Global Policy Forum

New Commission must end corporate dominance of EU expert groups

CEOlogoIn a recent press release, Corporate Europe Observatory highlights the consensus of trade unions and transparency organizations around ‘the need to tackle the persistent over-representation of corporate interests in the European Commission “expert groups”’. Research shows that the dominance of business interests in the most economically and politically powerful expert groups can often have a detrimental effect on the EU decision making process – indeed corporate interests are seldom in line with public interests. A thorough review of the horizontal rules that govern the composition of expert groups and reliance on other sources of expertise is duly recommended.

September 1, 2014 | ETUC, UNI Europa, EPSU, CEO

New Commission must end corporate dominance of EU expert groups

New European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker needs to tackle the persistent over-representation of corporate interests in European Commission ‘expert groups’ warn trade unions and transparency organizations.
These organizations (ETUC, EPSU, UNI & CEO) have highlighted this fundamental issue with the EU's advisory groups in response to the European Ombudsman's public consultation on the topic that closed yesterday [add the document].
Expert groups are often formed at the beginning of the Commission's legislative process to provide expert opinion and guidance. Today most economically and politically important expert groups, such as those working on taxation, financial regulation, or emission reductions,  continue to be dominated by business interests, Research shows this can have a damaging impact on EU decisions.

European trade unions and civil society organizations have evaluated the composition of these so-called expert groups. They conclude current horizontal rules for expert groups are inadequate, as they do not prevent the fundamental problem of excessive corporate involvement nor are they clear enough to ensure consistency across the different departments of the Commission (known as Directorates-General or DGs). New rules must address the imbalance in their composition, the secrecy of decision-making, and the unfair application process to participate in expert groups.

In 2012, the European Parliament lifted its freeze on the €2 million expert group budget on the condition that no stakeholder should have the majority of seats. Yet corporate interests represent more than 53% of seats within the groups created in the following year, compared to trade unions that never represent more than 14%, environmental groups are not better represented.

In their submissions to the Ombudsman, the organizations urge the Commission to reduce the number of seats held by corporate interests in order to have more balanced groups and a more balanced outcome. Trade unions also point out that there are already formalized ways for the Commission to gather expertise, such as the social dialogue at cross-sectoral and sectoral levels, and formal consultations of the social partners.

Business interests have an undue influence over public policy making through the unbalanced composition of expert groups. Given that corporate interests rarely conform to public interests this is especially critical. The eventual Ombudsman recommendations – expected next year – should address these problems and be implemented via a thorough review of the horizontal rules in 2015.

See CEO's submission to the European Ombudsman's consultation

  • European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) was founded in 1973, it now represents 85 trade union organizations in 36 European countries, plus 10 European Trade Union Federations.
  • UNI Europa is a European trade union federation. It unites national trade unions organizing in service and skills sectors in 50 different countries.
  • EPSU is the European Federation of Public Service Unions it organizes in the energy, water and waste sectors, health and social services and local and national administration.



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