The European Parliament has overwhelmingly voted to freeze the budget of the European Commission's problematic advisory groups, known formally as Expert Groups, for the second time in four years.
A group of cross-party MEPs  tabled the amendment to withhold almost €4 million from the Commission budget for 2015, covering expert group expenses. It was voted through by all major groups. The conditions for its release relate to stakeholder balance, conflicts of interest and transparency. 
“On the same day as Juncker's corporate Commission is voted through, it's good to see some MEPs still willing to stand up for the public interest. Expert groups are one of the most important ways that industry influences new laws – before they're even written – so tackling their privileged access at this early stage is key if we want decent laws in the interest of all of us.” Said Pascoe Sabido from Corporate Europe Observatory, who heads up the ALTER-EU Expert Group Working Group.
When the Parliament released the original budget reserve in September 2012, they warned the Commission that if the dominant role of corporations did not improve, the budget would be refrozen.
“ALTER-EU has consistently highlighted how the Commission keeps breaking its promise to end corporate dominated expert groups. Two years on and we're back in the same position because all other routes of reform have led to a dead end. Hopefully with a budget freeze in place the new Commission will treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves.” Said Max Bank from LobbyControl, a steering committee member of ALTER-EU.
Evidence produced by ALTER-EU in 2013 showed that corporate interests occupied more seats than all other stakeholders combined in expert groups created since the original budget freeze was lifted, and in DG Taxation and Customs Union, this figure was almost 80 per cent.  New evidence of all groups across all DGs shows the situation to be far worse, with business interests taking more than two thirds of all seats. 
The European Ombudsman has also launched an own initiative inquiry into the composition of Commission Expert Groups, with recommendations expected in 2015. The fourth condition set-out by MEPs is that the Commission conducts a horizontal review of its Expert Group rules following the inquiry with aim of implementing the findings. 
Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory, email@example.com; +32 486 85 74 16 [EN/FR/ES]
Max Bank, LobbyControl, firstname.lastname@example.org; +49 163 456 8741 [DE/EN]
Notes to editor
 Signatories of the amendment are Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA), Inge Gräßle (EPP), Monica Macovei (EPP), Jens Geier (S&D), Dennis De Jong (GUE/NGL), Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA), Indrek Tarand (Greens/EFA)
 The budget amendment with the four conditions can be found here
 See the ALTER-EU report, A Year of Broken Promises
 The new research was produced as part of a PhD project by Julian Schwartzkopff. More information on the figures here
 For more information on the Expert Group inquiry, see here; for CEO's contribution to the Ombudsman's public consultation see here