It's official! EU expert groups are impartial

12 March 2009

It's official! EU expert groups are impartial

When it comes to the development of new EU policies, expert groups are important sources of information. But who takes part in these groups, and whose interests are they serving? Members of expert groups are specialists who may be on the payroll of a commercial corporation. By being invited to take part, the employee in question not only gains prestige and information, but his or her work is also of great importance to the employer, with the person in question becoming both an eavesdropper and an ambassador for the company. In an EU expert group, information may be gathered which is of great value to the company, and contacts made which are also of importance to the firm. For this reason, making it possible for one of your employees to participate in an EU expert group will provide you with strategic inside information regarding forthcoming developments in EU policy and the dangers or opportunities which these may present.


How is their work organised? Firms second specialists to the EU, sometimes for hundreds of hours, so that they can participate in meetings of one of more than 1,200 expert groups. These give advice on new policy developments. Sometimes the names of the members of these expert groups can be discovered, but often this is not possible. Brussels promises a great deal, but is extremely slow in providing information. There are, after all, major interests at stake. The more the public know, the more they are able to exercise their rights. Even answers to questions from Members of the European Parliament are sometimes answered in ways which show that the questions have not been taken seriously.

He who pays the piper...

Erik Meijer, Member of the European Parliament for the SP, recently put a number of critical questions to the European Commission on the subject of the independence of members of such expert groups. 'He who pays the piper calls the tune' is the usual practise in the business world, but not, it seems, for Commission President José Barroso, who stated plainly in his answer to a question on the burning of coal that "These experts act in a personal capacity and independently, without promoting commercial interests. It is this group's task to advise the Commission on the supervision of ongoing research, trials and demonstration projects, in order to ensure that work conforming to the subsidy agreement is being performed."

Barroso speaks and lo! It is so...

The European Commission turns out, it appears, to be able to determine off its own bat who is acting in personal capacity and who is not. If the Commission decides that a parrot must henceforth be called a cockatoo, does this make it a cockatoo? As long as Barroso believes you to be independent, then you are independent, and people who want to exercise their rights as citizens and verify this for themselves must keep their beaks shut.

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