European Commission opens door on shadowy advice groups

19 May 2011

European Commission opens door on shadowy advice groups

SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong sees promising developments in the protracted debate over ‘expert groups’ between the European Parliament and the Commission. This week De Jong received a letter in which European Commissioner Maros Šefèoviè stated that he wanted to hold talks on expert groups with the Parliament. ‘These shadowy back-rooms have long been a subject of annoyance for the Parliament, and the Commission has until now kept the door to them firmly closed,’ says De Jong. ‘But it now looks as if this door has been opened a chink. This step in the right direction has not come a day too soon, but I will grasp the Commission’s outstretched hand with both of my own.’

Dennis de Jong Last week the SP put questions to both the European Commission and the Dutch government on the subject of an expert group which is charged with making proposals for tax regulations affecting multinationals. This group is dominated by representatives of major corporations. A number of different NGOs also expressed strong criticisms of the expert groups during a debate in Brussels. European consumer, environmental and transparency groups and the European trade unions argue that the expert groups are dominated by major corporations and that the secret nature of their meetings gives too much of an impression of backroom politics. The SP’s European Parliament group is planning, along with these NGOs, to make a collection of complaints regarding the expert groups before the meeting with the Commission. “We expect the stories we already know to turn out to be merely the top of the iceberg, and are preparing a ‘black book’ to hand to the Commissioner,” says De Jong.
In February the European Parliament, following an initiative from the SP, debated the unbalanced composition of these secretive expert groups. During the debate the European Commissioner responsible, Maros Šefèoviè, was replaced by a colleague who failed to answer any of the Parliament’s questions. Spokespeople from every European Parliament political group responded to De Jong’s proposal that a letter be sent to the European Commission in regard to this, and it is this letter which this week received a reply which contained an invitation to organise a joint meeting between Parliament and Commission to look into the matter. The expert groups, more than a thousand in number, were established to provide a policy sounding board for the Commission, with several of them having brought forward proposals for new legislation.

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