Magazine article European Social Policy
The agency's core mission will be to monitor compliance with fundamental rights, as defined in the EU Charter, when member states or EU institutions implement Community law. The Commission has thus opted for the more minimalist approach instead of empowering the agency to vet the human rights record of countries all over the world. The agency could, however, examine the situation in non-EU countries with which the EU has an Association Agreement if such accords have, or will have, a human rights clause. This article targets "in particular countries covered by the European neighbourhood policy".
Collecting and analysing data would be the agency's main tasks, including issuing conclusions and opinions either on its own initiative or on request of an EU institution. However, it would not be able to examine the legality of Commission proposals. Upon request from the Council, the agency would assess whether a member state either risks committing a serious breach of human rights or has seriously and persistently done so. Thus, the agency could fulfil the role of independent advisor as set out in Article 7 of the EU Treaty, which allows the Council to suspend the voting rights of member states who flout human rights. This article, introduced with the Treaty of Nice, has never been invoked to date. The agency would also try to improve co-operation between the social partners and non-governmental organisations and raise public awareness of human rights.
Given the glut of existing bodies active in the human rights field, the Commission has tried to ensure that the agency will not duplicate other work. The agency would be obliged to take into account existing data produced by EU and national bodies and would conclude a cooperation agreement with the Council of Europe. Eleven member states currently have specific human rights agencies: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, France, Ireland, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg and Slovakia.
Each member state would have a representative on the board of management, as would the European Parliament and Council of Europe, while the Commission is allocated two representatives. All board members could vote. Their term of office would be five years, renewable once. The board would take key decisions, such as adopt the work programme and budget and appointing, dismissing or disciplining the Director, by a two-thirds majority. Other decisions would be taken by simple majority. The Commission would submit to the board a list of candidates for the post of Director, who would serve for five years, renewable once. The agency, to be based in Vienna, would have legal personality and its staff would have the rights and privileges accorded to EU officials. Its rules on access to its documents would be in line with Regulation 1049/2001/EC which covers access to Council, Commission and Parliament documents. The Commission has proposed a staff of 100 and budget of euro 153 million for 2007-2013.
EU candidate countries which have concluded an Association Agreement with the EU could take part in the agency, the precise terms of their participation to be spelled out by the relevant Association Council. …