Brussels, 1st March 2007
On 15 February 2007, the Council adopted Regulation (CE) No 168/2007 establishing a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The Agency comes into existence on 1 March 2007, replacing the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). This memorandum summarises the basic traits of the agency. It also provides an overview of the steps that need be taken during 2007 for it to become fully operational in all the extension of its mandate.
1) What is the Objective of the Fundamental Rights Agency?
The Fundamental Rights Agency is an independent Community Agency.
As such, its objective is to provide assistance and expertise relating to fundamental rights to the relevant Community institutions and its Member States when implementing Community law, in order to support them when they take measures or formulate courses of action within their respective spheres of competence to fully respect the fundamental rights.
The Agency will be a data collection and analysis body, with the capacity to issue advice, much as the current European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia is (albeit obviously within an enlarged material scope). However, the Fundamental Rights Agency's basic Regulation gives more emphasis than the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia's to two dimensions: raising public awareness and cooperation with civil society.
2) What are the Agency's Tasks?
The tasks entrusted to the Agency by its regulation will be:
(a) examination of individual complaints;
(b) regulatory decision-making powers;
(c) monitoring of the situation of Fundamental Rights in the Member States for the purposes of Article 7 of the Treaty of the EU.
(d) dealing with the legality of legislative acts within the meaning of Article 230 of the Treaty (which refers to the Court of Justice's power to review the legality of Community acts), or questioning whether a Member State has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Treaty within the meaning of Article 226 (if the Commission considers that a Member State has failed to fulfil an obligation under this Treaty, it shall deliver a reasoned opinion on the matter after giving the State concerned the opportunity to submit its observations. If the State concerned does not comply with the opinion within the period laid down by the Commission, the latter may bring the matter before the Court of Justice).
3) On which areas can the Agency carry out its activities?
The Agency shall carry out its tasks within the sphere competencies of the Community, as laid down in the EC Treaty.
The Council has made two declarations stating that:
• bearing in mind that the Agency will acquire general expertise on fundamental rights, the Union institutions may, within the framework of the legislative process and with due regard to each others' powers, benefit, as appropriate and on a voluntary basis, from such expertise also within the areas of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. This general expertise may also be of use to the Member States that wish to avail themselves thereof when they are implementing legislative acts of the Union in that area.
• it may seek the assistance of the Agency as an independent person if it finds it useful during a possible procedure under Article 7 TEU. The Agency will however not carry out systematic and permanent monitoring of Member State for the purposes of Article 7 TEU.
The areas on which the Fundamental Rights Agency can carry out its tasks: the Multi-Annual Work Programme
According to the terms of the Regulation, the Agency "shall refer in carrying out its tasks to fundamental rights as defined in Article 6(2) of the Treaty on European Union".
The Regulation foresees that a Multi-Annual Framework shall determine the thematic areas of the Agency's activities.
This Multi-Annual Framework shall be adopted by the Council, upon Commission proposal, and after consultation with the EP. The Commission has to consult the Management Board of the Agency before putting forward its proposal.
The Framework will cover 5 years, and shall in any case include the fight against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance (as a result of all EU institutions' endeavour to ensure that the Fundamental Rights Agency's work continues to cover racism, xenophobia and related intolerance)
4) Which countries is the Agency concerned with?
• From a geographical point of view, the Agency covers the EU and its 27 Member States.
• The Agency will also be open for participation of candidate countries as observers (Turkey, Croatia, the fYRoM), after a decision of the relevant Association Council, which will indicate in particular the nature, extent and manner of this countries' participation in the Agency's work, taking into account the specific status of each country.
• The Council may also invite also the Western Balkans countries (Albania, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro), which have concluded a stabilisation and association agreement with the EC to participate to the Agency also as observers (a decision of the relevant Association Council shall follow, as for CCs).
5) How will the Agency cooperate with the Council of Europe?
According to its basic Regulation, the Agency has to coordinate its activities with those of the Council of Europe in order to avoid duplication, ensure they are complementary, and provide added value to the Council of Europe's work. To this end, an agreement between the Community and the Council of Europe shall be concluded. Also, the Council of Europe appoints an independent person to the Management Board, who can also participate in meetings of the Executive Board.
6) Which other bodies will the Agency co-operate with?
The agency will co-operate with a number of bodies:
• OSCE and UN bodies in human rights area.
• Member States, in particular through National Liaison Officers, who may inter alia give an opinion on the Agency's annual work programme.
• National Human Rights Institutions of the Member States.
• Other Community and Union agencies, such as the Gender Institute, in order to ensure mutual support and avoid duplication. This will be ensured notably through the signature of memorandums of understanding and the possibility to participate in each other's meetings.
• Civil society: cooperation will be organised through a flexible cooperation network, the Fundamental Rights Platform, which is a mechanism for exchange of information and the pooling of knowledge.
7) What will be the structure of the Agency?
The bodies of the Agency are the following ones:
The persons appointed by the Member States are appointed by these freely, albeit obviously in compliance with the criteria of the Regulation. There are also alternate members for each of the above persons (responding to the same criteria).
The mandate of members and alternate is of 5 years, non renewable. In this light, and in order to avoid that the mandate of all members ends at the same time, the Regulation foresees that the Commission shall, at the first meeting of the Management Board in its definitive composition (see below), choose by lot 15 of its members, whose duties will end upon expiry of the first three years of their term of office.
8) How much will the Agency cost and how many staff will it comprise?
The budget of the Fundamental Rights Agency for the next years will be as follows:
The Agency has today 37 statutory staff. In 2007 it will have 46 staff members; to be gradually built up in the years to come.
9) What are the administrative rules applying to the Agency?
The Agency follows the horizontal rules concerning Community agencies as regards its operations, financial aspects and general characteristics. The Regulation contains all necessary “standard provisions” concerning these issues.
The Management Board shall decide on the internal language arrangements for the Agency.
10) What is the link between the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia and the Fundamental Rights Agency?
In conformity with the original mandate of the December European Council, the Agency is built on the already existing European Monitoring Centre on Racism (EUMC).
On 1 March 2007, the basic Regulation of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (Regulation (EC) No 1035/97) is abrogated, the EUMC ceases to exist, and the Agency comes into existence.
The Fundamental Rights Agency is the legal successor of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia: it assumes all legal rights and obligations, financial commitments or liabilities of the Centre, which includes the honouring of employment contracts concluded by the EUMC.
The first meeting of the interim Management Board of the Agency (see below) takes place on the morning of 1 March 2007, together with an formal event and reception on the occasion of its launch.
11) What can the Agency do before its multi-annual framework is adopted?
Until the Multi-annual Framework is adopted, the Agency shall carry out its tasks in the thematic areas of the fight against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance.
12) Is there any interim arrangement until the Member States appoint the independent persons for the Fundamental Rights Agency's Management Board?
This Management Board has a mandate limited to the following tasks:
• issue an opinion on a proposal from the Commission concerning the text of the call for candidates for the post of the Director of the Fundamental Rights Agency.
• appoint, upon Commission proposal, an interim Director or extend the current term of the Director of the Centre for the shortest possible period, pending the appointment of the Director.
• adopt the Fundamental Rights Agency's 2007 Agency's budget and draft the 2008 one.
• adopt the annual report on the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia own activities for 2006.
13) Is there an Interim Director?
The Regulation foresees that; the Commission will make a proposal to the interim Management Board.
14) When is the procedure for the selection and appointment of the Director launched?
After the opinion of the interim Management Board, the Commission will proceed to the publication of the call for candidates. After its closing, the Commission will adopt its short list of candidates as soon as possible.
15) How will the Agreement between the Council of Europe and the European Community be negotiated and concluded?
The Commission conducts formal negotiations with the Council of Europe on the basis of the negotiation directives adopted by the Council on 15 February 2007. After their hopefully quick completion, the Commission will put forward a draft Council decision for the conclusion of the agreement by the Community.
16) When will the Agency be fully operational?
In the light of all the above-described transitional measures, the Agency is
expected to be fully operational by the end of 2007, when the Multi-Annual
Framework is in place and the Director in post. In the meantime, it shall work
on racism, xenophobia and related intolerance.