European Union criticised for being too pro-business

The EU is under fire for being too pro-business, with a study showing advisory groups are heavy with representatives of corporations.

Trade unions, including those representing public service workers, are accusing the European Commission of spending public funds to promote a business agenda over a citizens’ one.

A Brussels-based NGO, Corporate Europe Observatory, carried out a study from the information available on the commission’s websites about the 800 expert groups, and analysed 35 groups set up in the past year. In new groups established by three important directorate generals (taxation, secretariat general, and enterprise), they claimed small and medium enterprises made up 2% of members, trade unions 5%, and big business interests had more than 50% seats.

MEP Nessa Childers was among a group that questioned the membership of one of these groups, the

Platform for Tax Good Governance, tasked with finding ways of collecting some of the €1tn which governments are failing to collect in taxes.

“The platform appears to have been heavily populated by the very same associations whose members have been engaging in and advising on tax avoidance and in some instances evasion. This represents a clear conflict of interest,” she said.

The membership list on the commission’s website showed nine of the 15 members were tax advisers, accountants, or from industry groups.

The commission said the Platform was an advisory, not a decision-making, body and the numbers “advocating a position is not as important as whose vision it is and how it is substantiated”.

One of the groups established to consider how to mutualise the debt of eurozone countries through a debt redemption fund and eurobills did not advertise publicly for interested participants, the NGO said.

Pascoe Sabido said the group comprised of neo-liberal economists who, with commission president Barroso and economics commissioner Olli Rehn, were interested in further liberalisation, privatisation, and austerity. “The potential short-term gain for the Irish people from lower government borrowing rates would be wiped out,” he claimed.

The NGO also accused the commission of listing many people under wrong headings, showing they were independent, held their seats in a personal capacity, or were listed as a trade union when they were a trade organisation.

Despite providing the vast majority of jobs in the EU, small and medium sized industry was very poorly represented and, in an expert group on retail sector innovation, consumers and SMEs held no seat.

The commission has accused the NGO of getting its figures wrong, saying in some cases, there were not sufficient applications from civil society and so some were not perfectly balanced.


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