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Parliamentary questions
9 February 2009
Joint answer given by Mr Barroso on behalf of the Commission
Written questions : E-6705/08 , E-6706/08

The letter that the Secretary General of the Commission sent to Mr Eric Wesselius — from Corporate Europe Observatory — on 19 September 2008, which is quoted by the Honourable Member, fully reflects the Commission's position on expert groups.

The Commission confirms that expert groups' primary function is to provide high-level technical expertise — and not interest representation — to the Commission services, and is fully committed to ensure a balanced composition of expert groups. Moreover, the Commission points out that expert groups are but one mode of collecting expertise, together with other means, such as studies and European regulatory agencies.

As for research and development (R & D) activities to which the Honourable Member refers, the Commission does not agree that the participation of experts affiliated with ‘market actors’ interferes with fair and free competition. Information that may be tabled during the deliberations of the groups could not be financially exploited, nor could it give any other immediate competitive advantage. Generally, groups are presented with study results related, for example, to long-term development of the European Research Area, strategic orientations for the implementation of the themes of the seventh framework programme or, in the example cited in another question by the Honourable Member, to help the Commission monitor ongoing projects. In the latter case experts are forbidden to disclose any information obtained during the project monitoring meetings. Final Reports are made publicly available through the EU Bookshop only once the project is finished and the project partners have taken the adequate measures to protect their property rights (e.g. patents, etc).

According to the existing rules, experts who are individuals in their personal capacity have to act independently and, each year, they have to make a written declaration of commitment to act in the public interest, together with a declaration as to whether there is any interest which would prejudice their independence.

As pointed out in its reply to Question E‑1943/08(1) of 3 June 2008, the Commission has been focusing on enhancing transparency concerning the working of its expert groups. In particular, the Commission has undertaken the task to collect and publish data on members of groups in the Register of Expert Groups. Thanks to the efforts made by the Commission services, the abovementioned exercise is finalised. Furthermore, the preparation of a new version of the register, which will provide more accurate and transparent information, has started.

Concerning the specific question of publication of names of expert groups' members, the Commission has drawn up a standard privacy statement to be used when informing experts that their personal data would be published in the Register of Expert Groups. Data have been collected in accordance with Regulation (EC) No45/2001 of Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2000 on the protection of individuals with regards to the processing of personal data by the Community institutions and bodies and on the free movement of such data(2). For existing participants the Commission asks for an explicit consent or objection, which must be duly substantiated. For future participants, the name of the expert concerned is published unless he or she objects. In both cases, should the Commission services consider that the above objection is not based on justified grounds, the individuals concerned should, in principle, no longer be members of expert groups.

The names of all the experts in the group Coal Combustion, Clean and efficient coal technologies, carbon dioxide (CO2) capture have always been made available on the relevant programme's website and have been included in the register of expert groups. These experts are individuals serving in their personal capacity and acting independently, not defending any business interest. The role of this group is to advise the Commission on the monitoring of ongoing research and pilot or demonstration projects, with a view to ensuring that work is being carried out in conformity with the grant agreement. It is, therefore, difficult to imagine in what way confidence in the EU institutions has been, or could be, damaged.

As for the general question of access to information related to the activities of expert groups, the Commission confirms its commitment to transparency, while pointing out the need to protect, where necessary, confidential information, in accordance with the existing rules. In this respect, the Commission would like to refer, in particular, to Annex I of the framework Agreement on relations between the Parliament and the Commission.

(2)OJ L 8, 12.1.2001.

OJ C 316, 23/12/2009
Last updated: 26 February 2009Legal notice