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Summary of the decision in case 811/2017/EA on the transparency of “advisory bodies” that influence the development of EU policy

This case is about the transparency of “advisory bodies” that influence the development of EU policy.

The ‘Group of Personalities’ was set up by the Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs to help to advise on how the EU can support research related to the Common Security and Defence Policy. An NGO, the European Network Against Arms Trade, complained to the Ombudsman about the lack of transparency regarding the Group of Personalities. It noted, in particular, that the Group did not appear on the European Commission’s Register of expert groups and other similar entities.

The Ombudsman agrees that, in view of its composition - it included political members such as members of the European Parliament, national Parliaments and the Commission - it would be difficult for the Group of Personalities to be considered as an ‘expert group’. However, the Ombudsman notes that the Group of Personalities provided advice in relation to the preparation of a policy initiative, in the same way as an expert group, and that an appropriate level of transparency should have applied to its work. The Ombudsman suggests that an appropriate level of transparency, in relation to this Group, be ensured retrospectively by the Commission. She also suggests that, for the future, the Commission can strengthen public trust in its work by ensuring that appropriate transparency measures are applied to any new version of the Group of Personalities and similar advisory groups that influence important policy areas. Information to be provided about such groups should include, in particular, membership, agendas and minutes of meetings, as well as the criteria for the selection of their non-political members and the measures taken to ensure a balance of relevant stakeholders.