Sunday

18th Aug 2019

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.

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

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. Trump turned down: Greenland not for sale
  2. UK Libdems would back Clarke or Harman as new PM
  3. Six countries agree to take 'Open Arms' ship migrants
  4. Gibraltar judge: Iranian ship should be released
  5. Increasing fears of a global recession
  6. Far-right hate crimes on the rise in Germany
  7. EU steel tariffs have 'worked well' so far
  8. Italian court: Migrant rescue ship can enter Italian waters

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

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. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  2. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  3. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  4. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  5. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide
  6. US offers Johnson helping hand on Brexit
  7. Italy: New government without Salvini in the making
  8. Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us