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End Corporate Bias In EU

Thursday, August 28, 2014

GMB Calls On EU Ombudsman To Act On Lack Of Balance To Corporate Influence In Eu Expert Groups

Unless the lack of balance is tackled people across Europe will become increasingly sceptical that the EU is anything more than a club for business and vested interests says GMB

GMB has called for action to balance the influence of the corporate sector in of European Commission expert groups. GMB has made this call in response to the public consultation on the composition and balance of European Commission expert groups launched by the recently appointed EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly from Ireland. The consultation closes on 31st August. See notes to editors for link to full GMB response to consultation.

GMB is pointing to the lack of transparency and consistent imbalance in the membership of these expert groups, in which corporate interests are continually overrepresented, whilst trade unions and NGOs struggle to get a look in.

Expert groups are meant to assist EU decision-makers in providing additional guidance on complex or controversial policy areas. GMB in response to the consultation says that with Commission bias favouring an overwhelming number of corporate members, group conclusions and recommendations risk only reinforcing narrow view points, prejudices and vested interests of the business world.

A November 2013 survey of the groups by Corporate Europe Observatory reveals startling inequalities. See notes to editors for link to the full report.

The research shows that in expert groups created by the department responsible for tax (DG Taxation and Customs Union, TAXUD), almost 80% of stakeholders represent corporate interests, with only 3% representing small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and 1% representing trade unions; in groups set up by the Secretariat-General (SG), the figure for corporate interests is 64% and in DG Enterprise and Industry (ENTR) it is 62%. Across all groups recently created by the Commission there are more representatives of big business than all other stakeholders combined.

The research also found that The Secretariat-General, responsible for overseeing the Commission-wide reforms of Expert Groups, is not only continuing to create corporate-dominated Expert Groups, but 73% of its members who are supposed to be there in an 'independent' capacity are actually directly linked to big business interests. Among the 'independent' experts across the Commission's new groups, there are more corporate interests than academics.

Kathleen Walker Shaw, GMB European Officer, said “The number of expert groups has mushroomed over the years and extended into a wider range of policy areas including tax evasion, avoidance and fraud, allowing corporate interests to dominate such groups – a bit like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

Emily O’Reilly has shown she is listening to public concerns, and is not afraid of lifting the lid on the dominance of vested interests in the EU, and its detrimental effect on the public at large. She is clearly an ‘Ombudswoman with Oomph’, and we hope that others at EU level will follow her lead.

GMB’s concerns and criticisms have been shared by Members of the European Parliament, who in 2011 froze the expert groups’ budgets until the Commission promised to impose full transparency, launch public calls for group membership and put an end to corporate dominance.

Three years on, the EU Commission has failed to meet any of these conditions, which is totally unacceptable.

Unless the lack of balance is tackled, people across Europe will become increasingly sceptical that the EU is anything more than a club for business and vested interests.

GMB is therefore urging the Ombudsman to make the necessary bold recommendations for improving expert groups, which the Commission must this time take up fully and without delay. Otherwise, the European Parliament will be forced to switch off the funding tap again.

GMB has also welcomed a separate inquiry launched by the Ombudsman at the end of July on the lack of transparency and public participation in the EU-US trade deal negotiations. GMB has been a vocal critic of the back-room, business-led negotiations on this wide-ranging trade agreement that will put our labour, social and environmental rights at risk and threaten our NHS and public services, and wants to see the negotiations halted.”

End

Contact: Kathleen Walker Shaw 07841 181549 or GMB Brussels office 0032 2 2305675 or GMB press office 07921 289880

Notes to editors

(1) Corporate Europe Observatory, A Year of Broken Promises (November 2013) http://corporateeurope.org/lobbycracy/2013/11/year-broken-promises

2 See a full copy of the GMB response to the Ombudsman expert group consultation on our website:

http://www.gmb.org.uk/about/gmb-in-europe/european-policy-issues/European-policy-responses

3 Emily O’Reilly took office as EU Ombudsman on 1 October 2013 following her successful election by Members of the European Parliament. Previously, she was a political journalist and broadcaster, who became Ireland’s first female Ombudsman in 2003.

For more information on the role of the Ombudsman, please visit its

website: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/home.faces

 

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