On 14 May 2014 the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, opened an investigation on her own initiative into the composition and transparency of the Commission’s expert groups. In EPHA we welcome this as it echoes a historical demand from civil society groups: that in key Commission-led legislative procedures NGOs concerns are equally heard vis-à-vis the ones of corporate stakeholders.
With EU citizen’s trust towards the EU at minimum levels, the Commission should take into account this type of initiatives. We shall remember that this is not the only one, yesterday the European Economic and Social Committee published its five year Plan in which exactly the same suggestion is made about reforming the way the expert groups work.
The Commission’s Expert Groups
As defined by the Commission, Expert Groups (EGs) are consultative bodies that advise the Commission on the preparation of legislative proposals and policy initiatives, the implementation of legislation, programmes and existing Union policies, and the preparation of delegated acts. The EGs have proven efficient, unless until some degree, in providing an additional layer of check and balances to the Commission. We could recall when in 2011 the European Parliament froze their budget forcing the Commission to revise the process. Yet, in another cases, as the reform of the banking sector or the contentious issue of the on genetically modified organism (GMOs), the voices of EGs and other civil society groups are little heard.
As a result of this, Miss O’Reilly is asking interested persons and organisations for feedback on how balanced the representation of relevant areas of expertise and interest is in the EGs, how transparent these are, and how well the procedures work.
As mentioned in the Ombudsman website when Emily O’Reilly took office as European Ombudsman in October 2013, she announced that she would use her own initiative power to investigate systemic problems in the EU administration more strategically. To this end, she appointed an internal co-ordinator for own-initiative inquiries. The expert groups investigation is the first in a series of strategic own-initiative inquiries which will be opened during the coming months and which we will be looking forward to follow further.
[Press release] Ombudsman opens investigation into Commission’s expert groups.