There are more than 30 agencies in different EU countries. They have an important role in implementing EU policies, especially tasks of a technical, scientific, operational and/or regulatory nature. This frees up the EU institutions, especially the Commission, to concentrate on policy-making.
They also support cooperation between the EU and national governments in important policy areas, by pooling technical and specialist expertise from both the EU institutions and national authorities.
The decentralised agencies are independent legal entities under European public law, distinct from the EU institutions (Council, Parliament, Commission, etc.).
Because the agencies were set up on a case-by-case basis over the years, to respond to emerging individual policy needs, they have been operating in quite diverse conditions. In 2012 the EU rectified this by adopting a comprehensive set of guiding principles – a "common approach" – to make the agencies more coherent, effective and accountable.
This new framework was the result of analysis by an EU working group of the agencies' governance, functioning and oversight, based on a number of reports and studies, including a comprehensive external evaluation.