Archive pour la catégorie ‘Human Rights’

Young businesswomen trained by tutoring

Mardi 15 novembre 2011

While women represent only 34.4% of self-employed in Europe, a new network of tutoring is being launched today to promote women entrepreneurship.

Female mentors to help woman entrepreneurs to get started

Brussels, 15 November 2011. A new European network of mentors to promote female entrepreneurship through the sharing of know-how and experience has been launched today by the European Commission. Women only account for 34.4% of the self-employed in Europe. To raise this share, successful businesswomen will assist women entrepreneurs who established a new enterprise two to four years ago. The mentors will give these new entrepreneurs concrete advice on how to run and grow their enterprises in this early, critical phase of the businesses as well as help them to develop the necessary soft skills and coach them. The network will cover 17 European countries; 170 mentors will participate in it.

Entrepreneurship fits well with women’s life choices in particular giving them flexibility regarding the reconciliation of private and professional life, specifically concerning the time and place of work. Further, due to the economic crisis, many women that became unemployed could use their skills and knowledge, start-up their own company and create their own job.

European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Enterprises, said: “It is clear that female creativity and entrepreneurial potential are the most underexploited source of economic growth and new jobs that should be further developed in Europe. In a time of crisis we cannot afford to forgo this potential. Having more women entrepreneurs will economically empower women and contribute to growth.”

Selection of mentors

Mentors will be selected among businesswomen (or businessmen) who have personal experience of owning and managing a SME successfully for at least five years and are aware of specific challenges that women entrepreneurs face and are ready and willing to share their knowledge and know-how with their mentorees on a volunteering basis (i.e., without remuneration), are available to meet them regularly for a minimum of one year and are willing to engage with at least two mentorees.

The mentors shall meet with their mentorees regularly and discuss with them current as well as strategic issues of the management of the mentorees’ companies, helping them to build / acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence/mindset. To avoid conflicts of interest, mentors are not allowed to take any economic interest in their mentorees’ companies.

The potential of women entrepreneurs in creating economic growth and new jobs:
In the USA the Women Presidents’ Organisations (WPOs) released the latest figures of the 50 fastest growing women-owned/led companies in North America. The Top 50 generated a combined $4.1 billion in 2010 revenues (mean of $82.7 million) and collectively employed 24,650 in 2010 (projected average for 2011 is 557 employees per company).
The UK government in its WES (The European network to promote women’s enterpreneurship) 2008 report mentions that women are the largest underrepresented group in terms of participation in enterprise. Only 15% of the 4.7 million UK enterprises are majority women-led and if women started businesses at the same rate as men there would be 150,000 extra start-ups each year in the UK. If the UK matched US levels of female entrepreneurship there would be 900,000 more businesses in the UK.
In Sweden in 2008 more than 131 000 companies were run by women having more than € 35 billion in total turn-over, employing around 358 000 people and paying their employees more than 6 billion Euros in salaries.
Women enterprise differently than men, therefore women-specific support measures are needed:

Firstly, women attach more importance to family circumstances when considering setting up a business (61% versus 49% in the case of men). They will think very carefully about probabilities of success and examine every potential source of failure in detail before they use the family house as collateral and/or family savings as capital to start-up their business.
Secondly, in most cases, when women decide to start up a new company, they keep their former jobs and carry out both activities in parallel for some time: in this respect, one can say that women are more cautious than men and their awareness of risk of failure is more developed.
Thirdly, women take over existing businesses after a longer testing period than men, once they are familiar with the companies’ activities (because of heritage, separation or divorce from a business partner, etc.).
The fourth particularity is financing: women’s start-ups use less capital than men’s and have less equity.
Finally, women entrepreneurs have compared to men a lower but steadier growth. This often means less risk for failure.
The European Network of Mentors for Women Entrepreneurs is one of the actions proposed in the 2011 Review of the Small Business Act for Europe. It will cover 17 countries (Albania, Belgium, Cyprus, FYROM, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom).

Extension of the food distribution programme for the most deprived

Mardi 15 novembre 2011

A temporary compromise was reached today for the pursuit of food distribution programme for the most deprived.

On Monday, at the Council for Agriculture and Fisheries, presided over by Minister Marek Sawicki, the Polish Presidency achieved a compromise on extending the food distribution programme for the most deprived. The support of a qualified majority has been guaranteed for the programme’s temporary functioning in 2012 and 2013 in accordance with the agreed terms. The agreed draft compromise will be submitted to the next EU Council for formal approval.

Since the European Commission first presented draft changes to the programme in 2010, the proposal has on three occasions been the subject of discussion in the Council forum. Each time it was opposed by a ‘blocking minority’. Thanks to the efforts of the Polish Presidency, the proposed compromise solution should ensure the system’s practical functioning for another two years.

Some 18 million people in the European Union benefit from the programme, including four million in Poland. Next year €480 million will be designated for this purpose.

Opening of the new European Parliament plenary session

Mardi 15 novembre 2011

Floods, cooperation and economic governance are scheduled for the plenary session of the European Parliament.

Parliament to debate Commission strategic priorities for 2012
MEPs will discuss the Commission’s work programme for next year with its President José Manuel Barroso on Tuesday. The current legislative term (2009-14) is the first in which MEPs had a say on the programme before the Commission approves it, due to changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty.

Parliament keeps up the pressure on economic governance
MEPs are likely to put pressure on Messrs Van Rompuy and Barroso to take a tougher line on accountability and transparency, and develop a policy approach that is not essentially based on the decisions of just a couple of Member States.

Cutting down sovereign debt speculation and certain short selling practices
Profiteering from a country’s fiscal troubles will be made much harder by legislation on short selling and credit default swaps (CDS), to be voted on Tuesday. This legislation, a response to the financial crisis, was heavily influenced by Parliament, in particular to ban buying CDS where the buyer does not already own the country’s underlying bonds.

Future of cohesion and farm policies
On Tuesday, MEPs will quiz Commissioners Hahn and Cioloş on how to make EU cohesion and farm policy simpler, more competitive and growth and jobs oriented after 2014.Parliament is determined to use its full prerogatives as co-legislator to shape the future design of both policies.

MEPs to call for strong EU position at UN climate summit
The EU should fight to continue the Kyoto Protocol and keep CO2 emissions in check beyond 2012, says a draft resolution to be voted on Wednesday, two weeks before the UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa. Moving beyond the current 20% emissions reduction target for 2020 would stimulate the EU economy, it adds.

LUX Cinema Prize to be awarded on Wednesday
President Jerzy Buzek will announce the winner of the LUX Cinema Prize for 2011, in a plenary chamber ceremony at midday on Wednesday.

Making it easier for doctors to work abroad in the EU
To make it easier for doctors, engineers, dentists and other professionals to work in abroad within the EU, host Member States need to recognise their qualifications faster, but without compromising the reliability or safety of their work for citizens, says a resolution to be voted on Tuesday.

Call to act to halt bee deaths
The EU should step up investment in research on new medicines to prevent bee deaths and coordinate its efforts to protect what is fast becoming an endangered species, says a resolution to be voted on Tuesday.

European heritage label from 2013
Symbolic sites for Europe’s history or integration will be eligible for a voluntary European heritage label from 2013 under plans to be voted by Parliament on Wednesday. The label would be granted, for example, to monuments, natural or industrial sites, or places of remembrance.

EP set to tighten up EU railway market rules
Parliament votes Wednesday on plans to tighten up EU railway market rules in order to establish a truly open and competitive single European railway area, offering more and better rail services for freight customers and passengers.

Online gambling: MEPs to call for EU-wide coordination to fight the black market and protect children
EU Member States should be free to make their own rules on online gambling, but should also co-ordinate them, so as to combat illegal cross-border gambling, protect children, and prevent vulnerable adults from getting addicted, says a resolution to be voted on Tuesday.

Other items on the agenda:
- Court of Auditors’ annual report on EU spending in 2010
- MEPs to allow temporary duty-free imports of industrial goods to the Canary Islands
- Aid worth €42.3 million to redundant workers in Ireland, Austria and Greece
- EU-US summit debate
- MEPs set to vote €40 million for integrated maritime policy
- Roma discrimination
- MEPs to call for international action to combat illegal fishing
- Helping small cinemas survive the digital switch
- Keeping the internet open and neutral
- Human rights and democracy resolutions

The EU emphasizes the Arab spring through the Sakharov Prize 2011

Vendredi 4 novembre 2011

The winner of the Sakharov Prize is now known.

EP President Jerzy Buzek announced 27 October that five Arab Spring activists will be awarded the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for their contribution to historic changes in the Arab world and as a “symbol for all those working for dignity, democracy and fundamental rights in the Arab world and beyond”. The prize will be awarded on 14 December during a formal sitting in Strasbourg.

Read on to find out more about the eventual winners and the nominees for this year’s award.

Nominees were chosen by political groups and a short list of three were chosen by the Foreign Affairs, Development and Human Rights Committees. The winner was chosen by the political group leaders.

Last year’s winner Guillermo Fariñas was prevented by Cuban authorities from attending the award ceremony in Strasbourg.

The prize is named after Soviet scientist Andrei Sakharov, who was internally exiled in the Soviet Union for his opposition to the USSR’s nuclear programme and repressive policies. He became a member of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reformed Soviet Parliament in spring 1989 and founded Memorial, a human rights organisation that keeps his fight alive even after his death in 1989.

The key themes of the last plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Lundi 31 octobre 2011

MEPs met four days last week to discuss and vote on such matters as the financial crisis, the 2012 budget, health and mobility of workers from Romania and Bulgaria into the EU.

On 25 October, the EP called for stricter rules to prevent mafia-style organisations from gaining access to public funds. MEPs urged the Commission to draw up rules to prevent companies linked to organised crime from getting government contracts. They also proposed setting up a special committee “within three months” to investigate the misuse of public funds by criminal organisations and their infiltration into the public sector.

Also on Tuesday, the EP voted on a resolution highlighting the need for a reform of global economic governance to help rebalance the world economy and avoid another slump. MEPs call for a more democratic IMF, an end to banking secrecy, separation of speculative and retail banking, a single EU seat at the IMF and World Bank, and a halt to political exchange rate manipulation.

MEPs discussed the euro-zone summit, on Tuesday and again on Thursday, when they welcomed the decisions taken by leaders to resolve the crisis but also expressed doubts that the proposed measures are far-reaching enough.

Parliament called on all EU countries to allow Bulgarian and Romanian workers full access to their labour markets before the end of the year.

The EU’s 2012 budget was centre stage Wednesday as MEPs agreed on key priorities for funding ahead of negotiations with finance ministers, set to begin in November.

MEPs also came up with proposals for a new skills and jobs agenda, which focuses on how the EU could reach its 75% employment target by 2020.

The problem of antibiotic resistance and the growing danger to humans and animals (it causes around 25,000 deaths in the EU each year and results in €1.5 billion in healthcare costs) led MEPs to call on the EU to promote a more prudent use of antibiotics.

People who are at risk of serious harm if they return to their home country, but who don’t qualify as refugees should get similar rights to refugees as regards work, education, health care and accommodation, according to asylum rules proposals approved on Thursday.

MEPs approved a report about tackling sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography that calls for more investigations and charges to be brought, as well as the removal of child pornography from servers across the EU.

In a resolution Thursday, MEPs condemned the 7-year jail sentence given to Ukraine’s opposition leader. It said that a failure to review Yulia Tymoshenko’s conviction will jeopardise the conclusion of the Association Agreement and its ratification, while pushing the country further away from the realisation of its European perspective.

The Arabs Spring was honoured at the European Parliament on the 14th December

Vendredi 28 octobre 2011

Five militants of the Arab Spring received the 2011 Sakharov Prize. They will be given the award by the President of Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, 14 December in Strasbourg.

Parliament’s 2011 Sakharov Prize goes to Asmaa Mahfouz (Egypt), Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi (Libya), Razan Zaitouneh (Syria), Ali Farzat (Syria) and posthumously to Mohamed Bouazizi (Tunisia). This nomination was submitted jointly by the EPP, S&D, ALDE and Green groups.

Following the decision by the Conference of Presidents (Parliament President and political group leaders) Thursday morning, President Buzek underlined that these individuals contributed to historic changes in the Arab world and this award reaffirms Parliament’s solidarity and firm support for their struggle for freedom, democracy and the end of authoritarian regimes. He added, their award was a symbol for all those working for dignity, democracy and fundamental rights in the Arab world and beyond.

Asmaa Mahfouz

Ms Mahfouz joined the Egyptian April 6th Youth Movement in 2008, helping to organise strikes for fundamental rights. Sustained harassment of journalists and activists by the Mubarak regime as well as the Tunisian example prompted Ms Mahfouz to organise her own protests. Her Youtube videos, Facebook and Twitter posts helped motivate Egyptians to demand their rights in the Tahrir Square. After being detained by the Supreme Council of Armed forces, she was released on bail due to pressure from prominent activists.

Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanusi

Mr Ahmed al-Sanusi, also known as the longest-serving “prisoner of conscience”, spent 31 years in Libyan prisons as a result of an attempted coup against Colonel Gaddafi. A member of the National Transitional Council, he is now working to “achieve freedom and race to catch up with humanity” and establish democratic values in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Razan Zaitouneh

Ms Zaitouneh, a human rights lawyer, created the Syrian Human Rights Information Link blog (SHRIL) which reports on current atrocities in Syria. She publicly revealed murders and human rights abuses committed by the Syrian army and police. Her posts have become an important source of information for international media. She is now hiding from the authorities who accuse her of being a foreign agent and have arrested her husband and younger brother.

Ali Farzat

Mr Farzat, a political satirist, is a well-known critic of the Syrian regime and its leader President Bashar al-Assad. Mr Farzat became more straightforward in his cartoons when the March 2011 uprisings began. His caricatures ridiculing Bashar al-Assad’s rule helped to inspire revolt in Syria. In August 2011, the Syrian security forces beat him badly, breaking both his hands as “a warning”, and confiscated his drawings.

Mohamed Bouazizi

Mr Bouazizi, a Tunisian market trader set himself on fire in protest at incessant humiliation and badgering by the Tunisian authorities. Public sympathy and anger inspired by this gesture led to the ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Mr Bouazizi’s self-immolation also sparked uprisings and vital changes in other Arab countries such as Egypt and Libya, collectively known as the “Arab Spring”.

Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought

The Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to individuals or organizations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. The prize is accompanied by an award of €50,000.

This year, the other two shortlisted finalists were Belarusian civil activist and journalist Dzmitry Bandarenka and the Columbian San José de Apartadó Peace Community.

MEPs cast watchful eye over Tunisia’s road to democracy

Jeudi 20 octobre 2011

Sunday, Tunisian voters are called to turn the page after the Arab Spring. At the request of Tunisia, MEPs will be responsible for ensuring the proper conduct of the election.

Just nine months after toppling President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia will take its first steps towards democracy when it holds elections Sunday for a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. The EP is sending 15 MEPs to help assess the process.

The MEPs are part of an EU Election Observation Mission that will make sure the election is conducted in line with Tunisia’s commitments to international standards.

“We hope that these elections will set an important precedent in the region,” becoming a model for other countries that have also had revolutions (Egypt, Libya) and those that are still fighting (Syria, Yemen, Bahrain), delegation head Gabriele Albertini said.

An interim government was formed after Ben Ali fled, but the political and economic situation remain unstable. Tunisians will vote for a constituent assembly to replace the interim government and draft a new constitution.

Impetus for democracy

After 23 years of dictatorship, Tunisia lacks a political culture. However, around 100 political parties have been registered and about 10,000 candidates will run in the elections, almost half of them independent. But there are concerns: about voter turnout - in a recent poll 26% of respondents said they didn’t plan to vote - and about the weight of the Islamic party.

The three main political forces are expected to be: the Islamist al-Nahda Party, the left leaning Progressive Democratic Party and the centre-right Democratic Forum of Labour and Liberties.

Getting a fragile economy back on track

The revolution has caused a downturn in Tunisia’s economy, partly due to the 45% decline in tourism. Growth fell to 1.3% from 3.7% before the Jasmine revolution, while employment stands at 14%, including 150,000 highly-skilled young people, according to the Interior Minister. Another problem the new government must tackle is the huge disparities between the north and the much poorer south of the country.

The elections are seen as an opportunity to stabilise the country, reassure foreign investors and tourists and restart the economy.

EU supporting democratic elections

In total, the EU is sending 130 people to observe and assist with the elections. MEP Michael Gahler, will lead the EU Election Observation Mission, which includes the EP Election Observation Mission. Gahler’s team will remain in Tunisia until 13 November, having arrived on 8 September.

The aim of the EP’s mission is “to bring our experience as elected parliamentarians to bear in observing how the process is conducted,” Mr Albertini said.

EU officials will give their preliminary observations on Tuesday 25 October at a press conference in Tunis at 1200 CET.

The EU is mobilizing to defeat hunger in Africa

Jeudi 20 octobre 2011

European aid towards the Horn of Africa intensifies, while the famine lasted for three long months now. The total is 24 million euro from the European Commission.

The extra funding is on top of the €160 million provided by the Commission so far. It is announced three months since famine was declared by the United Nations in parts of Somalia and will provide food, water and treatment for malnourished children, as well as increasing protection and security for refugees and humanitarian aid workers at Dadaab camp in north-east Kenya.

Dadaab, which lies close to the Somali border, is the world’s largest refugee camp with a population expected to reach half a million within the next months.

More than 13 million people are currently threatened by the effects of drought in the Horn of Africa and the Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva today renews her appeal for the world to continue to show solidarity and generosity towards this vulnerable population.


The European Union is the largest humanitarian donor for the Horn of Africa, providing over €700 million in assistance since the beginning of the year, of which €184 million comes from the European Commission.

In Somalia, the European Commission is supporting urgent life saving operations with €62 million of funding. The focus is on food aid and urgent medical assistance. European Commission humanitarian assistance in Kenya (€43.8m), Ethiopia (€46m) and Djibouti (€2.6m) covers Somali refugees, as well as the most vulnerable local populations in drought-affected areas.

In Ethiopia five refugee camps host 130,000 Somalis and the influx of refugees into Djibouti also continues.

In Dadaab, the European Commission is already financing protection and security measures with €2.6 million from the humanitarian aid budget and will double this amount. Areas of spending include shelter for new arrivals and safe transport for Somali refugees from the border to the camps and for their registration upon arrival. The Commission has also contributed €4 million to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR for protection activities in Dadaab as part of its development policy and in the framework of a special Regional Protection Programme.

The Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) is present on the ground with a regional support office in Kenya. In Ethiopia, ECHO has a field office. The ECHO experts liaise with aid organisations and monitor relief projects.

Since 2006 the Commission has given €70 million to disaster risk reduction programmes in the Horn of Africa. These programmes aim at building the resilience of local communities by helping them prepare for the impacts of recurrent drought with minimal losses. In Moyale, northern Kenya, where the Commission and its partners began mobile outreach services early enough to identify and treat children with signs of moderate malnutrition, the rates of malnutrition are low compared to neighbouring districts.

Election Observation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mercredi 19 octobre 2011

On November 28th 2011, presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this context, the EU will conduct an election observation mission (EU EOM) on the spot.

The EU EOM, composed of 147 observers, will assess pre-election preparations and campaign in all provinces of the DRC, as well as voting, counting, tabulation processes and complaint procedures.

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, said that the second general elections following the entry into force of the Constitution in 2006 are crucial for consolidating the stabilization process in the DRC and in the region, because they represent an opportunity for all the stakeholders to promote their vision regarding the future of the DRC in a peaceful and constructive way and to the Congolese people to exert their fundamental rights to make a choice regarding the conduct of public affairs for the coming years. She assed that this is an opportunity for the Congolese authorities in charge of elections preparations to strengthen the democratic political system through the organization of an inclusive, credible, transparent and peaceful electoral process.

Ashton believes that the country deserves our support in this effort. Therefore, in addition to the EU contribution to the funding of elections and strengthening their security, she decided to deploy an EU EOM led by the Member of the European Parliament, Mariya Nedelcheva.

Initial core team of EU EOM arrived in the country on 8 October. This team is now being joined by long term observers. In addition, short-term observers will be deployed to the DRC about one week before the election. The mission will also be reinforced by an election observation delegation of Members of the European Parliament for the election period.

The EU EOM will present its initial conclusions in Kinshasa a few days after the close of polls. The mission will remain in the DRC to prepare a comprehensive report, including recommendations for improvement to the future electoral process.

The EU is one of the DRC’s most important development cooperation partners and is providing funds to assist the country in implementing its development and socio-economic reform agenda. The EU supports the organization of DRC elections with a €47.5 million contribution and the enhancing of the security of elections with further €2 million. Furthermore, the EU supports elections related civil society activities, notably domestic observation, civic and electoral education, mediation, participation of women, strengthening local media and the role of civil society in rural areas.

The EU electoral observation missions will play a crucial role in the Arab countries

Mercredi 5 octobre 2011

Jimmy Carter, the former President of the USA, welcomed the results of the EU in monitoring the proper conduct of elections while Tunisia is preparing to elect its constituent assembly to be held October 23.

The article is only available in French.