New Internationalist

And who's pushing European Commissioners' buttons?

Attempts by MEPs and pro-democracy activists to shine a light on the cosy relationship between big business and the European Commission have hit a wall of secrecy - erected by the Commission itself.

The words 'mind your own business' were not used but they could have been, when it came to dealing with questions about the 1,000 so-called expert groups (mostly lobbyists for big corporations) that the Commission uses for advice on laws and regulations in all areas of its competence.

Commissioner Siim Kallas refused to answer any questions from increasingly frustrated MEPs about balanced representation from such groups to stop big business from dominating.

Dutch MEP Dennis de Jong is calling for transparency and greater equality: 'Trade unions, consumer organizations and representatives of the Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises face a huge lack of resources unlike big companies that can hire professional lobbyists. The interests of workers, consumers and small businesses are not being represented fairly because of the price tag attached.'

MEPs are seeking to force transparency by bringing the issue under rules governing access to documents and setting up a formal dialogue on new rules on expert groups with the Commission.

There are quite a few other questions the Commssion could do with answering: like how come, for example, the Commission website cites Greenpeace as a participant in the ‘Implementing Geological Disposal’ Technology Platform when in fact Greenpeace was explicitly rejected from participation. Funny sort of 'balanced representation', that.

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About the author

Vanessa Baird a New Internationalist contributor

Vanessa Baird lived and worked as a journalist in Peru during the tumultuous mid-1980s, and she maintains a passionate interest in South America. She joined New Internationalist as a co-editor in 1986 and since then has written on everything from migration, money, religion and equality to indigenous activism, climate change, feminism and global LGBT rights. She also edits the Mixed Media, arts and culture section of the magazine.

Vanessa’s books include The No-Nonsense Guide to World Population (2011), Sex, Love and Homophobia (2004), The Little Book of Big Ideas (2009) and, People First Economics (2010). In 2012 she won a prestigious Amnesty International Human Rights Media award.

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