How do small business advisory boards work

Company representatives dominate the advisory bodies of the EU Commission

The expert groups of the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry at the EU Commission are dominated by company representatives. This is shown by a new study by our European network, the Alliance for Lobby Transparency and Ethical Rules (ALTER-EU). The expert groups advise the Commission on legislative proposals and thus have a significant influence on EU policy. So how these groups are composed is an important political question.

One-sided influence in favor of the company

The study examines the 83 expert groups of the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry. Of these, 34 groups are reserved for the European Commission as well as national governments and authorities. The focus is on the other 49 expert groups, in which representatives from companies, science and non-governmental organizations are involved. In 32 of these 49 groups, large companies or their associations hold a majority of the seats not occupied by government representatives. Two thirds of these expert groups are therefore dominated by the interests of large companies.

A total of 482 consultants from companies thus have a great influence on key areas of politics: The General Directorate for Companies and Industry reports to companies from sensitive areas such as food, chemicals, health or automobiles. In contrast to the large number of company representatives, there are 255 consultants from all other areas (except government representatives). 124 of these are in science and research, 66 in non-governmental organizations, 44 in small and medium-sized enterprises and 11 in trade unions. Your chances of exerting significant influence on politics are correspondingly lower. In the past, the Directorate-General has successfully watered down draft guidelines such as those on CO2 emissions from cars or the evaluation and registration of chemical substances of concern (“REACH”).

Criticism also from the European Parliament

The European Parliament has also criticized the Commission in the past for associating itself more with large corporations than with any other social group. In October 2011, it frozen parts of the Commission's budget for its expert groups with the requirement to introduce new rules for the composition of the expert groups. With the imbalanced composition of its advisory bodies, the Commission is already violating the current rule, but these are extremely soft.

We have already criticized the composition of the expert groups at the EU Commission several times in the past - for example with the study “A captive commission - the role of the financial industry in shaping EU regulation”. The Commissioner responsible, Michel Barnier, has introduced important improvements in recent years, such as the dissolution of several unbalanced groups of experts.

Radical reform of all expert groups necessary

We demand that the entire Commission must now adopt new rules for the composition of the expert groups and dissolve its unbalanced expert groups. It must not be the case that the imbalanced composition of such important bodies gives the interests of companies a greater priority than the public interest. In the current study, we show the problem using four specific groups of experts, including the re-establishment of the "High Level Group on the Competitiveness and Sustainable Growth of the Automotive Industry in the European Union" (Cars 21), which had already implemented the plans of the EU Commission for the reduction of CO2 emissions from cars has decisively watered down. Read more about it in our German short summary.

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