Monday

27th Mar 2017

MEPs threaten to block commission funding over transparency

MEPs are threatening to block €2 million in EU funding for expert groups unless the European Commission can guarantee more transparency.

The expert groups, selected by the commission, act as inside advisors to help it draw up EU legislative proposals and policy initiatives. But how they are selected and the interests they represent have drawn wide-spread criticism from pro-transparency groups and some MEPs.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The EU parliament earlier this year clashed with the commission over access to internal documents (Photo: Christoph Diewald)

British centre-left Michael Cashman, Dutch left-wing Dennis de Jong, and German Green Helga Trupel were among the handful of deputies who met European Commission representatives on Wednesday (5 September) to discuss the issue.

The Parliament’s budget committee was scheduled to vote to either lift or block the reserve on Thursday but decided to postpone the vote until 19 September.

“It gives us more time to put down in writing what we had agreed with the commission today. I think the commission is really engaged but if it doesn't materialise we'll block the funds," said de Jong.

The European Parliament says it will not release the funds unless the commission meets a number of conditions, including banning lobbyists and corporate executives from sitting in the groups.

The parliament is also insisting that groups are not dominated by a single interest category, such as big business.

The commission, for its part, has acknowledged outstanding issues among the groups that could give rise to a conflict of interest.

It identified 18 of its groups over the summer that include people who "are representatives of stakeholders" and do not represent the interests of the public.

The commission has also noted that some of the stakeholders, or lobbyists, had given misleading statements when joining the groups by claiming they were "experts in a personal capacity" when they were representing third parties.

The commission has not revealed the identities of the groups but the Brussels-based pro-transparency group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) claims the European design leadership board and the Raw Materials Supply Group are among them.

The commission said it published all relevant documents linked to the expert groups in April. But CEO disagrees.

"Agendas and minutes for most groups are not available through the register and most of the time not available at all," it wrote in a letter to MEPs.

Corporate interests continue to dominate around 100 expert groups, says the NGO.

Over 30 of the 89 groups linked to the commission's DG enterprise, for instance, are almost entirely composed of people representing corporations.

The department, which works on research, international trade, consumer, environmental and internal market policy issues, partially relies on 482 people from big corporations to help it draw up policy.

An additional 255 people from non-government categories like independent professionals, academics and civil society also advise the DG, says CEO.

MEPs not serious about transparency

From frivolous responses, illegible scrawls, to no answers at all, several members of the European Parliament are not serious when it comes to declaring their financial interests, a survey carried out by an NGO has shown.

Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum

EU 27 leaders in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of Treaty of Rome, in bid to counter rising challenges after Brexit. But new ideas are scarce.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  2. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  3. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  5. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  6. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  7. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  9. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  10. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  11. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change