Lords EU Committee on Law and Institutions

EU Fundamental Rights Agency a Positive Step but it must not duplicate work of the Council Of Europe

Embargo: 10:00 Tuesday 4th April 2006
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659

In a report published today the House of Lords European Union Committee welcomed the creation of an EU Fundamental Rights Agency. However, it stressed the need to ensure that the Agency would not duplicate activities already carried out by the Council of Europe and called for the establishment of the Agency to be conditional on the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding setting out the respective responsibilities of the two bodies.

The Report makes clear that there is an important role for the Fundamental Rights Agency to play in scrutinising EU legislation both prior to and after its enactment. The Committee stresses the need for external human rights monitoring of Commission proposals. The Agency could fill this gap.

Other recommendations the Committee put forward include:

  • The Agency should be more than a 'postbox' for collating and sorting information. It should have the power to seek specific information from Member States and to probe them if they do not provide it.

  • Candidate countries should be able to participate in the Agency to ensure that they receive the support necessary to help them meet their accession obligations without infringing fundamental rights.

  • The Agency should be competent to act in EU criminal law (e.g. the European Arrest Warrant), where fundamental rights issues frequently arise.

  • The case for a separate European Institute for Gender Equality has not been made. The Agency should deal with all strands of discrimination and fundamental rights.

  • The Agency must be independent in practice as well as in theory. It should not be subject to excessive control or interference from the Commission or the Council.

  • The Agency's management board of 29 is unworkable. The board should have a ceiling of eleven members nominated by Community institutions and the Council of Europe, rather than the Member States.

Commenting, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Chairman of the Committee said:

“The benefits that the Fundamental Rights Agency as presently proposed could provide are real but quite limited. We advocate a more substantial and more independent role for the Agency, one which we believe would provide real added value.

“We recognise that the greater the Agency’s role, the greater the risk of duplication with the Council of Europe’s activities. However, our proposals would allow the Agency to fill a significant gap in fundamental rights protection in Europe without treading on the toes of the Council of Europe.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The members of the Committee who conducted the inquiry were:

    Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood
    Lord Borrie
    Lord Clinton-Davies
    Lord Goodhart
    Lord Grabiner
    Lord Henley
    Lord Lester of Herne Hill
    Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall
    Lord Neill of Bladen
    Lord Norton of Louth

  2. The report is published by The Stationery Office, Human Rights Protection in Europe: The Fundamental Rights Agency, House of Lords European Union Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions).

  3. The full report will available shortly after publication on the internet at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldeucom.htm.

For copies of the report please contact Owen Williams on 020 7219 8659.