European Parliament and Commission reach agreement on EU expert groups

19 September 2012

European Parliament and Commission reach agreement on EU expert groups

The European Parliament and European Commission have reached an agreement over the long drawn out conflict regarding EU expert groups. Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic will shortly open an informal dialogue with representatives of the EP’s political groups aimed at tightening up the existing guidelines governing the work of the estimated nine hundred expert groups. Commenting on the agreement, SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong said: ‘The Commission has at last stated a willingness to address the Parliament’s concerns over the working of the expert groups. In return, the EP has today decided to lift its block on the budget.’

The European Commission has been extremely tardy in fulfilling its promises to make the work of the expert groups transparent and their composition more balanced. In order to force the Commission at long last to take the question of the functioning of the expert groups seriously, the Parliament blocked the sections of the 2012 budget allocated to the groups. The tightened guidelines which the Parliament and Commission are going to put in place will address four of the former’s most important concerns.

The unbalanced representation is one of them, with trade unions, social organisations, environmental groups, consumers’ associations and small businesses underrepresented while the opposite is the case for major corporations. Secondly, information on expert groups will henceforth be made public via a web portal and the minutes of their meetings will be included in this information. Thirdly, fair reimbursement of costs arising from preparation for and participation in expert groups will be paid to small organisations and independent firms. Finally, experts who provide advice on a subject in which they have a personal interest – such as when a director of a bank advises on legislation affecting banks – will no longer be able to be listed as ‘independent’ experts, but will only be allowed to provide advice on behalf of the interested parties for whom they work.

The European Parliament will be represented by a group which includes the SP’s Dennis de Jong along with MEPs from the centre-right, green and centre left groups. British Labour Member Dennis Cashman said that the group ‘expects fruitful cooperation with the European Commission on these points.’ The possibility remains of again suspending the budget should this not materialise.

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