revolution. Of course, they all try and use the latest technologies, have fancy websites with all the coolest functionalities. However they haven’t managed to integrate the input these new functionalities bring in. They just don’t get it. It’s not a matter of integrating the new technologies. It’s a matter of understanding how much these technologies have created a whole new culture, a wide-open culture, based on the widespread availability of information and the possibility of all to feed the society with more.
This blogpost is just the beginning of a long series. I feel the topic of the open society is essential to understanding the changing political landscape we are witnessing. The success of the Greens in France, the election of the Pirate Party in Sweden, and all the talks on the free sharing of data on the Internet are just other indicators of that move towards a new type of society, which is leading to the necessity of thinking new ways of doing politics.
Photo 1: “Le” Minitel (groundbreaking French technology). Credits: Wikipedia Commons
Photo 2: Jump on the social media wagon. Credits: Matt Hamm on Flickr