Commission advisory groups
NGOs denounce over-representation of industry
By Ophélie Spanneut | Tuesday 10 July 2012
Two-thirds of the advisory groups that work with the European Commission’s DG Enterprise and Industry are dominated by big business interests that hold at least half the non-governmental seats. ALTER-EU (Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation) denounces their over-representation, in a study published on 10 July. While they are supposed to advise the Commission on technical subjects, these interests in fact influence key policies. ALTER-EU points out that SMEs, NGOs and trade unions do not have the same opportunities. They represent 5%, 8% and 1%, respectively, of non-governmental participants.
Taking the example of the CARS 21 high-level group - Competitive Automotive Regulatory System for the 21st century - the NGO states that 13 of this group’s 19 members (excluding member states and the Commission) represent the interests of the automotive industry. By giving them the opportunity to influence legislation, the Commission has “allowed regulation to be delayed”. The initial objective of reducing CO
2 emissions from cars to an average of 120 g per km for 2005 was pushed back to 2015 and 130 g.
The situation is nevertheless improving in some respects. In 2008, the Commission published only the names of expert groups, not of members. Since then, the commissioners have become aware of this lack of balance. Michel Barnier (internal market) has taken measures in favour of civil society participation, in particular the creation of the group of financial services users.
This was the argument advanced by Lluís Prats, director for resources and communication at DG ENTR, who was on hand for the study’s presentation. The Commission is reducing the number of expert groups: there were 123 a few years ago compared with just 79 today. Prats assured that there are no experts sitting in their personal capacity. This is a particularly important question because ALTER-EU demonstrated, in summer 2010, that 191 lobbyists working for large corporations sat in their personal capacity in eight expert groups on financial services (see
Prats also said that it is difficult for the Commission to ensure balance between interests when NGOs like the European Consumers’ Organisation BEUC do not participate in certain expert groups like CARS 21 due to a lack of resources. He noted that travel costs are reimbursed by the Commission, which also pays experts a per diem. Prats nevertheless acknowledged that 17 expert groups are still problematic due to the lack of balance in the interests represented.
The NGO and MEP Denis de Jong (GUE-NGL, Netherlands) ask the Commission to respect the rules
(1) that oblige it “to assure balanced representation as far as possible,” and to adopt clearer and stricter rules based on what Parliament requested in its 8 May vote in the Committee on Budgets (BUDG).
(1) See ec.europa.eu/transparency/regexpert/PDF/C_2010_EN.pdf