Madrid, 5 September 2014 – Proactive transparency would help address the problem of business-domination of European Commission expert groups Access Info Europe concluded this week in its submission to the EU Ombudsman public consultation on expert groups.
The European Ombudsman’s consultation came in response to a series of concerns raised by civil society, including the Alliance for Lobby Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) of which Access Info Europe is a Steering Committee member, about the overrepresentation of business lobbyists in expert groups.
In its submission, right to information experts Access Info highlighted the need for greater proactive transparency to permit the public to verify whether expert groups have a balanced composition representative of all relevant stakeholders. Information which should be made public should include the applications and declarations of participants, records of meetings, and copies of relevant documents.
Access Info Europe also called for a proactive communication strategy which would inform the European public about the existence and functioning of expert groups and encourage civil society participation.
“When seeking to improve policy making with input from experts and stakeholders, great care should be taken to ensure that expert groups are broadly representative of European society. Transparency helps by permitting the public to verify that this is happening,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe and one of the authors of the submission to the European Ombudsman.
Access Info Europe noted that insufficient details are made public via the European Commission’s expert groups register and that civil society researchers have had to file documents requests to obtain fuller information. The submission to the Ombudsman contains examples of such requests which are available on line via the AsktheEU.org request platform.
Increasing the accuracy and comprehensiveness of data, including with unique identifiers for experts and for companies, should be complemented by having a fully searchable register with data downloadable in an open machine-readable format, Access Info Europe recommended.