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Women in the digital era: Unleashing the potential of female talent for a stronger Europe

Technology correspondent

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Huawei is celebrating International Women’s Day today (8 March) by holding a debate on gender equality, diversity and inclusion in the digital technology sector and society as a whole. 

The debate, 'Women in the Digital Era: Unleashing the Potential of Female Talent for a Stronger Europe', involved MEPs, representatives from European agencies and industry associations, and Huawei executives, and focused on how to get more women into leadership roles in the digital and wider economy.

“It is a fantastic way to celebrate International Women’s Day. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it, so congratulations to Huawei for the initiative,” said keynote speaker Maria da Graça Carvalho MEP, the European Parliament’s Rapporteur for the flagship report on Closing the Digital Gender Gap.

Huawei’s Senior EU Public Affairs Manager Berta Herrero moderated the conference’s two panels, 'Women’s Participation in Europe’s Recovery' and 'Women in Cybersecurity'. 

“We are proud to organize these conferences. We are happy to invest our resources in fostering the debate in the cybersecurity and technological fields with respect to equality, diversity and inclusion. Our end goal is to inspire the next generation of women to shape the world of tomorrow, and to build the appropriate foundations for them to be able to do it,” she said.


Watch the full debate

Visit the event website



WHAT THEY SAID DURING THE DEBATE:

Maria da Graça Carvalho, MEP: “We need to make sure that we remove the obstacles for women’s participation in the digital economy. We cannot afford digital to become a new way of discrimination, so we need to act. In Europe, only 18% of the professionals who work in ICT are women. 17% of students in ICT-related subjects are girls. Less than 3% of girls between 6 and 10 years-old want to work in ICT when they grow up. The importance of role models is crucial, that women identify with other women who are successful in careers in ICT.”

Agnieszka Stasiakowska,Senior Business Acceleration Manager, European Commission’s Executive Agency for SMEs: “We need more women in governing boards of companies, we need more women in science, in academia. We need to invest in skills enhancement, in leadership enhancement, in showing those model roles to women, sharing personal stories.”

Branwen Miles, Policy Advisor, COPA/COGECA (the European association of farmers and agri-cooperatives): “Digital tools have the ability to revolutionize the agricultural sector to help and assist farmers in becoming more sustainable, more efficient. This can also be an avenue of economic empowerment for women. Because there’s still this untapped potential that women farmers have which we need to support, to advocate and give them the opportunity to reach this potential.”

Sophie Batas, Huawei’s Director for Cyber Security and Data Privacy in Europe: “Cybersecurity is a very multi-disciplinary sector. It requires various types of profiles and very specific skills, for instance: caring for people, being able to communicate in a precise way swiftly, negotiation skills, a broad understanding of the situation, ability to react quickly, and I think all those skills are naturally embedded in the DNA of women. That’s why we have a growing number of women in cybersecurity. I’m also experiencing it in Huawei and it’s a pleasure to work hand in hand with other women and with men.”  

Nina Hasratyan, Policy Manager, European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO); Operational Coordinator, Women4Cyber Foundation: “We hope that women role models in cybersecurity will inspire the young generations and show them the pool of possibilities. Only 11% of the cybersecurity workforce in the world are women; it’s only 7% in Europe, very disappointing results here. We need to step up a lot. That’s exactly the reason we created Women4Cyber to actually have concrete activities and actions and show concrete results..”

Iva Tasheva, Co-Founder and Cybersecurity Management Lead, CyEn: “If we want society to be inclusive, we also have to have diversity in the design of technological solutions, to take into consideration the interests, shortcomings and issues of the different groups there are. It would work for me as a woman, it would work for everyone eventually, whether it’s language, interests or background that differentiates us.”

Berta Herrero, Senior EU Public Affairs Manager, Huawei: “For the Europe of tomorrow to be a Union of Equals, we need to start building true and full equality at all levels, in all fields, and across all countries and regions.”
“We rise up by lifting others. Change can only happen if society as a whole believes in it. So both men and women need to be part of this fight for equality, for inclusion and for diversity in the digital sphere and beyond.”

AND MEN… ON HOW MEN… CAN BEST SUPPORT THE FIGHT FOR EQUALITY IN THE DIGITAL ERA 

Ibán García del Blanco MEP: “It’s a question of attitude. I think men have to become feminists as well, because feminism is not only a question of feelings (or) justice, but even a question of efficiency from the economic perspective.”

Philip Herd, Huawei EU Communications Director: 
“It’s a supporting role (that men can play) in many ways, and it may be simple things such as making the workplace more inclusive, less threatening or making the work-life balance better, because it’s a fact that burden of child care, balancing of career and home, generally falls on women more than on men.”

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The billion-dollar disaster - China's influence in Montenegro

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Montenegro is building its first-ever motorway. Due to a huge loan scandal, it’s now become the country’s highway to hell. 40 bridges and 90 tunnels are expected to be built and financed by the Chinese. However, the project has been hit by corruption allegations, construction delays and environmental tragedies. Today, out of the planned 170 kilometres, just 40 have been completed, writes Juris Paiders.

The motorway is one of the most expensive in the world. It's financed by a loan from China loan. Paying back this money is creating problems. The story starts with Montenegro's former Prime Minister and current President, Milo Dukanović. He conceived the motorway to boost trade in the small Balkan country.

However, lacking funds to start construction, he accepted a billion-dollar loan from China in 2014. Other investors didn't want to get involved. Prior to this, French and American feasibility studies highlighted the risks of such an oversized project. The European Investment Bank and the IMF also announced that it was a bad idea.

Now, with the pandemic crushing Montenegro’s tourism-dependent economy, the country is struggling to find a way to finance the missing stretches of road.

The motorway should link Bar Harbor in the south to the border with Serbia in the north. The first section was scheduled to be finished in 2020, but it still isn't.

Politicians promised that the motorway contraction will boost employment in Montenegro. However, the Chinese contractor brought in its own workers, with no contracts or social security contributions.

An NGO backed by the EU is investigating corruption allegations involving subcontractors. Out of the huge loan from China, 400 million Euros were given to subcontractors, which some of them are linked with President.

In Montenegro people are hoping that there will be justice and someone should pay for this ambitious constructions plan. However, some fear that China has its eyes on Bar's deep-water harbor. When signing the billion-dollar-loan with China, Montenegro agreed to some strange terms, like giving up sovereignty of certain parts of the land in the case of financial problems. Arbitration in this scenario would take place in China using Chinese laws.

A long-term harbor concession would fit nicely into China’s “Belt-and-Road-Initiative”, a global infrastructure project to access markets. Harbor authorities in Bar are already hoping for an economic upturn and have plans for two new terminals.

The Chinese-managed motorway isn’t just mired in cronyism allegations; it’s also accused of damaging the protected Tara river valley. The ecology group 'Green Home', after several monitoring of Tara River, has concluded that impact of incompetent construction on river is disastrous. Sediment from the construction site is trickling into the water, preventing the fish from spawning.

Chinese managers have been accused of ignoring basic EU standards and Montenegro is criticized for failing to supervise construction correctly. Rubble has changed the Tara riverbed, perhaps irreparably.

Environmental experts proposed alternative layouts of the motorway that would have avoided the Tara valley, but they were ignored.

The river Tara is UNESCO protected and it should be forbidden to gravel the soil and sand, but this is happening there because of the construction work.

All over the Western Balkans, Chinese investment has slowed down EU compatible reforms. China’s silk road ambitions are not always in line with EU standards of good governance, environmental protection, rule of law and transparency. Their influence is creating a wedge between the EU and the Balkan states.

The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinion on the part of EU Reporter.

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EU-China investment deal stalls

Catherine Feore

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European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis confirms that progress on the investment deal with China has stalled following March sanctions.

The EU concluded what Dombrovskis describes as an “asymmetric deal” with China at the end of last year. Known as the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), it was presented on 30 December. 

Today (5 May) he said: ”There are substantially more new commitments from China as regards market access, with regards to the level playing field and this is something that European companies have been asking us for for many years. So as regards the agreement itself, that technical work is ongoing to prepare the ground for ratification.”

At the time of the agreement Dombrovskis said: “This deal will give European businesses a major boost in one of the world's biggest and fastest-growing markets, helping them to operate and compete in China. It also anchors our values-based trade agenda with one of our largest trading partners. We have secured binding commitments on the environment, climate change and combatting forced labour. We will engage closely with China to ensure that all commitments are honoured fully.”

Wider political context

When asked about whether the deal had been suspended, Dombrovskis said that the position of the European Commission has not changed. He said that the “ratification process of comprehensive agreement on investment cannot be separated from the wider political context. I will repeat that the ratification process cannot be separated from evolving dynamics of the wider EU-China relationship. And in this context, Chinese sanctions targeting among others members of European Parliament and even an entire parliamentary subcommittee are unacceptable and regrettable, and prospects and next steps concerning ratification on comprehensive agreement of investment will depend on how the situation evolves.”

The Commission faced much criticism when the agreement was reached, by appearing to move ahead of the United States, before the new administration had taken office. It was felt by some that the EU should wait to see if there was the possibility of finding common cause with the new Biden team. 

There were also accusations that the EU was ignoring China’s human rights record, particularly in relation to the treatment of the Uyghur muslim population in Xianjang province and the crackdown on the democracy protesters and the introduction of the national security law in Hong Kong.

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G7 to discuss decisive action to counter threats like Russia and China

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Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meets with Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Kent, Britain May 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson/Pool
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaks at a news conference following a bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in London, Britain May 3, 2021 during the G7 foreign ministers meeting. Chris J Ratcliffe/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a news conference with India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar following a bilateral meeting in London, Britain May 3, 2021 during the G7 foreign ministers meeting. Ben Stansall/Pool via REUTERS

Britain on Tuesday (4 May) sought to agree decisive action from G7 partners to protect democracies against global threats like those posed by China and Russia.

Hosting the second day of a foreign ministers' meeting in London designed to lay the groundwork for a leaders' summit in June, Dominic Raab (pictured) will lead talks among the Group of Seven wealthy nations on threats to democracy, freedoms and human rights.

"The UK’s presidency of the G7 is an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats," Raab said in a statement.

In addition to the G7 members Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, Britain has also invited ministers from Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea this week.

Their first face-to-face meeting in two years is seen by Britain as a chance to reinforce support for the rules-based international system at a time when it says China's economic influence and Russian malign activity threaten to undermine it.

On Monday (3 May), having met with Raab, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was a need to try to forge a global alliance of freedom loving countries, though stressed he did not want to hold China down, but make sure it played by the rules. Read more

Tuesday's discussion also covered the coup in Myanmar, urging stronger action against the military junta in the form of expanded sanctions, support for arms embargoes and more humanitarian assistance.

In the afternoon talks will turn to Russia, including how to respond to a troop manoeuvres on the border with Ukraine and the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Raab said on Sunday he wanted the G7 to consider a joint rebuttal unit to tackle Russian disinformation and propaganda. Read more

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