In Strasbourg yesterday, representatives from the European Parliament, the Council, and the Commission agreed on a joint statement and common approach to the EU's decentralised agencies. The agreement will greatly improve the agencies' governance and efficiency, and make them a more effective tool in implementing the policies of the EU. It will now be formally endorsed by each institution.
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, Commissioner for Interinstitutional Relations and Administration, said: "This agreement represents a genuine breakthrough for the good governance and the improved efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability of the EU's decentralised agencies. The added value we expect to gain will be of paramount importance in the current political and economic context, driven by the concern for efficiency gains. The Commission will work with all the EU agencies to make sure that implementation of this agreement is a success."
Jutta Haug, the German MEP (S&D) representing the European Parliament in the talks, said: "I am relieved that we have finally come to an agreement. Important issues at the heart of the European Parliament have been taken into account. But the work on and with decentralised agencies has not come to an end. Yet, our common understanding of decentralised agencies has been identified after three years of intensive work, meaning good things come to those who wait."
Minister Wammen for the Danish Presidency of the Council said: "In these times of austerity when we have to watch every cent, I am very pleased that we have reached agreement on a common approach for the EU’s decentralised agencies. The agreement on this important issue demonstrates that the institutions can deliver real results when cooperating constructively: by improving the agencies’ performance and ability to implement the policies of the European Union, we will improve the functioning of the European Union to the benefit of the citizens. I feel that we have struck a good balance between respecting the autonomy and specificities of each agency while at the same time addressing a number of important cross-cutting issues."
The common approach contains a range of improvements, including: the need for an objective impact assessment before deciding to create a new agency, criteria for the choice of the seat and headquarters arrangements, regular overall evaluations (every five years) and the introduction of sunset or review clauses foreseeing the option of merging or closing down agencies, ex ante and ex post evaluations of the agencies' programmes/activities, the development of key performance indicators, a multi-annual programming to be linked with multiannual resource planning, a stronger link between actions performed by the agency and human and financial resources, a streamlined governance structure and making it clear who does what. The Commission will propose a roadmap for implementing this agreement by the end of 2012 at the latest, taking into account the unique features of each agency.
This common approach on the EU's decentralised agencies is the result of a joint exercise of the three institutions. In March 2009, following a Commission Communication entitled “European agencies: the way forward”, the three institutions launched an interinstitutional working group (IIWG) chaired by the Commission, to discuss the governance and functioning of EU agencies. The IIWG addressed a number of key issues, including the role and position of the agencies in the EU's institutional landscape, the creation, structure and operation of these agencies, together with funding, budgetary, supervision and management issues. All in all, 34 fact sheets were drafted identifying the existing situation, the problems, the possible solutions and their implementation. After negotiations on that basis, the EP, Council and Commission reached an informal agreement in Strasbourg on 12 June 2012.
The common approach concerns 31 decentralised agencies, spread across the Member States, operating in a number of policy areas and performing a wide range of tasks. Two decentralised agencies operating in the field of Foreign and Security Policy are not covered
by the agreement, nor are the six executive agencies.
For many citizens, agencies are the closest visible presence of the EU in their lives. Agencies' activities are varied – some deliver support to the Union's decision-making process by pooling available expertise, some adopt individual decisions applying agreed EU standards, and others aid the implementation of Community policies. However, the ad hoc establishment of agencies over the years has not been accompanied by an overall vision of their position in the Union, which has made it more difficult for them to work effectively
and to deliver for the EU as a whole.
The EU's decentralised agencies employ more than 5,000 people and received €737 million from the EU budget in 2011.