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18th Jan 2020

EU expert groups dominated by corporate interest, say NGOs

  • Pro-transparency NGOs and trade unions want the commission to introduce new rules on expert groups (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Pro-transparency groups and trade unions are urging the European Commission to scale back corporate influence on policy-making decisions.

On Monday (1 September), four organisations said the commission’s so-called expert groups are dominated by industry, which can have “a damaging impact on EU decisions".

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Expert groups offer advice and opinions to commission officials drafting up new policies but many are said to neglect or under-represent the views of civil society.

The ETUC, which represents trade unions across the EU, the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), UNI Global Union, and Corporate Europe Observatory, say new rules are needed to address the compositional imbalance of expert group, the secrecy of decision-making, and the application process to participate in expert groups.

“Business interests have an undue influence over public policy making through the unbalanced composition of expert groups,” note the organisations.

Similar concerns were raised by over the summer by the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly.

In May, O’Reilly announced she would launch an investigation into the transparency and composition of expert groups.

She said groups needed “to be balanced and to work as transparently as possible".

The ETUC notes that industry experts account for more than 50 percent of some groups.

The European Parliament in 2012 agreed to unfreeze the budget for expert groups on condition that no stakeholder would have a majority position.

Over a dozen new expert groups have been formed since the parliament released the budget but NGOs say corporate interest continue to dominate.

The commission, for its part, says expert groups give it expertise in a diverse range of areas.

It says it has agreed to seek expert contributions from elsewhere and has reviewed the composition of many groups.

But it also points out groups would lose their purpose if they accommodated quotas for various points of views as demanded by the NGOs.

“Many of the present members would likely no longer participate because they could not see any reason for participating in a political debate,” a commission spokesperson told this website last year.

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