Who’s driving the agenda at DG Enterprise and Industry?

Publication date: 
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Lead author: Yiorgos Vassalos Co-authors: Athena Christofi, Natacha Cingotti, Timo Lange, Rachel Tansey

This report examines the membership of the European Commission’s DG Enterprise and Industry advisory groups and asks whether the balance of expertise among the members adequately reflects the interests of society, or whether this advice is biased.

Executive summary / policy recommendations: 

DG Enterprise is one of the most powerful departments within the Commission. Its official mandate is “to strengthen Europe’s industrial base and promote the transition to a low carbon economy; to promote innovation as a means to generate new sources of growth and meet societal needs”.

ALTER-EU identified 83 expert groups set up by DG Enterprise, 49 of which include non-government membership. By categorising the members of these groups according to the interests they represent, ALTER-EU found that 482 corporate advisers are represented, compared to just 255 other non-government advisors; with 32 groups dominated by big business.

Discounting the 34 groups whose members are exclusively from government bodies, ALTER-EU found that meant that two thirds of the remaining groups were dominated by business interests. Just six groups had a more or less balanced composition. In contrast, the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for just 5% of non-governmental representatives, trade unions (representing the interests of employees and workers) account for a further 1%, NGOs for 8% and academics account for 15%.

ALTER-EU then examined four of these corporate-dominated advisory groups (FP7 Security Advisory Group, the sub-group on critical raw materials, CARS21 and European Business Organisations Worldwide Network) and found three of the four to be clearly influencing policy for the benefit of industry – while the fourth (EBO) clearly enjoyed privileged access to decision makers.

As a result of the findings, ALTER-EU concluded that DG Enterprise needs to make major changes in the composition of its advisory groups to ensure the wider interests of society are properly served. It urged better implementation of existing rules governing the membership of these advisory groups – as well as new rules to ensure safeguards against corporate capture.

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