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Maturing EU agencies outgrow current rules - 11/03/2008

Headquarters of EMSA, the European maritime safety agency in Lisbon, Portugal

The EU agencies need a robust framework to match their important role in the decision-making process.

The EU agencies were set up to provide expertise on some of the issues that Europeans care most about – from health and social policy to foreign and security policy. They help the EU institutions  make the right decisions by delivering legal, technical and – in some cases – scientific back-up.

Some agencies – the 6 "executive agencies" – assist with the management of EU programmes in a given field. Others – e.g. the 29 "Community agencies" – were set up in response to an identifiable need in a particular policy area. A good example is the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), created in 2007 as part of the REACH package on hazardous chemicals.

The Community agencies are scattered around Europe. They differ in the type of remit they have and each one is governed by its own set of rules. This diversity and the lack of a common framework is a major obstacle to good governance.

The debate on reform has been going on for some time. In 2005, a new set of rules was drafted on the creation, management and monitoring of agencies but the EU institutions did not manage to reach a final agreement.

The European Commission thinks it is time to relaunch the stalled discussions and wants to set up a new working party with the EU Parliament and the Council to start the ball rolling.

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