Monday

4th Mar 2024

MEPs unblock funds for EU expert groups

  • The commission HQ: MEPs release funding for commission's expert groups in exchange for greater transparency in their composition (Photo: EUobserver)

MEPs in the budget committee on Thursday (20 September) unblocked some €2 million in funding for European Commission expert groups after the executive agreed to implement new transparency rules.

The advisory groups, selected by the commission, help it to craft legislation.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But pro-transparency NGOs and some MEPs have long voiced concern over their secrecy, noting that many of the so-called advisors are corporate lobbyists.

"Public interest groups are vastly under-represented - and as a result we see business-friendly laws that fail to protect the wider interests of society," said Yiorgos Vassalos of pro-transparency group Corporate Europe Observatory in a recent statement.

Another pro-transparency group, Alter-EU, found that big business dominates two-thirds of the advisory groups in the commission's department for enterprise.

The unbalanced composition of the groups along with the lack of transparency compelled MEPs to freeze their funding in November 2011.

The parliament says the commission should prohibit any single interest group from dominating any given panel and has called for common selection criteria for all commission services.

MEPs also want a ban on lobbyists and corporate executives in the expert groups.

And they say information on membership, agendas, minutes of meetings and copies of documents submitted should be available to the general public online.

The commission earlier this year moved forward on some of the proposals but not enough to please the MEPs who froze the budget.

Commission administration chief Maros Sefcovic then appealed directly to the MEPs on 11 September.

He assured them he is committed to "redressing any remaining imbalances in the composition of groups" as well as any potential conflicts of interest. He also said he will publish more of the documents.

But Sefcovic warned that without adequate funding, legislative initiatives would be undermined.

"I sincerely hope that the parliament will agree to lift the [budget] reserve, which risks having a detrimental effect on the functioning of expert groups and hence on the policy-making process," wrote Sefcovic in a letter seen by this website.

For his part, Dutch left-wing MEP Dennis de Jong told EUobserver the two sides are working well together.

"We should be able to trust them," he said, referring to recent conversations with Sefcovic and commission administration chief Catherine Day.

An official dialogue between MEPs and the vice-president is scheduled in the next coming weeks. The two sides will discuss commitments made by the commission to increase transparency.

A list of grievances and complaints compiled by NGOs will also be handed over to Sefcovic. De Jong said the commission will then have to deal with them "one by one."

He noted, for instance, the commission already "agreed on substance" that someone who works for a company which will be affected by the legislation is not an independent expert.

"If for some reason or another we discover after a few months that dialogue isn't providing the right results we shall not hesitate to reserve future budgets," said De Jong.

The next expert group budget reserve is in 2014.

Analysis

Almost 20 names in running for EU top jobs

With four months until the European Parliament elections, there are already some 20 names in the hat for the ensuing reshuffle of EU top jobs.

'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child

During a plenary session in Strasbourg, an MEP was denied access to the chamber because he was carrying his young child, due to unforeseen circumstances. The episode shows parliament's rules need to be updated, several MEPs told EUobserver.

EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds

The European Commission has legally paved the way for Poland to access up to €137bn EU funds, following Donald Tusk's government's efforts to strengthen the independence of their judiciary and restore the rule of law in the country.

Latest News

  1. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign
  2. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit
  3. 'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child
  4. Commission plays down row over Rwanda minerals pact
  5. EU socialists set to anoint placeholder candidate
  6. Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?
  7. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  8. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us