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23rd Feb 2020

Ombudsman to investigate EU expert groups

  • European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly is to investigate the work of EU Commission-appointed 'expert groups' (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has said she will launch an investigation into the composition and transparency of the European Commission's expert groups.

The results of the investigation, which is set to be the first in a series of inquiries to be opened during the coming months, will not be legally binding. It will start with a public consultation and will investigate how groups are composed, their members, and whether they work transparently.

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In a statement on Wednesday (14 May), O'Reilly commented that "it is of utmost importance for these groups to be balanced and to work as transparently as possible so that the public can trust and scrutinise their work."

"The commission relies heavily on the advice of hundreds of expert groups to draw up legislation and policy, covering areas from tax and banking services, to road safety and pharmaceuticals," she added.

The EU executive creates so-called 'expert groups' to offer advice to officials on drafting and then implementing new EU law. But transparency campaigners argue that most groups are dominated by representatives from big business.

An 86-page report published last November by transparency NGO Alter-EU found that in all the recent groups created by the commission, there are more representatives from big business than of all the other stakeholders combined.

Eighty percent of the expert groups linked to the commission’s tax department, DG taxation and customs union, represent corporate interest, while 62 percent of members of groups tied to DG enterprise were from the business community.

Meanwhile, although the agenda and minutes of expert groups are made available online, there are no common rules on selection and no means for the EU's other institutions to scrutinise the work of the groups.

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