The European Union said Friday that proposed EU sex discrimination laws won't ban the "page-three girls" from The Sun of London or their scantily clad counterparts on the front page of Bild, Germany's biggest circulation daily.
"To talk about banning certain aspects of certain publications is not possible," explained EU spokeswoman Antonia Mochan. "The European Union does not have the legal tools to intervene."
The measured words from EU head office contrast with a media uproar this week after reports of a clampdown on gender stereotyping filtered out of Brussels.
"I'm supposed to be gotten rid of," proclaimed Bild, pointing to a topless blonde, wearing a tiara and a rhinestone G-string, who appeared Thursday on the newspaper's front page.
"The EU wants to outlaw the beautiful girls from the front page," bemoaned the German daily.
The paper, which sells 4.4 million daily copies, intensified it's campaign Friday. "Does Brussels lie on the Persian Gulf?" it asked. "We will fight down to the last shirt for our front page girls."
Across the English channel, The Sun, circulation 3.5 million, warned, "Saucy bra adverts face ban under the latest nonsense from Brussels."
The tabloid tantrums were provoked by leaks of an internal document from within the EU's employment and social affairs department looking at how Europe's already strict laws on sexual discrimination in the workplace could be extended to other areas.
One suggestion would ban advertising and other media images that offend "human dignity" or promote gender stereotypes.
The document is a long way from becoming law. EU officials said it was only meant to promote discussion, and legal experts said the bloc has no powers to ban such material.
EU officials expressed irritation that the furor over raunchy pictures had overshadowed proposals to tackle sexual discrimination in areas such as taxation, insurance or pensions.
Even if the proposals were adopted by the Union's head office, the European Commission, they would still need approval from governments of the 15-nation bloc and the European Parliament.
"One thing is certain: the present consultation paper does not, alas, mean that the end is nigh for sex discrimination," EU Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou, wrote Thursday in London's Financial Times.