De Jong: EU Expert Groups no longer wholly in grip of big firms

6 November 2013

De Jong: EU Expert Groups no longer wholly in grip of big firms

A year ago, on an initiative from the SP, the European Commission undertook to effect a thorough reform of the nine hundred EU Expert Groups, bodies appointed to advise the Commission on policy. The aim was to ensure that the groups would no longer be dominated by lobbyists from major corporations, but would also be representative of small business, trade unions, consumer bodies and environmentalist organisations. The group of like-minded MEPs, led by the SP’s Dennis de Jong, who conducted the talks with the Commission, today drew up the balance-sheet of progress made since the undertaking was given. ’it’s not yet time for a celebratory end to our work,’ De Jong stresses. ‘There’s still a great deal missing, which is why we’ve presented the Commission with an updated wishlist. At the same time we’re appreciative of the fact that progress has already been made and that the expert groups operate in a much more transparent fashion than they did a year ago.’

The Euro-MPs are concerned about a number of bottlenecks. ‘Major corporations are still overrepresented in the Expert Groups and not all of the relevant information, such as a summary and results of discussions, can be found on the Commission website,’ says De Jong. ‘When new expert groups are set up, NGOs must have the chance to sign up. In the last year that is far from having always occurred and the Commission must now conform to the agreement.’ The MEPs also want Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič’s assurance that national experts from, for example, trade unions or organisations of small shopkeepers would be admitted. For these small organisations something must be done, and quickly, about the special reimbursement regulation which will enable these groups to send representatives to Brussels and prepare their work for the Expert Groups. At the same time a number of the Commission’s sections, the Directorates-General, are continuing to invite primarily the representatives of major firms as experts to discussions of new and existing European measures.

After the European Parliament in 2011 had frozen the 2012 budget for all of the Expert Groups, in September 2012 the joint Parliament-Commission working groups held their first meeting. ‘When we began our work the Commission was not immediately clear as to what Expert Groups there actually were, but a year on we’ve got a lot further,’ says De Jong. ‘The lobby watchdog ALTER-EU in a report published today is right to say that a great deal of work remains to be done.’ As things stand there are some nine hundred different Expert Groups giving heavyweight advice to the Commission and they have a lot of influence on European legislation.’

Lobby Watchdog ALTER-EU’s report on the European Commission’s Expert Groups (PDF)

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