Expert Groups explained

Why does the Commission need to call upon external expertise?

Expertise is crucial for sound policies. While the Commission has a high level of in-house expertise, it also frequently calls on external specialists.

Expertise may take many forms, both scientific knowledge and knowledge derived from practical experience. It can be obtained in different ways, e.g. through expert groups and external consultants.

What is a Commission expert group?

A body set up by the Commission or its departments to provide it with advice and expertise, comprising at least 6 public and/or private-sector members and meeting more than once.

There are 2 types:

  • formal expert group set up by a Commission decision
  • informal expert group set up by an individual Commission department

Rules on creation/operation of Commission expert groups  (C(2010) 7649 finalSEC(2010) 1360 final)

What do we mean by other similar entities?

These are consultative entities that were not set up by the Commission or its departments, but which have a similar or identical role to a Commission expert group and are administered and financially managed by the Commission.

They are subject to the transparency requirements set up in the rules on Commission expert groups (e.g. to be published in this Register, with the names of their members, etc.).

Which entities are not covered by Commission rules on expert groups?

  • groups set up by a formal act by other EU institutions
  • groups with a different role to that indicated in the rules
  • one-off events like meetings, conferences, etc.
  • comitology committees External Link
  • independent experts assisting the Commission evaluate proposals and monitor projects in the implementation of activities in the area of research and technological development. The activities of these experts are governed by specific rules
  • social dialogue committees (labour-relations agreements in one or more industries
  • joint entities created in accordance with methods laid down in international agreements External Link to supervise their implementation

What's the difference between an expert group and a comitology committee?

Comitology committees whose members are representatives of each EU Member State - are set up by the legislator (Council and European Parliament or Council alone) to assist the Commission in policy areas where it is empowered to implement legislation. Their primary role is to give formal opinions on measures the Commission intends to adopt to implement EU legislation.

What's the role of a Commission expert group?

To provide advice and expertise to the Commission and its departments in relation to:

  1. the preparation of legislative proposals and policy initiatives (Commission's right of initiative)
  2. the preparation of delegated acts
  3. the implementation of existing EU legislation, programmes and policies, including coordination and cooperation with member countries and stakeholders in that regard.

Expert groups are essentially a forum for discussions, providing high-level input from a wide range of sources and stakeholders in the form of opinions, recommendations and reports.

None of this input is binding on the Commission and its departments, which remain fully independent regarding the way they take 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 countries.

Nor are these groups the only source of expertise used by the Commission - to get the full range of views on a given matter, it also uses other sources such as studies, European agencies, green papers, hearings etc. Therefore, the degree of overall participation and representation of stakeholders should be assessed in light of all initiatives taken by the Commission.

Who are the members of a Commission expert group?

Commission expert groups can have the following types of members:

  1. Individuals appointed in a personal capacity, acting independently and expressing their own personal views
  2. Individuals appointed to represent a common interest shared by stakeholders in a particular policy area. They do not represent individual stakeholders, but a particular policy orientation common to different stakeholder organisations. They are normally appointed on basis of suggestions from stakeholder organisations, including in the framework of calls for expression of interests, although they do not represent them.
  3. Organisations in the broad sense of the word including companies, associations, NGOs, trade unions, universities, research institutes, EU bodies and international organisations. These organisations nominate individuals as their permanent representatives in the group or appoint representatives on an ad hoc basis depending on the meeting agenda.
  4. National authorities of the Member States (at regional and local levels). Like for organisations, national authorities appoint their representatives in the group.

Thus, in the first two cases members of Commission expert groups are individuals (whether they are independent experts or experts representing a common interest), while in the third and fourth cases the members are the private or public bodies themselves, which then appoint their representatives.

How are the members of a Commission expert group selected?

This is determined by a number of factors, to be assessed on a case by case basis, such as the field concerned, the group's mandate and the specific expertise required.

Individuals appointed in a personal capacity

They are chosen according to a selection process that guarantees a high level of expertise and, as far as possible, a geographical and gender balance, while taking into account the specific tasks of the expert group and the type of expertise required. Furthermore, the selection of experts is carried out in such a way as to avoid any conflict of interests.

Apart from specific selection procedures under Commission decisions, as far as reasonably practicable the Commission and its departments issue public calls for applications. When this is not possible, e.g. very specific expertise is required, experts are chosen on the basis of objectively verifiable criteria.

Individuals representing an interest / organisations

The Commission seeks, as far as possible, to ensure a balanced representation of relevant stakeholders, taking into account the specific tasks and type of expertise required.

Duration of membership

Members are appointed either for a fixed (possibly renewable) or unlimited period.

How do Commission expert groups work?

  • They can be either permanent or temporary
  • Usually chaired by the Commission (or by a person it appoints), some are entitled to elect their own chair (by simple or qualified majority)
  • Meetings are generally held on Commission premises
  • Usually, the Commission takes care of the group's secretariat (prepares documents, draft agendas, organises meetings, drafts minutes, etc.)
  • They act at the request of the Commission or (if the Commission agrees) the group's chairperson
  • In agreement with the Commission, they can set up sub-groups to examine specific questions (on the basis of a clearly defined mandate). They are dissolved as soon as the mandate is fulfilled
  • The Commission representative can invite experts with specific knowledge in a subject on the agenda to take part in the work of the group or sub-group on an ad hoc basis. They can also grant observer status to individuals, organisations and candidate countries
  • In principle, the experts are not paid for their work, although the Commission reimburses travel and subsistence expenses

How is transparency ensured?

Commission departments running individual groups publish all relevant documents (such as agendas, minutes and participants’ submissions) either in the Register or via a link from the Register to a dedicated website, where information can be found.

Exceptions to systematic publication are foreseen where disclosure of a document would undermine the protection of a public or private interest as defined in Article 4 of Regulation (EC) N° 1049/2001 *

* 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.

How is the European Parliament involved?

In accordance with the 2010 Framework Agreement between the European Parliament and the Commission, where expert groups comprise the national authorities of all Member States, the Commission services send the European Parliament the same documentation that they send to national authorities in relation to the meetings of those expert groups, where such meetings concern the preparation and implementation of Union legislation.

Upon request of the European Parliament, the Commission services may invite the European Parliament to send experts to attend meetings of expert groups referred to above.

Useful documents:

Rules for Commission Expert Groups C(2010) 7649 finalSEC(2010) 1360 final

Conditions for granting a special allowance C(2014) 2220 final External Link

Guidelines on the collection and use of expertise by the Commission COM (2002) 713 External Link

Standards for consulting interested parties COM (2002) 704 External Link

White Paper on European Governance COM (2001) 428 External Link

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