Thursday

17th Aug 2017

Ombudsman demands greater expert group transparency

  • The commission consults hundreds of group to help it frame laws (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly is demanding more transparency on so-called expert groups that help frame future EU proposals.

In 2015 the European Commission consulted around 800 groups with a total of roughly 6,000 members, mostly composed of people from industry, to help it draw up new legislation.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

O'Reilly on Tuesday (2 February) said the Brussels executive should publish the minutes of meetings as well as positions advanced by individual members.

"Making this kind of information public will help ensure expert groups are viewed as legitimate as possible," she said in a statement.

O'Reilly had launched her own inquiry in May 2014 following broad concerns over how the experts were appointed, the balance between corporate and civil society interest in the groups, and overall transparency.

Pro-transparency groups have long complained that corporate interests dominate the groups at the expense of public interest.

One report by Alter-EU, an alliance of transparency NGOs, highlighted the issue by noting some of the so-called independent panellists in the expert group on tax were working for accountancy firms Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PwC.

Some progress

The commission has argued that civil society might not always have the required expertise on specific areas, and that some positions reserved for them may go unfilled.

It has also said that some of the expert groups would lose their purpose by becoming embroiled in political debates if they accommodated a wide range of views.

"It is important to underline that expert groups are not set up in the first place to engage in a debate of a general nature with stakeholders or public opinion," said EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans in a formal response last year to O'Reilly's inquiry.

O'Reilly said some progress has been made since the May inquiry.

She noted that internal conflict of interest rules and the processes by which experts were selected had been overhauled. Self-employed members are now also required to register in the EU joint-transparency register.

But in a letter sent to commission president Jean-Claude Juncker over the weekend, O'Reilly said the groups should also publish agendas and background documents ahead of a meeting.

She said confidentiality of the meetings should only be allowed in exceptional cases "following a majority vote within the group and with the consent of the commission".

The commission has until the end of April to respond to the latest recommendations.

EU Council is 'black hole' in public trust

The EU Council, its most powerful institution, is a “black hole” unto the general public, hampering efforts to regain trust, a leading NGO has said.

News in Brief

  1. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  2. European Union returns to 2 percent growth
  3. Russian power most feared in Europe
  4. Ireland continues to refuse €13 billion in back taxes from Apple
  5. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  6. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  7. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  8. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  2. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  3. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  5. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  7. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  8. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  10. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  11. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  12. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides