From the European Maritime Safety Agency, to the European Medicines Agency, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Defence Agency, there are now seventeen European agencies (give or take a few) under the aegis of the EU commission, all charged with implementing specific aspects of community policy.
Their increasing proliferation symbolises the growing status of the EU as a fully-fledged government and now there is to be another one. A new EU "Fundamental Rights Agency" will be up and running by 1 January 2007, justice commissioner Franco Frattini has pledged. Proposals to set up the new agency are to be published by the EU commission in May, to be overseen by the Luxembourg and UK EU presidencies this year.
The new body will emerge from an "extended mandate" to the already existing European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia. Styled as "Europe’s rights watchdogs" it will use provisions written into the EU constitution – the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights – as EU justice powers are expected to expand.
Therein lies the rub. This agency is very much a child of the EU constitution yet, unless you know differently, the constitution hasn’t exactly been ratified yet. But here we are with the commission already making plans, as if it is a done deal. But then, what is a little thing like ratification between friends?