Who calls the shots in Brussels? For years, AK and ÖGB together with European partner organisations have been mobilising against the disparity of force with regard to lobbyists in Brussels. This week, the European Parliament once again made its opposition clear. And a new study shows how important the subject matter still is.
Too many decisions in Brussels are still made behind closed doors by so-called experts, most of whom come from industry and Co. Over the past years, joint studies by AK and ÖGB in cooperation with Brussels NGOs who also support clean lobbying, have time and again substantiated this serious undesirable development.
One of the problems concerns the so-called expert groups. In many cases not known to the wide public, it is their responsibility to prepare the Commission's decisions and to give advice. These groups are not on the fringes, but represent a wide spread phenomena. A current survey by the European Parliament counts about 830 of such groups; at the height before the crisis in 2006, their number was even more than 1,300.
Not only the fact that important decisions are delegated to a large number of groups who often meet in backrooms far from the watchful eye of the public, gives cause for concern. In particular, the composition of these groups is more than worrying in democratic terms. Over recent years, NGOs, AK and ÖGB have time and again condemned these shocking figures: on average, 70 percent of the experts in these groups represent corporate interests; only 15 percent are sent by NGOs and just 2 percent by trade unions.
In the past, this completely imbalanced composition of these groups of experts already led to protests by the European Parliament. Twice already, the European Parliament has temporarily put financing these groups on ice. And the influential European Ombudsman, too, has seriously criticised these expert groups.
This week, the European Parliament adopted with a large majority a Report by the Dutch MEP Dennis de Jong, who deals with the problem of these expert groups. In the report, Parliament acknowledges that the Commission has committed itself to reforming the expert jungle; however, the former regrets the absence of decisive progress. A Report by the Lobby-NGO Corporate Europe Observatory, which was also published this week, points towards still existing massive deficits and significant need for improvement.