In November 2017, after a great deal of political maneuvering, the EU Member States decided to extend authorization for glyphosate, the world’s best-selling herbicide, for a period of five years. Eighteen Member States voted in favour of the extension, nine voted against and one abstained. The decision came following a lengthy and combative process, which focused on the question of whether glyphosate is carcinogenic, something that the World Health Organization declared in 2015 as probable. The public debate surrounding the decision has been exceptional, resulting in a ‘Ban Glyphosate’ European Citizens’ Initiative and a pending Court case relating to the publicity of the scientific reports regarding the use of glyphosate and its effects on humans.
Since the establishment of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the fine-tuning of the functioning of the EU aviation safety sector and the expansion of the Agency’s mandate ranked high on the EU legislative agenda. This resulted in the replacement of the initial EASA Founding Act with Regulation 216/2008 (the current EASA Regulation), which has been subject to further amendments over time. In December 2015, the Commission launched yet another overhaul of the EU aviation safety sector as part of its Aviation Strategy for Europe, aimed at replacing the legal framework based on the current EASA Regulation with a better one. The future EASA Regulation is intended to build on the current legal framework and to prepare the EU aviation safety sector for the challenges ahead in the coming years.
Vittoria Meissner: ‘‘Frontex’s Pool of Return Experts: The Performance of the EU Border Agency’ (12 October 2017)
In January 2017, the recently reformed European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCG) Frontex started a pool of return experts, in order to support and expedite the return of migrants. The establishment of the pool is part of the larger reform that in October 2016 officially transformed the old EU border agency into the new EBCG through Regulation (EU) 2016/1624. The EBCG builds on the legacy of Frontex, which has now an expanded mandate and increased resources at its disposal. During negotiations prior to the adoption of the Regulation, the European Commission particularly supported an enhanced role of the Agency. As a result, today Frontex should be better equipped, in order to fulfil its expanded mandate effectively and meet challenges at the EU external borders.
Whistleblowers provide a critical checking function in ensuring accountability, fighting corruption and protecting the public interest as they have direct access to valuable information and insights of their organisations. This role is widely recognized by EU institutions and discussions are ongoing for possible EU wide legislation on whistleblower protection. This blog examines whether EU agencies are also following this increased trend for whistleblower protection.
Joan Solanes Mullor: ‘Linking the EU and National Agencification Processes: A Growing Need to Overcome Inconsistencies’ (13 July 2017)
The Agencification process in Europe presents two dimensions: the EU and national levels. Over the last two decades, the EU has relied on agencies to exercise its own competences. EU agencies have increased in number and are now part of the EU administrative landscape. At the same time, the EU has bolstered agencies as a form of government and administration at national level. The EU has introduced agencies in several sectors as a form of organization for national regulators. Some examples are the energy, the telecommunications, and the railway services markets. If the Commission’s directive proposal succeeds, the independence of national competition authorities will be reinforced as well.
On 27 and 28 June 2017 the University of Luxembourg hosted the TARN Conference on the External dimension of EU agencies and bodies, organized by professors Herwig Hofmann, Ellen Vos, Morten Egeberg and dr. Merijn Chamon. Political and legal scientists discussed different aspects of the EU agencies’ impact beyond the EU’s borders: cooperation and exchange of information with third countries, accountability in agencies’ external relations, agencies’ international legal personality, the export or externalization of the EU acquis and values to third countries, the possibility for third countries to participate in EU agencies, etc. The present blog presents an overview of the main findings of the conference.
After the UK citizens voted to leave the EU in the 23 June 2016 referendum, it was clear from the outset (although perhaps not to the UK government) that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) should have been relocated to other remaining Member States (cf. Chamon blog).
It is moreover apparent that the matter should be settled rapidly (see to that effect §15, European Council guidelines), preferably before the end of the two-year period for negotiating the withdrawal agreement (i.e. 29 March 2019), so as to ensure EBA and EMA’s continued operation. A number of political, legal and financial obstacles are nonetheless at odds with these expectations.
Diane Fromage: ‘The New Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group for Europol : Old Wine in New Bottles?’ (17 June 2017)
The Regulation for Europol adopted in 2016 created the new Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny Group for Europol (JPSG).
This (finally) allowed national parliaments to be involved in the political monitoring of Europol as specifically provided for by article 12 of the Treaty on the European Union since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. Indeed, since 2009 national parliaments are to ‘contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union’. They have been granted several rights of information and prerogatives to this end, among which the task to monitor Europol.
Practical cooperation in the European asylum policy has evolved from information exchange through loose administrative networks and ad hoc projects, to institutionalisation of a plethora of activities coordinated by an EU agency, the European Asylum Support Office. The ‘asylum crisis’ has further spurred forms of joint processing of asylum applications, while the proposed Regulation on a European Union Agency on Asylum foresees enhancement of the agency’s mandate, including through incorporating monitoring and assessment tasks.
David Fernández Rojo: ‘The European Border and Coast Guard: Towards the Centralization of the External Border Management?’ (7 February 2017)
As a result of the migratory crisis, the transformation of Frontex into a European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) became a political priority for both the EU and the Member States. Regulation 2016/1624 aims to strengthen the position and independence of the EBCG from the Member States, which have not always fully cooperated with Frontex. Precisely, the Commission argued that Regulation 2016/1624 would provide the EBCG “the additional competences needed for it to effectively implement integrated border management at Union level (…)” and overcome the discrepancies that still remain at the national level.
Torbjørg Jevnaker: ‘What next for ACER?’ (11 January 2017)
The EU’s energy agency may get new tasks as proposed in the winter package on the energy union. It might escape standardization, but not controversy.
In 2015, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), celebrated its 20th anniversary, coinciding with the 50 years of pharmaceutical regulation in the European Union (EU). In the EU, pharmaceuticals are legislated at the EU level, but the enforcement of this legislation is typically left to the Member States. Yet also in this area we can see a trend of verticalization. This development has resulted in too complex procedures, with potential negative effects on accountability.
Conflicts of interest of high-ranking civil servants that leave their EU post are currently again subject to critical discussion. This blog post will examine how potential conflicts of interests of departing staff members are dealt with in selected European agencies and critically examine the agencies policies on the matter.
This blog post discusses the ‘migration’ of the existent Europol Cooperation Agreements into future international cooperation of Europol under the New Regulation. The current procedure for their adoption, form and content raise some concerns, and perpetuating their implementation after 2017 appears as a sub-standard result.
One of the many relevant questions following the Brexit vote is what would happen to the decentralised agencies were the UK to leave the EU? This blogpost by Merijn Chamon focuses on some of the most pressing practical problems that would arise for EU agencies in the context of Brexit.
Deep divisions persist among members of the European Union as the recent crises of monetary union and massive immigration show. The biggest and basic problem is the lack of agreement on the final destination of the integration process, argues Giandomenico Majone, who calls for a decentralized system of operational agencies, tackling specific problems and being directly responsible for the results they achieve.
Ellen Vos: ‘EU Agencies: In need of Further Constitutionalisation’ (30 May 2016)
The number of EU agencies has only been on the rise in the past few decades as well as their importance, especially in addressing crisis, such as the BSE (mad cow) catastrophe and the oil tanker Erika crisis in the 1990s and the more recent financial and refugee crises. Yet, the mushrooming of EU agencies and their increasingly broad powers are only addressed by EU constitutional provisions to a limited extent. Ellen Vos discusses the agencies’ constitutionality and the powers conferred upon them. She observes a constitutional neglect of agencies and holds that it is necessary to improve EU agencies’ constitutional position.