EU Commissioner-designate for the Internal Market Michel Barnier "gave a very encouraging signal […] during his approval hearing in the European Parliament," said Vassalos, who also deals with expert groups on behalf of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), a transparency NGO.
"If Mr. Barnier gets approval from the Parliament, he should check the eight corporate-dominated groups we mention in our report plus the one on derivatives that was created after we had finished writing it," he said. "These nine groups have to be reformed under his administration or abolished if reform proves impossible."
ALTER-EU recently published a report entitled 'A captive Commission: The role of the financial industry in shaping EU regulation,' which analysed the composition of the European Commission's expert groups on financial issues. The groups are made up of professionals invited to advise the Commission on financial matters (EurActiv 09/11/09).
The crisis showed that the EU's self-regulatory approach "manifestly failed," Vassalos said. "In 2008, mainstream political groups and heads of state asked for action to regulate hedge funds" but "the proposals presented by the European Commission in April 2009 were very limited in scope in comparison with what the politicians were calling for, because the Commission stuck to many of the directions proposed by the conclusions of expert groups dominated by the hedge fund industry, published in 2006," Vassalos explained.
"Today, there are more experts from private companies in the expert groups advising the Commission's services dealing with financial policies […] than the Commission's own policy-making civil servants," he claimed.
According to the researcher, financial businesses also participate in other forms of public consultation organised by the Commission, via the Internet or at conferences.
"The criteria with which the Commission selects expert group members are very arbitrary," Vassalos deplored. "80% of the expert group members that don't come from government come from big companies and only 20% from consumers, trade unions, academics and all the rest," he said.
ALTER-EU suggests that "big business representatives should never be more than half of the non-governmental members".
“We want the Commission to understand that when it asks people from the financial sector for advice, they are asking people with a vested interest," Vassalos stressed.
He also criticised the composition of the De Larosière group, which advised the Commission on financial reform. That group "was definitely not independent and unbiased," he said.