So when a lobby group on banking regulation is dominated by bankers, it is perhaps not surprising that they tell the commission there is no need to regulate. When car makers are asked for advice on how to reduce emissions from cars, they say that a tough standard would not be helpful for their industry. And when this advice is then used to form the backbone of a legislative proposal, the result is business-friendly regulation that is not in the public interest.
Research for the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation, known as ALTER-EU, has shown that big business interests dominate a huge number of the commission's advisory groups – while other groups rarely have a voice. As Johannes Kleis from the European Consumers' Group says in the video: "It is a biased situation." The views of the general public, or of groups working to protect consumer rights, public health, or the environment, are simply drowned out.
Earlier this year, members of the European Parliament raised concerns about the situation, blocking part of the commission's expert group budget, and demanding action to solve the problem. But we are concerned that the proposals put forward by the commission do not go far enough. We want to see full transparency around expert groups, including the names of all group members, their declarations of economic interests and the contributions they make.
Information about expert groups meetings should also be made available to the general public, including the agenda and minutes, so that people know what issues are being discussed. And most crucially of all, there must be a commitment to ensure that all expert groups are balanced, including the voices of public interest groups. Safeguards against domination by corporate interests should be introduced in the commission's rules governing expert groups.
Our call for tough new rules is backed by ALTER-EU, by the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour, the Austrian Trade Union Federation and by the European Public Services Union. We have written to MEPs urging them to maintain pressure on the commission by continuing to block funds. We hope that both they and the commission will decide to act in the public interest.
Yiorgos Vassalos is a researcher and campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory