EU Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, has recently demanded improvements in the Commission’s practice of consulting Expert Groups. Among other things, the Ombudsman has demanded legally binding rules to improve transparency and a balanced composition of the Commission expert groups. This recent initiative is part of the Ombudsman’s ongoing investigation into the systemic issues of the Commission’s practice in this area, which was opened in May 2014. It also adds to the transparency demands already expressed by the European Parliament last year.
The key demands put forward by the Ombudsman are:
- The adoption of a legally binding horizontal framework for expert groups modeled upon the framework used by Directorate General’s AGRI for civil dialogue groups
- The publication of a call for applications for every expert group
- Stronger links and consistency with the EU Transparency Register
- The revision of the Commission’s conflict of interest policy to avoid potential conflict of interest of experts who are appointed in their personal capacity
- The provision of better and more timely information about the expert groups
If realized, this would be an interesting new development on the way to concretizing the concept of good administration in the EU. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Commission will be willing to abandon its until present “soft” rule-making approach regarding the consultation of expert groups. Among ACELG researchers Dr. Joana Mendes has been advocating the hardening of rules on participation in Commission rule-making.
This contribution previously appeared on the ACELG blog.