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EU Commissioner Barnier lays out his position on the focus on the financial industry in EU advisory groups

Since the beginning of the financial crisis, the EU Commission has already published about 30 proposals on regulating the financial market informed EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier at a conference on the role of civil society in financial regulation in Brussels. Replying to the criticism of many representatives of the civil society that the financial industry would be in the majority in the EU advisory committees Barnier just said: only 37 percent of the Committee members came from the financial industry, compared to 36 percent of members who came from consumer protection organisations, trade unions, small and medium enterprises and universities.

However, EU Commissioner Barnier acknowledged that some representatives in the groups were better at making their voice heard than others. This was indeed a problem; that is why now an analysis was carried out to establish the raison d'être and the composition of the groups. According to Barnier, the stakeholder groups are to be given a new balance. It was important that the European Consumers' Organisation BEUC, savers and trade unions would be heard. In any case, transparency in the groups would be guaranteed, said Barnier. All players are to be equally involved, commented Barnier. Information on the mandate and the composition of the advisory groups was available on the homepage of his Directorate-General. Furthermore, with the aim to enable a balanced financial expertise, € 1.25 million were to be made available within the scope of a pilot project. It was finally announced by the Commissioner that further legislative proposals concerning the financial sector were to be published in the coming year, for example the Insurance Mediation Directive or the Packaged Retail Investment Products Directive (investment products for small investors). Should it turn out that the banks were not taking any appropriate measures with regard to the initiative on the right to access a basic account (currently a non-binding recommendation of the Commission), this too would result in a legislative proposal.

MEP Markus Ferber of the European People's Party remarked on the current situation that it could not be that taxpayers had to pay and be liable for something they had not caused. However, one should not regulate things, which would be understood in any case and avoid tackling complex issues. Commenting on the advisory groups Ferber said it was not true that 200 finance lobbyists would be sitting in the stakeholder groups; many representatives would come from national ministries of finance.

The Director of the European Consumers' Organisation BEUC, Monique Goyens, informed that the BEUC together with the European Federation of Investors EuroInvestors had filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman because consumers had not been adequately considered within the stakeholder groups. Adequate funding had to be made available to consumers; to achieve this, Goyens demanded to make public funds available for this purpose. Apart from that, it had to be possible to access relevant consumer data; for example mystery shopping had to be promoted to obtain new information.

The Director of the Financial Inclusion Centre, Mick McAteer regarded the regulation of the financial sector as not sufficient. The supervisory bodies should act in the interest of consumers; the independence of the financial industry supervision had to be ensured. It was also important that consumer organisations would be provided with sufficient capacities to enable them to appoint experts to the financial sector.
One thing has been made clear by the conference: there is still a lot to be done to achieve the equal participation of the civil society with regard to preparing new financial market rules. One can only hope that the announcement by Commissioner Barnier to involve all players equally in the decision-making process will indeed be put into practice.

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Foto: EU-Kommissar Michel Barnier/ Quelle: ec.europa.eu