new advisory groups, says new report by Friends of the Earth Europe
12, 2009 – Groups set up to advise the European Commission on controversial
issues are unbalanced and undemocratic, warn environmental campaigners in a new
report published today. 
composition of most High Level Groups established by the European Commission's
Directorate General (DG) Enterprise and Industry is skewed in favour of
industry interests, and their recommendations and conclusions are geared
towards improving the competitiveness of European business at the expense of
other public interests, the research by Friends of the Earth Europe concludes.
of the Earth Europe urges the Commission to stop setting up new High Level
Groups, or any other advisory bodies, until fair and transparent mechanisms for
their creation have been established, including clear and solid criteria that
guarantee all stakeholders are consulted equally.
author of the report, Friends of the Earth Europe's transparency campaigner
Christine Pohl said: "The European Commission has a duty to
protect the environment through its policies so it cannot be right that it is
advised by groups dominated by commercial interests. The Commission's failure
to take into account a broad range of different views is in clear contradiction
with its own consultation standards."
'Whose views count? Business influence and
the European Commission's High Level Groups' finds that on important
and controversial policy issues such as climate change, chemicals and food,
policies are formulated on the advice of bodies strongly biased in favour of
commercial interests. These findings raise serious concerns over the democratic
nature of decision-making within the European Commission. Of the seven High
Level Groups run by DG Enterprise and Industry during the term of Commissioner
Verheugen (since 22 October 2004), two were dominated by industry
representatives (industry representatives made up more than 50% of all members)
and four were unbalanced in favour of industry (industry made up more than 50%
of the non-governmental membership). Only one was not significantly unbalanced.
corporate dominance of the groups is reflected in the recommendations and
progress reports of the groups. 
Clerck, Friends of the Earth Europe's corporate accountability campaigner said: "Many
discussions focus on controversial technological fixes like nuclear energy,
carbon capture and storage or genetically modified crops, but the advice given
by the groups puts profits of large companies ahead of people and the planet.
Environmental and consumer interests are often sidelined or not given proper
attention. No new groups should be established until the Commission can ensure
they are transparent and unbiased."
levels of the seven groups were found to be inconsistent, with the Commission's
register of expert groups  proving to be incorrect, often outdated and not
consistent with the website DG Enterprise and Industry. Only four of the High
Level Groups are listed in the register, two of which are no longer active. The
third still active group, the HLG on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food
industry, is not listed, even though it first met six months ago (June 2008).
more information, please contact:
Pohl, Transparency Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +
32-2-5426104 and +32-498-492563 (Belgian mobile),
Francesca Gater, Communications Officer for Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel:
+32 2542 6105 and +32 485 930515 (Belgian mobile),
 Read Friends of the Earth Europe's report 'Whose views count?
Business influence and the European Commission's High Level Groups' here.
The seven High Level Groups examined are:
High Level Group on Textiles and Clothing
Pharmaceutical Forum (High Level)
High Level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and Environment
High Level Group on Competitiveness of the European Chemicals Industry
High Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens
High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry
recommendations of the first four groups which have already finalised their
work reflect the industry bias:
The reports on Textiles and Clothing and CARS 21 raise contentious social and
environmental issues, but the recommendations follow a market-oriented
approach, watering down or disregarding standards in the name of
In the more balanced Pharmaceutical Forum, crucial areas were controlled by
profit interests and recommendations on information to patients sought to water
down the current ban on the advertising of prescription medicines despite
opposition from public health groups.
The recommendations on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment were
less-narrowly profit-focused, perhaps because of growing public pressure to
address climate change. But many goals were watered down to the benefit of
companies and there was a clear emphasis on technological fixes like nuclear
energy and CCS (carbon capture and storage) without recognising the proven or
potential environmental and social risks.
It remains to be seen how balanced the final outcomes of the last three, still
active, groups will be. The progress reports indicate that the recommendations
will again be geared primarily towards improving the competitiveness of
The work programme and first reports from the HLG on the Competitiveness of the
European Chemicals Industry already makes clear that this group is not
providing many opportunities to debate environmental or consumer concerns. The
HLG on Administrative Burdens focuses exclusively on the reduction of
administrative burdens for the benefit of companies without considering the
potential negative effects and dangers of deregulation from a social,
environmental and economic perspective. The work agenda for the most recent HLG
on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry offers little opportunity for
environmental issues to be discussed. The first progress report indicates that
GMOs are taking centre stage to the benefit of industry, despite years of