Parliament greenlights reports on Commission’s expert groups and whistleblower protection
Two reports by GUE/NGL MEP Dennis De Jong, developed in the Budgetary Control Committee (CONT), were today approved at the European Parliament with near unanimity.
The first report sought to bring transparency to the Register and composition of the Commission’s expert groups, which have been dominated by big business seeking to influence the Commission’s policies and decisions.
De Jong commented: “Commissioner Frans Timmermans must now assume his responsibilities and ensure there is an end to the dominant position of large companies in the Commission's expert groups. Whilst investigating the Diesel Gate scandal we saw how expert groups like CARS 21 can dominate the discourse, with barely any space left for environmental and consumer organisations.”
De Jong explained how his proposals will make the Register and expert groups more transparent:
“There is an assumption that the Commission’s meetings with expert groups are not public. The main rule is that European citizens should be able to know what happens inside these meetings. I also want the Commission to make clear what they mean by ‘balanced composition’ in members’ appointments and what interests they represent.”
Whilst large companies have enough resources to hire professional lobbyists, SMEs and NGOs have fewer opportunities to contribute to the Commission’s work:
“The Commission must provide financial support for smaller organisations to take part in the expert groups. For example SMEs who have to keep their business operating while they take part in an expert group,” the Dutch MEP proposed.
The second report approved in plenum addressed protection for whistleblowers with a focus on those who report wrongdoing involving EU financial interests.
De Jong explained: “Many people approach us with information about corruption and fraud involving EU funds. I want them to be protected and extend this protection to those not working for European institutions.”
“Of course, it would be nice if member states could reach an agreement on the protection of whistleblowers in general. But not all abuses bear relevance to European legislation and therefore, there may be no need for rules at the European level for these cases. There is, however, a clear commitment from the EU to fight fraud and corruption involving European money, so this is an area where regulation is important,” De Jong added.
The proposals presented sought to respond in particular to the Council Directive on trade secrets protection:
“The law on protecting trade secrets is vague in how it defines trade secrets and the protection of whistleblowers and investigative journalists is not regulated. When it comes to fraud involving European funds, the interests of whistleblowers should be given prime importance,” the Dutch MEP concluded.