Eight EU Member States joined the UK in contesting EU plans for quotas for women on company boards. According to a report in today’s Financial Times, nine countries have written to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and his deputy Viviane Reding calling on the Commission to abandon proposals for a compulsory 40% quota for women on the boards of publicly-traded companies.

Barroso, who last week called for the EU to become a federation of states, and Reding, who holds the justice and fundamental rights portfolios, have been pushing for quotas since only 24 companies have signed up to the European Commission’s “Woman on the Board Pledge”.

London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis, who is Conservative spokesman on women’s rights in the European Parliament, welcomed multilateral efforts to block the quota proposals.

She said: “Nine countries have written to the Commission calling on them to ditch their arbitrary plans for compulsory quotas. This shows that Member States are tired of Brussels interfering in employment law and trussing up their businesses in red tape making them less competitive.

“There are too few women on company boards, but it is up to Member States to decide how they address this problem. In the UK, the voluntary approach is working: the Davies report’s goal of 25% female directors by 2015 is likely to be exceeded, with the UK achieving 30% of women on boards in 4 years.

“I shall be working to block the legislation with MEPs from the nine countries that signed the letter as well as Germany and Sweden which are also opposed to the plans. However, it would save a lot of time and money if the Commission were to drop its proposals now and I hope that Barroso will listen to the Member States on this issue.”