Doc. 10729

20 October 2005

Plans to set up a fundamental rights agency of the European Union
Recommendation 1696 (2005)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 941st meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (13 October 2005)

1.       The Committee of Ministers shares the views expressed by the Parliamentary Assembly in Recommendation 1696 (2005) and Resolution 1427 (2005) with regard to the setting-up of a fundamental rights agency of the European Union. Some of these concerns have already been addressed by the Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers, Mr Freitas do Amaral, in his reply to a question by Mrs Durrieu on 22 June 2005.

2.       As regards paragraph 2 (i) of the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers would like to recall the conclusions of the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe in May 2005. The Warsaw Declaration and Action Plan reaffirmed the role of the Council of Europe as the primary forum for the protection and promotion of human rights in Europe. They committed the Council of Europe to strengthening its co-operation with the European Union in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the promotion of pluralistic democracy and the rule of law, making sure that the Council of Europe’s and the European Union’s achievements and standard-setting work are taken into account as appropriate, in each other’s activities. A new framework of enhanced co-operation and political dialogue between the two organisations will be created through a memorandum of understanding on the basis of a series of jointly agreed political guidelines included in the Action Plan. The Committee of Ministers is convinced that the Warsaw Summit has thus produced the result called for by the Assembly in its recommendation. It will see to it that the future memorandum of understanding will likewise meet the legitimate wishes expressed in paragraph 2 (i).

3.       As regards paragraph 2 (ii) of the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers fully shares the Assembly’s concern that any unnecessary duplication with the role, functions and activities of the human rights institutions and mechanisms of the Council of Europe is to be avoided. It draws the Assembly’s attention to the legislative proposals for the establishment of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights which the European Commission published on 30 June 2005. These proposals take several of the recommendations made by the Assembly and the Secretary General into account. Many of the tasks foreseen for the agency would indeed be complementary to the activities carried out by the Council of Europe. As regards co-operation with the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers acknowledges that the draft regulation provides for a close institutional relationship, including provisions that the agency shall co-ordinate its activities with those of the Council, that a bilateral co-operation agreement shall be concluded and that an independent person shall be appointed by the Council to the management board of the agency.

4.       The Committee of Ministers agrees with the Assembly that the agency’s mandate should focus on human rights issues within the framework of the European Union, address its advice to the EU institutions and ensure that unnecessary duplication with the Council of Europe is avoided. It hopes that these points will be fully reflected in the future Community regulation. It recalls that one of the guidelines included in the Summit’s Action Plan recognises that the future agency should constitute an opportunity to further increase co-operation with the Council of Europe, and contribute to greater coherence and enhanced complementarity. In this context, the Committee of Ministers recalls that the existing arrangements for co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Observatory on Racism and Xenophobia have worked to the full satisfaction of both organisations and wishes to see a similar arrangement for the Council of Europe’s participation in the agency’s bodies.

5.       The Committee of Ministers will ask to be kept regularly informed by the Presidency of the European Union on the state of progress of the work on the draft regulation creating a fundamental rights agency of the European Union.