My Hong Kongese Dream

From Denmark to Estonia

Month: January 2018

The backlash of #MeToo movement and how the EU can deal with it

By Iverson Ng & Julia Bergström

The movement of silence breakers has been going on in the past few months as more victims of sexual harassment are stepping up against the perpetrators who assaulted them in various ways in the name of working relationships. Yet, what has been called a backlash of the #MeToo movement came as a French actress along with some 100 signatories issuing an open letter to condemn the movement in defence of the freedom to offend.

French actress Catherine Deneuve. (Credit: The Telegraph)

When it comes to the EU institutions, there are existing regulations and mechanisms for the victims of sexual harassment working in Brussels. However, the legal instruments failed to protect the safety of female offers due to a range of reasons from their career prospects to the political party’s reputation. Here’s a short account on the existing legislations that EU staffs from potential sexual harassment in workplace, fundamental problems that lie beyond #MeToo movement and recommendations for the EU to ensure a gender-friendly environment for all staffs in Brussels.

Existing legislations

The EU’s staff regulations explicitly defines psychological and sexual harassments and states that such actions are unacceptable. In Article 12 (a), it defines “sexual harassment” as “conduct relating to sex which is unwanted by the person to whom it is directed and which has the purpose or effect of offending that person or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive or disturbing environment.” It is categorised as discrimination based on gender. Article 24 also mentioned that the EU will compensate for the victims who are suffered from such discrimination if the perpetrator who caused it cannot compensate on the loss of the victims. Earlier last year, the EU also signed the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, recognising sexual violation on women is a form of human rights violation.  

Fundamental problems

There are numerous cases of sexual harassment within the EU. In October, more than a dozen women accused politicians within the EU of groping, stalking and harassment. Cecilia Malmström, a Swedish commissioner with responsibility for human resources, pointed out the need to better address allegations of sexual abuse within the European parliament and commission after at least two staff members claimed they had been raped. Yet, most of the incidents are never reported. The reasons for the many unreported cases of sexual harassment in the EU are many. Some claim it mainly boils down to a loyalty towards the aggressors and the belief that reporting could end the victim’s career. The question of “if it really happened, why did they not just report it?” becomes naïve when looking at the mechanisms steering work relationships.

Proposed solutions   

Overviewing the current public sphere of discussions, it is sensible for the EU to take actions to follow up the fundamental issues that lie within the European institutions in Brussels: firstly, the proportion of representations in leading roles of the institutions must be increased to transform a patriarchy system into a system being free from gender bias; secondly, a mechanism is needed to report any secret trade-off between female assistants/ trainees in exchange for political interest so that the proposed mechanism can end the vicious cycle within the institutions; thirdly, additional trainings on gender equality must be made compulsory for all the staffs working in the EU.  


It is obvious that the EU has to take further steps to tackle the fundamental issues. Although it takes time to transform the current European institutions into a better system which everyone can work safe regardless of one’s gender , reported cases of sexual assaults must be followed up to protect the victims from predices. In a nutshell, a double-track approach must be taken to create a safer environment for all EU employees from an instrumental level to a civilizational level.  

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The Wrocław satire & Article 7

Town Hall Square, Wroclaw

As a student in Europe, it’s not surprising to spend your Christmas holiday out of the town where you are studying. In my case, I had a week-long visit to this former German city which left a post-World War II legacy with Gothic architectures. Given the ongoing standoff between the EU and Warsaw government, it’s worthwhile to see whether the Commission’s repeated warning on suspending Poland’s voting rights in the European Council has changed the public perceptions towards the European institutions.

The Polish satire

Being a student leader of the Message to Europeans 3.0 project implies that I have a moral duty to promote the positive sides of the EU, albeit the facade of Europe we’re facing right now; an unshakable belief towards the crumbling political project also shows that my desire to make changes overrides the self-protection mechanism to avoid taking risks. With a list of questions on how the Polish people see the EU in general, I met up with an Oxford-based Polish student who studies Politics, Philosophy and Economics. During the conversation I tried to bring up the domestic issues in Poland but she seemed to be indifferent about the latest saga between the Commission and Poland. She also gave me an impression that while she is studying about politics, the level of hopelessness she has in Polish politics in not less than any other average Polish youngsters who are not privileged enough to join the Oxbridge club in England. This led me to start thinking, if an elite student is losing hope in her country, then how about other ordinary citizens?

Leopoldine Hall, University of Wrocław

The biggest beneficiary of the EU

When I walked around the downtown of Wrocław, all I saw was nothing but the traces of the EU here and there. Throughout the week I joined several free walking tours about the old town’s history, World War II & Jewish Wrocław, and the islands and bridges in the city. As I listened to the narrative of the tour guide, I realised how much this city has benefited from the EU–Euro 2012 football tournament to the EU cohesion fund that improves the infrastructure around the city. The tour guide also indicated that there are several buildings are opening for free, thanks to the EU funding. In fact, Poland is the biggest net beneficiary of the EU funding which contributes to a percentage point to the GDP growth of this country.

An elusive ruling government backed by 43% Poles

Before visiting this city, my assumption was that people were generally sceptical about the EU because the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) has more than 40% support from the public. So I went to Literatka, a local cafe that is  believed to have intellectuals and artists meeting near the town hall square. I talked to two medical students and they are pro-EU in a way that they feel more European than Polish. The Erasmus programme and Schengen area encouraged them to study and travel within the EU, painting a different picture when we talked about the European institutions. I also met a Ukrainian migrant who speaks conversational Polish as she has been in Poland for 2 years. She didn’t feel excluded by the locals and it’s a good sign for an European ideal that embraces cultural diversity.

For now, the so-called “nuclear option” for triggering Article 7 in the name of sanctioning Poland against the violation of the rule of law doesn’t seem to be a decisive factor that changes the perception of Polish people towards the EU.

Literatka café