Commission urged to tackle dominance of business in expert groups

ombudsmanBrussels, 27 June 2013 – Today the European Ombudsman 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 from the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation in Europe (ALTER-EU).

The Ombudsman found numerous cases of maladministration after investigating all four allegations made by ALTER-EU 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, giving the Commission two months to respond with a clear plan of how it intends to meet them.

The five recommendations made by the EU Ombudsman are:

– 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.

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.

The four allegations made of the Commission:

– 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 personal capacity”.
– The Commission wrongly refuses to develop new selection criteria.
– All membership, agendas and minutes should be available on-line.

The original complaint, the Commisson´s answer and ALTER-EU´s comments:

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