The European regulatory agencies lack a common framework for governance, and clarity about their role and accountability. With this Communication, the Commission is aiming to re-launch an inter-institutional discussion on the role and place of regulatory agencies in the governance of the EU. This discussion should then result in a common vision on the functions of the regulatory agencies.
The present Communication concerns only regulatory agencies, and not the executive agencies. It addresses the need for a common approach to the place of these agencies in European governance and the lack of clarity over their role and accountability.
Currently, the Commission is responsible for proposing the establishment of agencies on a case-by-case basis, with the European Parliament and/or the Council of Ministers taking the final decision. A common view of the regulatory agencies shared by the EU institutions would promote transparency and improve working methods. This is particularly important as the agencies play an integral though highly varied part in a wide range of policy issues.
The regulatory agencies can be categorised roughly on the basis of their functions:
- adoption of individual decisions;
- technical or scientific advice to the Commission and the Member States;
- responsibility for operational activities;
- information and networking services;
- services to other agencies and institutions.
The specific roles of each agency are set out in its own founding legal act. These agencies are independent bodies, usually governed by a Management Board. The Management Board has responsibility for overseeing the performance of the agency and for nominating the Director, who in turn is in charge of the agency’s operational aspects. Most of the agencies are funded by the EU budget, and hence the European Parliament has responsibility for their budgetary discharge. In addition, the general Financial Regulation, along with the Framework Financial Regulation, provides common rules for the agencies’ financial governance.
What is lacking, however, is a general set of rules for the creation and operation of these agencies. And more importantly, there is a lack of clear rules for the accountability of their actions. Furthermore, the role and influence of the other institutions is questionable, for example with regard to the nomination and appointment of Directors and Management Boards. Consequently, with the present Communication, the Commission aims to re-launch a debate on the governance of the regulatory agencies.
A common framework
A common approach to the governance of regulatory agencies should be standardised enough to take into account the differences between the agencies. At the same time, the basic principles of accountability and sound financial management should also be respected. Therefore, the common approach should specify the following aspects of the regulatory agencies:
- structure and working methods;
- accountability and relations with the other institutions;
- regulatory framework;
- establishment and termination;
- communication strategy.
To achieve consistency, the common approach may necessitate amending the founding legal act of an existing agency.
The Commission calls for the creation of an inter-institutional working group to form a political assessment of the regulatory agencies. This could be followed-up with an instrument, legally binding or otherwise, that would provide form and transparency to the results of the assessment. The objective is to achieve a common political understanding about the agencies.
Simultaneously, the Commission will launch an evaluation of the existing regulatory agencies, with the results to be communicated by 2009-10. In the meantime, no new agencies will be proposed so that the evaluation may be carried out in a constant setting. The Commission will also launch a review of its own internal systems with regard to its relations to agencies and its methodology for conducting impact assessment of the regulatory agencies.
European Environment Agency
The European Environment Agency (EEA) is a European Union agency based in Copenhagen. Its aim is to provide reliable and independent information on the environment. It is one of the main sources of information for political decision-makers. This information is used to develop, adopt, implement and evaluate environmental policy. The EEA has 32 member countries at present.
Regulation (EC) No 401/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the European Environment Agency and the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Codified version).
The European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eionet) were established in 1990. However, the Agency’s activities actually started in 1994.
The EEA is an independent body whose objective is to support sustainable development and to improve the European environment. For the purposes of achieving this objective, the Agency has the following tasks:
- to establish and coordinate the Eionet Network;
- to provide the Community and the Member States with the objective information necessary for framing and implementing sound and effective environmental policies;
- to assist the monitoring of environmental measures;
- to record, collate, assess and disseminate data on the state of the environment;
- to help ensure that data are comparable at European level;
- to foster the development and integration of environmental forecasting techniques;
- to ensure the broad dissemination of reliable environmental information.
The information provided by the EEA concerns:
- air quality;
- water quality;
- the state of the soil, of the fauna and flora;
- land use and natural resources;
- waste management;
- noise emissions;
- chemical substances;
- coastal and marine protection.
The Eionet Network comprises the main component elements of the national information networks, the national focal points and the five European topic centres (ETCs). The centres’ activities cover the following areas:
- air and climate change;
- protection of nature and biodiversity;
- flows of waste and materials; and
- the terrestrial environment.
The EEA has 32 member countries at present: the 27 EU Member States and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.
The Agency’s Management Board includes one representative from each member country, two representatives from the DG Environment and the DG Research of the European Commission and two scientific experts appointed by the European Parliament. The main tasks of the Management Board are to adopt the EEA’s work programmes, to appoint the Executive Director and to designate the members of the scientific committee. The latter serves as an advisory body to the Management Board and the Executive Director on scientific issues.
The Executive Director is responsible to the Management Board for the implementation of the work programmes and the day-to-day management of the Agency.
The Agency organises its activities within the framework of annual work programmes under a five-year strategy and a multiannual work programme. The current strategy covers the period 2009 – 2013.
The Agency cooperates closely with other European and international institutions, such as the Statistical Office (Eurostat) and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The EEA and the Eionet Network will work together with the European Commission and other stakeholders to implement a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS). To this end, the EEA will utilise the existing notification tools and systems (Reportnet), eGovernment initiatives, the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE), the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
This Regulation repeals Regulation (EC) No 1210/90.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Regulation (EC) No 401/2009||10.6.2009||–||OJ L 126 of 21.5.2009|