Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

Exclusive

Commission took no minutes at Juncker speech seminar

In August, Jean-Claude Juncker and his EU commissioners held a two-day seminar at a chateau outside Brussels to prepare this week's State of the Union speech. The commission implies there is no written record.

EUobserved

Juncker, the 'sad and wiser' man of Europe

Despite bold propositions for the EU's future, one could not help feeling the Commission chief's State of the Union address already sounded like a farewell speech.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us