A set of proposals put forward by Dublin MEP Nessa Childers to improve the transparency and accountability of EU bodies was today adopted, by the Environment Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the European Parliament.
Ms. Childers’ proposals are part of an initiative from the European Parliament to push for stricter standards and more openness in EU law-making, which is increasingly subject to the influence of well-resourced corporate lobbying.
Ms. Childers led the work on the areas of specific concern to health and environment on behalf of the committee.
Her particular focus is on controlling conflicts of interest when experts provide advice to the EU Commission and EU specialised agencies, curbing the influence of the tobacco lobby on public health policy and safeguarding the integrity of technical and scientific advice to lawmakers and regulators.
Speaking from Brussels after the unanimous vote, this afternoon, Ms. Childers said:
“We need to make sure that members of expert groups who advise the EU executive on highly technical matters declare their interests accurately and systematically across the board.
“We see wide discrepancies in the way this is monitored by different departments, with individuals forgetting to mention corporate ties, or business interests cloaked up in different associations.
“For some areas, the pool of expertise can be really narrow, and there are concerns with the loss of knowledge from business on the ground.
“That is why I am proposing the adoption of a system of invited experts whose input could be taken on board, yet they could not take on drafting or voting roles in official reports.
“The same should apply to scientific panels at the specialised EU agencies dealing with food safety, medicines and chemicals.
“The tobacco lobby remains a deceptively powerful blocking force resisting public health regulations, and we are falling short of World Health Organisation standards we have agreed to at EU level.
“I’m particularly concerned with opaque customs agreements with the industry on counterfeiting and smuggling. For those in the know, it would we’re invested in keeping the fox in charge of the henhouse.
“We must claw back and get the public authorities back in full charge.
“Progress in transparency standards happens at a snail’s pace, and is often reactive, after some scandal emerges from known loopholes that linger through inertia.
“This is why we must push harder to enact simple and sensible changes rather than sit idly while trust in our institutions and in the decisions we make gets chipped away by doubt and mistrust.