Dutch Ombudsman proposes Code of Conduct for European Expert Groups

7 December 2011

Dutch Ombudsman proposes Code of Conduct for European Expert Groups

The Dutch Ombudsman, Alex Brenninkmeijer has proposed the creation of a Code of Conduct for the work of European Expert Groups. Established by the European Commission, the job of the Expert Groups is to offer advice on EU legislation and policy. Brenninkmeijer issued his call during a meeting organised by the SP in the European Parliament. SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong explains that ‘there is a great deal of criticism of the working of these Expert Groups, which as things stand operate to far too great an extent in a secretive manner. With a Code of Conduct we could avoid a lot of the problems which currently arise.”

In the course of the meeting several people who have participated in expert groups cast some light on their working. “We often weren’t invited to speak in an expert group, and if we were able to do so there was usually a very large majority from big companies who listened politely to our opinions then recommended their own ideas to the European Commission. For the most part, we were just tokenism,” said trade union representative Veronica Nilsson. European consumers’ organisations, trade union federations and groups representing small businesses came forward with a list of points for improvement, including a fairer division of places among interest groups and the possibility for dissenting views to be publicised. The idea of a code of conduct won broad support from these various groups.

Anti-corruption group Transparency International and lobbying watchdog ALTER-EU have also expressed strong criticism of the Expert Groups, while last month the European Parliament blocked part of their budget. At the meeting Euro-MPs from every major political group demanded swift action to overcome this impasse. For its part the Commission has expressed its willingness to sit down with the group of like-minded MEPs set up by the SP and take a serious look at the objections. “I welcome this opening from the Commission,” says De Jong. “It must, however, not be allowed to became a pointless talking shop. If the Commission doesn’t quickly provide more support than the existing single official who has sole responsibility for the coordination of the 896 expert groups currently operating it will never come to anything.”

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