The European Commission in the end of 2010 quietly adopted new rules governing its 1,000+ advisory bodies without any public announcement. These ‘expert groups’ are powerful bodies whose recommendations often determine the shape of EU legislation.
ALTER-EU has today published a four-page statement on the new rules, strongly criticising the lack of improvements on key issues such as preventing commercial lobbyists from dominating advisory groups and transparency around the work of these groups. Also the European Parliament and many civil society groups (ALTER-EU, BEUC, Transparency International and others) have demanded that the Commission ensures balanced representation and transparency, but the Commission has ignored these calls.
The new rules are also at odds with the promises recently made by Commissioner Michel Barnier to rebalance the expert groups operating under his department (DG Internal Market). Nearly 200 financial lobbyists sit on DG Internal Market expert groups as advisors in a ‘personal capacity’.
The Commission’s new rules lack any form of safeguard against industry dominance of expert groups, with merely a vague statement mentioning that “Commission services shall, as far as possible, ensure a balanced representation”. ALTER-EU believes that it is always possible to achieve fair representation and insists that not a single advisory group should be dominated by business interests. Jointly with other civil society forces, we will launch a new effort to end the scandal of industry-dominated expert groups. Also MEPs will demand that the Commission goes beyond the disappointing new rules.
In terms of transparency, the new rules are a setback as they arbitrarily introduce clauses on confidentiality and secrecy to cover the work of expert groups. ALTER-EU will insist on this to be revoked.