Expert groups explained
Although the Commission has considerable in-house expertise, it needs specialist advice from outside experts as a basis for sound policymaking. This may be provided by groups of experts or external consultants, or take the form of studies.
A consultative body:
- set up by the Commission or its departments to provide them with advice and expertise
- composed of public and/or private sector members
- which meets more than once.
Gathering expertise from various sources may include gathering the views of various stakeholders.
There are 2 types of Commission expert groups:
- formal- set up by Commission decision
- informal- set up by an individual Commission department that has obtained the agreement of the Commissioner and Vice-President responsible and of the Secretariat-General.
Advisory bodies set up by the European Union legislator, which have a similar or identical role to that of Commission expert groups. They are administered and managed financially by the Commission.
The rules on Commission expert groups also apply to 'other similar entities', without prejudice to the provisions included in the legislative acts which set up those entities.
- comitology committees
- independent experts helping the Commission evaluate proposals and monitor projects in the implementation of activities in the area of research and technological development
- social dialogue committees
- joint entities set up by international agreements to supervise their implementation
- one-off events, such as meetings or conferences.
In many areas, the EU legislator empowers the Commission to adopt implementing legislation subject to the scrutiny of Member States. The mechanisms for exercising scrutiny, set out in the Comitology Regulation, involve comitology committees.
- are made up of representatives of each EU Member State
- are set up by the legislator (either the Council and the European Parliament, or the Council alone)
- give formal opinions on draft acts which the Commission intends to adopt to ensure that EU law is implemented uniformly. For more information, please visit http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regcomitology
They advise the Commission in relation to:
- the preparation of legislative proposals and policy initiatives
- the preparation of delegated acts
- the implementation of EU legislation, programmes and policies, including coordination and cooperation with Member States and stakeholders in that regard
- where necessary, the prepariation of implementing acts at an early stage, before they are submitted to the committee in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 182/2011.
Expert groups are not set up to engage in general debate with stakeholders or the public; rather, they provide a forum for discussionon a given subject and on the basis of a specific mandate involving high-level input from a wide range of sources and stakeholders that takes the form of opinions, recommendations and reports.
This input is not binding on the Commission, which remains fully independent regarding the way it takes into account the expertise and views gathered. When proposing new policies and measures, the Commission always tries to find the best solution in the general interest of the EU and its Member States.
Moreover, experts groups are not the Commission's only source of expert input. When gathering the full range of views on an issue, it also has recourse to studies, European agencies, green papers, public consultations, hearings, and so on. Overall stakeholder participation and representation should therefore always be seen in the light of all the initiatives the Commission takes.
Members can be of the following types:
- Type A - individuals appointed in a personal capacity, acting independently and expressing their own personal views.
- Type B - individuals appointed to represent a common interest shared by stakeholder organisations in a particular policy area. They do not represent individual stakeholders, but a particular policy orientation common to different stakeholder organisations. They may be proposed by stakeholder organisations.
- Type C - organisations in the broad sense of the word including companies, associations, NGOs, trade unions, universities, research institutes, law firms and consultancies.
- Type D - Member States’ authorities- national, regional or local.
- Type E - other public entities, such as authorities from non-EU countries (including candidate countries), EU bodies, offices or agencies, and international organisations.
Type B and C members may be appointed only if they are registered in the Transparency Register.
Type C, D and E members nominate their permanent representatives or appoint representatives on an ad hoc basis, depending on the meeting agenda of the group.
In principle, members must be selected through public calls for applications. The only exceptions are public authorities (Type D and E members).
Calls are published on this Register, with a minimum deadline of 4 weeks.
The Commission may decide to select members without using public calls if there is an overriding priority or if emergency condititions apply. In such cases, experts are selected according to objectively verifiable criteria, which are published in this Register.
If the necessary expertise can be obtained via a continuously open call, also to be published in this Register, there may be no need for a specific new call.
- They can be either permanent or temporary.
- They are chaired by a Commission representative, a person appointed by the Commission, or a person that the group has elected by simple majority.
- They act at the request of the Commission or the chairman, with the Commission's agreement.
- In agreement with the Commission, they can set up sub-groups to examine specific questions on the basis of a clearly defined mandate. These sub-groups are dissolved as soon as they have fulfilled their mandate.
- The Commission’s representatives in the group may invite experts with specific knowledge of a subject on the agenda to take part in the work of the group or sub-group on an ad-hoc basis.
- The Commission’s representatives in the group may grant observer status to individuals, organisations and public authorities, either by direct invitation or as a result of a call for applications, as appropriate. The Chair may allow observers and their representatives to take part in discussions and provide expertise. However, they cannot vote or take part in drawing up the expert groups' recommendations or advice.
- In principle, participants are not paid for their input, although the Commission may reimbursetravel and subsistence expenses. Only in exceptional and duly justified cases can Type A members and invited experts acting in a personal capacity be paid a 'special allowance', i.e. remuneration.
- Meetings are generally held on Commission premises.
- It is usually the Commission that prepares documents and draft agendas, organises meetings, drafts minutes, and so on.
Conflict of interest means any situation where an expert has an interest that may compromise or be reasonably perceived to compromise the expert’s capacity to act independently when providing advice to the Commission.
Such conflicts of interest are relevant only to experts appointed in a personal capacity (Type A members), who are due to act independently. Other types of members have a legitimate public or private interest.
Individuals applying to be appointed as members of expert groups in a personal capacity must disclose any circumstances that could give rise to a conflict of interest. In particular, all Commission departments concerned require them to submit a declaration of interests, together with an updated curriculum vitae ('CV’), as part of their application. Submission of a duly completed declaration is necessary in order for an individual to be eligible to be appointed in a personal capacity.
If the Commission department responsible decides, after assessment, that there is no conflict of interests, applicants with the requisite expertise may be appointed as members acting in a personal capacity.
The declarations of interests of such experts are published in this Register.
The Commission departments responsible for individual groups publish all relevant documents, such as agendas, minutes and participants’ submissions either:
- in this Register
- on a dedicated website, which may be accessed via a link from the Register.
Exceptions to publication are possible where it is considered that disclosing a document would undermine the protection of a public or private interest, as defined in Article 4 of Regulation (EC) N° 1049/2001 *.
Users may subscribe to specific expert groups and be emailed about any changes during a group's life-cycle. To receive emails, please visit your expert group's page.
You can also subscribe to receive e-mail alerts of new calls for applications published in this Register. See 'calls for applications' for further information.
* These exceptions are intended to protect public security, military affairs, international relations, financial, monetary or economic policy, privacy and integrity of the individual, commercial interests, court proceedings and legal advice, inspections/investigations/audits and the institution's decision-making process.
The applicable legal text is the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission as regards meetings of expert groups set up by the Commission to which the national authorities of all Member States are invited. Under the Agreement, Commission departments send the European Parliament the same documentation that they send to the national authorities if the expert group meetings relate to the preparation and implementation of EU legislation, including delegated acts and soft law.
At Parliament's request, the Commission departments may ask it to send experts to attend meetings of expert groups, as referred to above.
As regards expert groups to which national experts are invited and which are preparing delegated acts for which the Inter-Institutional Agreement on Better Law-Making between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission makes specific provision, the European Parliament and the Council must receive all documents at the same time as the national experts. Moreover, experts from Parliament and the Council must have systematic access to these meetings.