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Czech lower house to review Govt agreement with expansion of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, which advises on racism and other matters

10.1.2022 7:00
Michael O'Flaherty, director, European Agency Fundamental Human Rights Agency (2020)
Michael O'Flaherty, director, European Agency Fundamental Human Rights Agency (2020)

Two weeks ago the Czech Government reiterated its request that the Chamber of Deputies express its preliminary agreement with the proposal to expand the scope of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA); without the consent of the full Czech Parliament the Government will be unable to agree with the motion in Brussels. The bill was first submitted by the Government to the lower house ahead of last year's elections but has yet to be discussed. 

The Committee on EU Affairs in the lower house has recommended MPs adopt it. The Czech Senate gave its preliminary consent to the measure in July 2021. 

The FRA is tasked with providing EU institutions, Member States and authorities with expert advice on how to implement EU law so as to uphold fundamental rights. The agency's expertise includes the areas of discrimination, personal data protection, racism and xenophobia, and the rights of children or crime victims. 

Its scope is meant to be expanded to questions of all EU laws, common security and security policy, and collaborations with the judiciary and police in criminal matters. The basic function of the agency is to provide advice and expertise. 

The FRA has no enforcement powers and does not deal with individual complaints. Among other matters, it informs candidate countries, EU institutions, the Member States and the public about how fundamental rights are being upheld in the EU, the deficiencies of various legal arrangements, and how they can be improved. 

The agency is headquartered in Vienna. In its explanatory memorandum on the bill to agree with expanding the FRA's scope, the Czech Government states that when the agency was established, it was not defined in relation to what were at that time the second and third pillars of EU law, i.e., foreign/security policy and collaborations with the judiciary and police. 

"With the entry into effect of the Lisbon Treaty, however, that pillared structure of EU law no longer exists, and such distinctions are no longer being drawn between those former pillars," the report states. According to that document, the Czech Government agrees in principle with expanding the FRA's scope and supports the other proposed changes as well. 

The bill will have no direct impact on the budget of the state. The other proposed changes involve the FRA's administrative board. 

Given that the overall responsibility of the board for the agency's management and operations is increasing, its members will have to also fulfill requirements for skills in administration and budgeting. "It is also being proposed that it be possible for each Member State's administrative board member to repeat a term, but not successively, only after a different member has held the office," the explanatory memorandum states.

"That change will facilitate Member States finding candidates fulfilling these increased requirements for board membership," the Czech Government's bill explains. The FRA director's term of office would also be extended from three to five years.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Fundamental Rights Agency, EU, Parliament, Racism



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