Controversy over EU Human Rights Agency

By EDRi · February 24, 2005

The plan from the European Commission to transform the Vienna Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia into an Agency for Fundamental Rights has met with strong criticism from the Council of Europe (46 member states).

The Financial Times quotes Terry Davis, secretary-general of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, “With all the best will in the world, I can’t understand what it is going to do.” Instead, Mr Davis proposes a merger between the Council of Europe (founded in 1949) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (created in the 1970s). Both organisations have a budget of around 180 million euro per year.

The Vienna-based OSCE, whose 55 members also include Canada, the US and central Asian states, gave the merger idea a cool response. FT quotes a senior official: “The OSCE is a security organisation with a comprehensive mandate, of which the human dimension is just one aspect. The Council of Europe is a legal norm-setter, while the OSCE is a political negotiating forum and a highly operational player with a strong field presence.”

On 9 December 2004 European Digital Rights warmly welcomed the creation of the new agency in an answer to a public consultation about the agency. (See EDRI-gram 2.24). In a speech to the Bundestag in Berlin on 14 February 2005 EU Justice Commissioner Frattini said he was “encouraged by the strong support given by Member States as well as civil society to the idea to create this Agency, which should be operational by 2007.”

‘Too many of us in the human rights business’, European leaders are told (07.02.2005, subscription only)

EU Observer summary of FT article (07.02.2005)

Speech Frattini (14.02.2005)

EDRI-gram 2.24 ‘EDRI response on new EU human rights agency’ (15.12.2004)