Thursday

18th Jul 2019

Exclusive

Revealed: 98% of EU 'expert groups' take place in private

  • Earlier this year, the European Commission set up an expert group on fake news. It is one of more than 700 expert groups. (Photo: European Commission)

Of the 775 groups set up by the European Commission to receive advice from outside experts, no more than 12 have decided to conduct their meetings in public.

However, the expert groups are slowly becoming more transparent in their conduct, according to a new study prepared for the European Parliament.

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

  • Expert groups are nothing new. In 1979, the expert group on an energy-efficient society presented its report. (Photo: European Commission)

The final report is not yet out, but parliament provided EUobserver with the 'pre-release' version that has been shared with MEPs - with the caveat that several elements still needed to be verified.

"We are going in the right direction, let's continue this way," said far-left Dutch MEP Dennis de Jong on Monday evening (19 November), at a presentation of the findings.

Expert groups are set up by the commission to receive policy advice. They often consist of people who are experts in their field, but far removed from politics.

There are groups on topics like air transport statistics, coin-counterfeiting, air quality, and defence research - and hundreds of others.

At Monday's presentation, held in the parliament, commission senior civil servant Henning Klaus stressed that the expert groups' advice is non-binding.

"Those groups don't impose anything on the commission," he noted.

Nevertheless, the groups can lay the ground for policy-making and sometimes are able to frame the debate.

In the case of a group tasked with developing a new emissions test for cars, the high share of car industry members contributed to delays in concluding talks.

That is why the researchers - a Spain-based company called Blomeyer & Sanz - also looked at the composition of the groups.

Last year, MEPs asked the commission in a resolution to "make progress towards a more balanced composition" of expert groups.

The researchers found that 179 expert groups had members which had an economic interest. Of those, in 133 groups the members with an economic interest outnumbered those without.

The researchers identified 39 groups were all members had an economic interest.

But compared to their previous study in 2015, the situation has improved.

"I think the main point for us was the imbalance and we can certainly notice quite a bit of progress. I hope that the commission will continue in this vain," said MEP De Jonge.

The researchers also looked at gender imbalances, which the commission has sought to reduce via a target of at least 40 percent gender representation per expert group.

According to the study, there were 107 groups where less than 40 percent of members were female; only 22 groups had less than 40 percent male members.

The authors noted that the majority of groups had not disclosed their members' gender.

The EU commission's representative on Monday noted that the commission can only influence the gender balance for those experts appointed in their personal capacity.

"Amnesty International is a member. Who Amnesty International sends into a group, whether it's a man or a woman, the commission has absolutely no influence [over]," said Klaus.

The same goes for national governments and companies.

It is also up to the expert groups themselves to decide whether their meetings will be open to the public.

The authors of the study had identified only five expert groups that had opened up their meeting to the public, although the EU commission had told the authors that there were, in fact, 12 such public groups.

Roland Blomeyer, director of the company that carried out the study, told this website that the difference could be explained by inconsistent reporting in the database of expert groups, or that since the database was downloaded by the researchers in July, more group had opened to the public.

Regardless, commission civil servant Klaus agreed the number of public meetings was far too low.

"We are making constantly our colleagues aware that they are entitled to go public with their meeting," said Klaus.

"We would also very much favour ourselves - we in the secretariat-general of the commission - that more meetings are held in public," he added.

When presenting his study to MEPs, Blomeyer noted that the report was only scratching the surface. The company was not tasked - or paid - to do more in-depth research.

Dual EU 'expert groups' on AI risk duplication

The European Commission has set up a 'High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence'- meanwhile, the European External Action Service has initiated a 'Global Tech Panel'.

Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency

Appalled over Coca-Cola sponsoring the recent Romanian EU presidency, MEPs have asked Finland, the new holders of the rotating post, to put an end to such practices. But Helsinki, whose presidency is sponsored by BMW, has no such plan.

EU commission has first-ever woman president

Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday obtained a narrow majority of support in the European Parliament to become the first-ever female president of the European Commission.

News in Brief

  1. EP employment committee elects Slovak chairwoman
  2. Nato chief warns world against more Russian missiles
  3. Germany closes Amazon probe as EU opens another
  4. Report: US chipmaker Qualcomm set for new EU fine
  5. Ireland fears Brexit time zone split
  6. Selmayr to leave EU commission post
  7. EU 'appeasement' of Iran like that of Nazis, Israel says
  8. Report: EU anti-trust chief to go after Amazon

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  2. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  3. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  4. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  5. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  6. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  7. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  8. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us