In the week that dino-thriller Jurassic World has broken box office records, Politico Europe published a story about a group of dinosaurs running riot in another institution, the European Union. In a front-page article, Politico discusses the exploits of “the most exclusive dining club in Brussels”. Dubbed “the G5”, the dining club consists of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Parliament President Martin Schulz and Manfred Weber and Gianni Pittella, leaders of the Christian-democratic and social-democratic blocks in Parliament respectively. Politico suggests that large chunks of EU policy are being mulled over during these dinners and that numerous deals have been struck somewhere between starters and dessert.
As the names Jean-Claude, Frans, Martin, Manfred and Gianni suggest, the G5 is an all-male affair. The G5 is also very white and, with an average age of 54, not the youngest. In short, the G5 seems to be the dictionary definition of an “old boys’ club”, grown out of the tree house and now scheming to consolidate power in what is one of the world’s most powerful institutions.
It is a question whether the G5 see themselves that way. Most individual members are vocal proponents of equal rights and Frans Timmermans was the highest ranking member on the official EU declaration on the occasion of International Women’s Day. According to Politco, the objective is to keep membership to the club restricted, but the main concern of the G5 seems to be shutting out the Liberals. The two Liberal candidates woho would like to join the G5 and make it a G7, by the way, are Andrus Ansip and Guy Verhofstadt. As you probably guessed: two white men, aged 54 and 62…
What does need to happen in order to make sure such elite clubs are more representative of our society as a whole? Do we need the political equivalent of a meteor impact to get rid of the dinosaurs? Or will a slow evolution be enough? It was refreshing to see the Green Party’s Ska Keller (female, 33) go head-to-head with Juncker, Schulz and Verhofstadt in the run-up to the European Elections in 2014. The fact that it felt refreshing shows that it is still an exception, and not the rule.
The election of Ska Keller as party leader was especially encouraging, since it took place through an online plebiscite, which always skews the result in favour of the views of the younger generations. This certainly gives hope for the future. However, membership of unofficial power brokers like the G5 will probably never take place through an online election and dinosaurs of a feather will continue to flock together in the near-future. It will not be until a large number of women and people from minority backgrounds establish themselves as leaders that their inclusion in clubs like the G5 becomes first necessary, then inevitable, and in the end natural. I’m looking forward to the day that all-white, all-men power hubs will go extinct.
Article by: Wouter IJzermans