No more than 12 out of the 775 groups set up by the European Commission to get advice from external experts, have decided to hold public meetings. However, expert groups are slowly becoming more transparent in their behaviour, according to a new study prepared for the European Parliament.

According to the report which was shared with MEPs, several elements still need to be checked.

“We are going in the right direction, let us continue in this way,” said Dutch MP Dennis de Jong, who presented the conclusions.

Expert groups are set up by the Commission to get advice on different policies. They often consist of people who are experts in their field, but are far from politics. There are groups on topics such as statistics on air transport, combating counterfeiting of money, air quality, defence research and hundreds of others. The groups can lay the foundations for policy making and are sometimes able to shape debates on important issues.

In the case of a group responsible for the development of a new vehicle emissions test, the high share of the automotive industry in it contributes to the delay in concluding the negotiations.

Last year, MEPs asked the Commission in a resolution to “make progress towards a more balanced composition” of expert groups. The researchers from the Spanish Analytic Company Blomeyer & Sanz find that 179 expert groups have members that have economic interest. Of them in 133 groups, members with economic interest have higher percentage than those who do not.

Researchers have identified 39 groups in which all members had economic interest.

Also, the expert groups themselves are those who decide whether their meetings will be open to the public. The authors of the study have set up only five expert groups who have opened their meetings, although the European Commission has formally told the authors that there are in fact 12 such public groups.

The report also explores the gender imbalance that the Commission is trying to reduce by requiring at least 40 percent gender representation in an expert group. According to the study, there are 107 groups in which less than 40 percent of members are women; only 22 groups have had less than 40 percent of male members. Authors note that the majority of the groups did not reveal the gender of their members.