Corporate power behind EU austerity, says NGO

Advisors to top banks implicated in the financial crisis steered the European Commission’s austerity drive following the economic meltdown.

Pascoe Sabido of the pro-transparency network, Alter-EU told reporters: “One of the key responses to the crisis, key drivers in shaping the commission’s response to the crisis is the De Larosiere expert group”.

The De Larosiere group, now disbanded, was named after its chairman, a senior banking figure, Frenchman Jacques de Larosiere.

The commission forms expert groups, on subjects ranging from climate change to data privacy, when their respective departments lack the internal expertise.

“This group, unfortunately, was dominated by the very same banking institutions that were instrumental in the financial crisis,” Sabido noted.

Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers and BNP Paribas, were all linked to the group, formally known as the High-Level Group on Financial Supervision in the EU.

“Unsurprisingly enough, the conclusion of this group, the recommendations were that actually whilst there had been a crisis ‘we are not going to challenge the underlying cause of it, which is self-regulation of banks and banks that are too big to fail’,” Sabido added.

De Larosiere, who chairs a committee at the French Treasury and is an advisor at BNP Paribas, also has the 2009 blueprint on EU financial supervision named after him.

The report, which looks at all the new expert groups created in the past year, says the commission has failed to deliver on its commitments to reform them despite repeated warnings from members of the European Parliament.

MEPs in November 2011 and in March 2012 docked the groups’ budgets in order to force the commission to remedy their corporat-dominated nature.

The rubber-stamping assembly lifted the budget reserve in September 2012 with the understanding that the commission would balance out the groups with more civil society representatives and improve transparency.

But the Alter-EU report notes that in all the recent groups created by the commission, there are more representatives of big business than of all the other stakeholders combined.

It points out that 80 per cent of the expert groups linked to the commission’s tax department, DG taxation and customs union, represent corporate interest.

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