The European Commission launched today a consultation on the fields of action, the missions and the tasks of the future Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union.
The consultation follows the decision of the Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the European Union, taken in December 2003, to extend the mandate of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, based in Vienna, by converting it into a Fundamental Rights Agency. The Agency will target non governmental organisations involved with the protection of human rights and all those involved in the development of the protection of fundamental rights in the European Union.
The Commission emphasises three essential points:
- The transformation of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia into a Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union does not, under any circumstances, mean that less importance will be attached to the fight against racism and xenophobia, since these phenomena are currently experiencing a resurgence in Europe.
- the Agency will have to be an effective tool for the protection and promotion of fundamental rights in the policies of the European Union. There cannot be any overlap with the work that the Council of Europe has carried out for years, which remains the major point of reference as regards fundamental rights.
- the Fundamental Rights Agency will have the same administrative statute as the other agencies of the European Union.
During 2005, the European Commission will submit a proposal for a Regulation creating the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union.
Questions put by the European Commission to civil society
The questions posed to civil society concerning the Agency are connected with the definition of its field of action, to the missions and tasks that it could be allocated, to the relations that it could develop with the Council of Europe and with other international institutions as well as to the adaptation of the existing structure with a view to ensuring the effectiveness of the Agency.
- How can the Agency supplement the Community system of protection and of promotion of fundamental rights ensuring the development of a policy of fundamental rights in the European Union? Should it have powers in fields which are not governed by Community law as is the case with Article 7 TEU, which obliges each Member State to respect the principles of freedom, of democracy, of respect of human rights and of fundamental freedoms and of the rule of law?
- How should the Agency define its spheres of activities in light of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union? Should priorities be established in conjunction with, for example, Community or Union policies (immigration, asylum, non-discrimination, ethical questions, safeguards in criminal procedure, violence, etc.)?
- How should the geographical mandate of the Agency be determined? Must the activity of the Agency be limited to the Union or should it also cover third countries, keeping in mind that redundancies with other existing organisations must be avoided and that the effectiveness of the Agency must be ensured?
- What tasks should be allocated to the Agency and how could it be ensured that it will have the means of developing them and disseminating the results?
- How can useful and effective dialogue between the Agency and the civil society be ensured?
- How can a productive working relationship with other partners be ensured? How, in particular, can close cooperation with the Council of Europe be guaranteed? How can lessons be learnt from the experiences of national organisations involved in the promotion and protection of fundamental rights or from other national bodies with expertise in this field?
- What kind of a structure should be put in place in order to ensure both independence, with regard to the institutions of the EU and the Member States, and the effectiveness of the Agency?
Communication of the Commission on the Fundamental Rights Agency. Public consultation document. COM(2004)693 final, 25 October 2004.
Document de travail de la Commission relatif à la Communication de la Commission sur l'Agence des Droits Fondamentaux - Document de consultation publique. SEC(2004)1281. (available only in French)
The documents are available on the website: