In his letter last week, Paul de Clerck of ALTER-EU suggests that the chair of the High-Level Group on Administrative Burdens, Edmund Stoiber, lobbied John Dalli, the then European commissioner for health, on the revision of the tobacco-products directive by arguing the case of a Bavarian tobacco producer (“Stoiber group lobbies for tobacco industry”, 17-23 January).
It is true that Mr Stoiber received and forwarded a letter from this producer. It is, however, completely wrong to say that Mr Stoiber and the High-Level Group were used as a vehicle for pushing the interests of the tobacco industry.
The High-Level Group advises the European Commission on reducing the administrative burden across all policy areas. In his function as chairman of the High-Level Group, Mr Stoiber receives many letters with complaints or suggestions for improvements of EU legislation. These are forwarded to the Commission for further analysis.
It is normal practice that such complaints, which concern problems of a more general nature, are taken up in the group's work and feed into its advice in the shape of so-called ‘offline opinions' addressed to the Commission. This is not part of a “deregulation agenda”, as alleged in the letter. Rather, these activities aim to provide the Commission with advice on how to ensure that EU legislation is efficient and effective – all in the interests of fostering growth and jobs.
This work cannot be effective if it is done in isolation – sealed off from the concerns of, and contacts with, companies and citizens. It is carried out in full transparency, as can be seen from the information and documentation on the group's website.
For each meeting, the group's website lists opinions, minutes, presentations and other relevant documentation.
The background section of the offline opinions explains the way in which the group has dealt with stakeholder suggestions. In addition, an annex to each offline opinion provides information on the author of the suggestions. Furthermore, the new mandate for the group, which was adopted on 5 December 2012, explicitly states that the Commission “publishes all relevant documents on the activities carried out by the group (such as agendas, minutes and participants' submissions) either directly in the Register [of Commission expert groups and similar entities] or via a link from the Register to a dedicated website”. Concerning access to documents, the rules of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 apply.
The allegations of undue sector-specific lobbying and lack of transparency are therefore unfounded.
Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen