Commission must act to tackle business lobbyists in expert groups

Brussels, 17 September 2012 – Transparency campaigners say that Commission proposals to tackle the dominance of corporate lobbyists in its advisory groups do not go far enough – and that instead new rules must be introduced to protect the legislative process from corporate capture.

Exclusive footage filmed for Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) reveals how corporate lobbyists target the European Commission’s advisory groups in order to influence the legislative process at the earliest stage1.

Campaigners say that by targeting these expert groups, lobbyists are able to shape the legislative agenda from an early stage. Research published by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) has revealed that two thirds of DG Enterprise’s non-governmental advisory groups are dominated by big business interests, with more than 480 big business representatives providing the Commission with advice2.

Yiorgos Vassalos from CEO, said:
“Business lobbyists dominate the Commission’s advisory groups on a vast range of issues such as environmental pollution and consumer protection. They are able to use this position to capture the policy agenda, arguing against regulation, or delaying the introduction of tighter standards designed to protect the environment or public health. Public interest groups are vastly under-represented – and as a result we see business-friendly laws that fail to protect the wider interests of society.”

The European Parliament’s budget committee has blocked funding for the work of expert groups because of concerns over the lack of balance. Now, they are considering lifting the restriction after the Commission said it will engage in a process with the Parliament to tackle the problem, but campaigners say the Commission has to do more.

Yiorgos Vassalos added:
“The Commission has recognised that there is a problem, but their proposals do not go far enough to guarantee balance. Unless there is a clear commitment to ensuring balance in these expert groups, set out in the rules, then there is no guarantee that the changes will be made. We are urging the Commission to tighten the rules to protect the public interest.”

CEO is calling for changes to the rules to ensure full transparency including the names of all expert group members and their declarations of economic interests, details of meetings, including the agenda and minutes, and a commitment to ensure that all expert groups are balanced3.