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31st Mar 2020

Corporate interest dominates EU 'expert groups,' transparency NGO says

  • Corporate interests dominate special expert groups set up to advise the European Commission (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

People with close connections to top banks implicated in the financial crisis are said to have helped steer the European Commission’s response to the economic meltdown.

“One of the key responses to the crisis, key drivers in shaping the commission’s response to the crisis is the De Larosiere expert group,” Pascoe Sabido of the Brussels-based pro-transparency network, Alter-EU, told reporters on Wednesday (6 November).

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The De Larosiere group, now disbanded, was named after its chairman, a senior banking figure, Frenchman Jacques de Larosiere.

The commission forms expert groups, on subjects ranging from climate change to data privacy, when their respective departments lack the internal expertise.

“This group, unfortunately, was dominated by the very same banking institutions that were instrumental in the financial crisis,” Sabido noted.

Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers and BNP Paribas, were all linked to the group, formally known as the High-Level Group on Financial Supervision in the EU.

“Unsurprisingly enough, the conclusion of this group, the recommendations were that actually whilst there had been a crisis 'we are not going to challenge the underlying cause of it, which is self-regulation of banks and banks that are too big to fail',” Sabido added.

De Larosiere, who chairs a committee at the French Treasury and is an advisor at BNP Paribas, also has the 2009 blueprint on EU financial supervision named after him.

The 86-page report laid out a framework to create new EU agencies on banking, securities, markets, insurance and pensions and a new systemic risk board (ESRB) run by the European Central Bank to act as an overall watchdog.

Sabido’s findings figure among a larger assessment of the corporate-intensive nature of the commission’s expert groups detailed in an Alter-EU report, out Wednesday.

The report, which looks at all the new expert groups created in the past year, says the commission has failed to deliver on its commitments to reform them despite repeated warnings from members of the European Parliament.

MEPs in November 2011 and in March 2012 docked the groups' budgets in order to force the commission to remedy their corporat-dominated nature.

Parliament lifted the budget reserve in September 2012 with the understanding that the commission would balance out the groups with more civil society representatives and improve transparency.

But the Alter-EU report notes that in all the recent groups created by the commission, there are more representatives of big business than of all the other stakeholders combined.

It points out that 80 percent of the expert groups linked to the commission’s tax department, DG taxation and customs union, represent corporate interest.

Groups tied to the commission secretary-general are 64 percent corporate-dominated, while DG enterprise has around 62 percent, it notes.

The European Commission, for its part, disputes the findings.

It say some of the corporate-dominated percentages of the groups cited by Alter-EU are inaccurate, but acknowledges there is industry over-representation.

“Unfortunately, due to insufficient applications from NGOs, the established composition is not yet perfectly balanced,” said European Commission spokesperson Anthony Gravili in an email.

Gravili said the commission could only accept candidates for such groups who have real, needed expertise in the area covered by the mandate of the group.

“We will not turn the groups into debating societies of a wider political nature. That debate must and should take place elsewhere,” he said.

He pointed out that the general policy in place for the whole commission is to issue, in most cases, public calls for interest in membership of a given group.

He said the mandate, the membership and the work of each of the groups is now published online - “so the whole process is fully transparent, also as promised.”

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