The European Ombudsman today produced recommendations for the European Commission on how to tackle the dominance of business interests within its expert groups, following a three year investigation as a result of a complaint form the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation in Europe (ALTER-EU)1.
The Ombudsman found numerous cases of maladministration after investigating all four allegations made by ALTER-EU2 regarding the Commission's expert groups – which advise it on legislation and policy.
In an attempt to pursue a 'friendly solution' to the complaint, the Ombudsman has made five clear recommendations for tackling the dominance of business interests in expert groups,3 giving the Commission two months to respond with a clear plan of how it intends to meet them.
This friendly solution underlines ALTER-EU's claim that industry-dominated expert groups have caused social, economic and environmental harm. These groups are supposed to help the Commission create laws in the interest of Europe's 500 million citizens, but have in reality been delivering private benefits for the biggest corporations.
The Ombudsman's friendly solution should allow the Commission to take real action in cleaning up its expert groups. Only recently, the creation of DG TAXUD's Tax Platform – supposed to be tackling tax havens but packed with many of the same organisations that defend and promote tax dodging – has shown how much work there is to be done.
ALTER-EU believes the Commission should:
- Accept that industry-dominated groups do not comply with the rules and act accordingly
- Ban lobbyists and corporate executives sitting in expert groups in a “personal capacity”
- Introduce new selection criteria with safeguards against corporate capture
- Publish all documents related to the work of expert groups
1See the original complaint here
- The Commission wrongly considers that expert groups in which commercial interests are in
the majority among the non-governmental members do not breach the codes of conduct and
the principles of the Union
- The Commission wrongly claims that industry representatives can participate “in a
- The Commission wrongly refuses to develop new selection criteria
- All membership, agendas and minutes should be available on-line
- Take measures to ensure that the Commission's promise around balanced expert groups made in agreement with MEPs is fulfilled.
- clarify the scope and application of the rules around the use of expertise and the standards on consultation, which expert groups are governed by and ALTER-EU believes are being violated through imbalanced expert groups
- Define criteria categorising stakeholders within expert groups so it is clear.
- Include all experts and all expert groups in the register
- Review user-friendliness and the accessibility of information in the register