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Document 52003DC0483

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the Activities of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, together with proposals to recast Council Regulation (EC) 1035/97

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Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the Activities of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, together with proposals to recast Council Regulation (EC) 1035/97 /* COM/2003/0483 final */

COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS on the Activities of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, together with proposals to recast Council Regulation (EC) 1035/97

1. introduction

In June 1994, in response to rising concern about acts of racism in the European Union, the European Council at its meeting in Corfu called for the establishment of a Consultative Commission on Racism and Xenophobia. At Cannes in June 1995, Heads of State and Government called on the Consultative Commission to consider the feasibility of a European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. The Florence European Council of June 1996 approved the principle of establishing the Centre.

The Council adopted Council Regulation (EC) No 1035/97 [1] establishing a European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia ('the Regulation') on 2 June 1997 on the basis of a Commission proposal. The European Council agreed that the Centre should have its seat in Vienna. It began its operations in 1998, with the appointment of the first members of staff and its move into temporary premises. The official opening of the Centre took place on 7/8 April 2000 in Vienna.

[1] Council Regulation (EC) No 1035/97 of 2 June 1997 establishing a European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (OJ L 151, 10.6.1997, pp. 1-7)

Racism and xenophobia are wide concepts, ranging from small, everyday acts of discrimination, through the barriers which are inadvertently established at all levels by public and private institutions, to acts of the most extreme violence. All these phenomena are unacceptable and are incompatible with the Union's values based on fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law. The Union's objective of creating an area of freedom, security and justice will be incomplete as long as effective measures to prevent and combat racism and xenophobia are not in place.

Racism is always with us, though there are also peaks and troughs in racist activity, often linked to particular events inside or outside of the Union. It is important to understand the links of cause and effect which lead to these changes in activity. It is, for example, clear that during the Gulf War in 1991, the European Union saw a dramatic increase in attacks on Muslims and people of Arab origin. More recently, some Member States have witnessed violent anti-Semitism as a reaction to tensions in Israel and Palestine. In the current political context of insecurity linked to the international terrorist threat, the Union must be constantly alert to avoid a repetition of those excesses.

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia is an important instrument available to help the EU institutions and the Member States to combat these phenomena. The objective of collecting reliable and comparable data about racism and xenophobia is essential. Whatever the policy field, reliable data are essential if policy-makers are going to be able to target their measures effectively. In the field of combating racism, it is essential to have a clear picture of the effectiveness of policies and practices across the Union. We must be sure that they are focused on protecting the victims and changing the behaviour of the perpetrators.

2. Context

The Regulation requires the Commission (Article 16) to forward to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions "a progress report on the Centre's activities, together with proposals, if appropriate, to modify or extend its tasks, taking into account, in particular, the development of Community powers in the field of racism and xenophobia". The report is required during the third year following the entry into force of the Regulation.

On 6 October 2000, the Commission forwarded a first report [2] to the Community Institutions (COM (2000) 625 final). The report concluded that, given that the Centre had not been able to begin its activities in earnest until 1999 and that it was not fully staffed until 2000, it was too early for a comprehensive assessment of the progress made by the Centre. It therefore presented an interim report on the activities carried out so far, and announced that it would organise an external evaluation of the Centre in order to provide an independent view of the efficiency of the Centre in relation to the objectives set out in the Regulation and the efficiency of the human and financial resources used to attain those objectives. It was to provide an assessment of the organisational structure of the Centre, including the extent to which it has met its objectives; the effectiveness of logistic, administrative and management methods; progress in setting up and managing the information network RAXEN; the quality and relevance of the activities and products of the Centre; and the follow-up of activities. It was also to establish the extent to which user needs have been identified and met and highlight user satisfaction with the information products and services developed so far.

[2] The Committee of the Regions adopted its own report in response to the Commission's interim findings (Opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 14 November 2001 on the Report from the Commission on the activities of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (COM(2000) 625 final) - CdR 67/2001 fin). The Commission has taken account of the views and opinions expressed in that report in this Communication.

The external evaluation was completed in July 2002. The Commission distributed the report to the European Parliament, Member States Governments, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions and published the results on the Europa server. It has since received the views of members of the European Parliament, of Governments, of the Management Board and staff of the Monitoring Centre and of civil society organisations. Those views have been taken into account in this progress report and the accompanying proposals for changes to the Regulation.

3. External Evaluation

The external evaluation of the Monitoring Centre was carried out under contract by the Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Services, an organisation based in the United Kingdom. It takes into account developments from the setting up phase until the end of 2001. The full report can be consulted at Centre_eval2002_en.pdf

The following Communication takes account of the findings of the external evaluation and of the various stakeholders who have reacted to the evaluation. It constitutes the Commission's considered view of the progress made by the Centre so far.

3.1. The Monitoring Centre's Primary Objective

The primary objective of the Monitoring Centre, as set out in Article 2 (1) of the 1997 Regulation, is to:

'Provide the Community and its Member States with objective, reliable and comparable data at European level on the phenomena of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in order to help them when they take measures or formulate courses of action within their respective spheres of competence'.

Providing objective, reliable and comparable data on racism and xenophobia across all the Member States of the European Union is a challenging task. The approaches to the collection of data vary enormously, from sophisticated, official mechanisms in some Member States to more basic approaches, heavily reliant on the collection of data by non-governmental organisations, in others. While the Centre has clearly made significant improvements in the objectivity and reliability of its data over recent years, it is clear that the objective of comparability has not yet been achieved to any substantial degree.

The Monitoring Centre relies heavily on a network of National Focal Points established in each of the Member States (the 'RAXEN' network), which it has created by encouraging co-operation between academic, non-governmental and (sometimes) governmental organisations at national level.

The principal outputs of the Centre are its four annual reports [3] and a series of smaller-scale studies, including those on

[3] Published respectively on 22 December 1999 (covering 1998); 22 November 2000 (covering 1999); 18 December 2001 (covering 2000); and 10 December 2002 (covering 2001).

- anti-Islamic reactions after 11 September;

- the situation of Islamic communities in five European cities;

- racism, football and the Internet;

- anti-racist legislation in the Member States; and

- racism and cultural diversity in the mass media.

The Centre has also published the results of a Eurobarometer survey of public opinion with regard to racism and xenophobia, following up the Commission's own survey carried out in 1997.

These reports and studies, among others, have provided a considerable amount of information. The quality of the data provided so far has been improving, but has not so far allowed genuine comparisons to be drawn between the situations in the different Member States nor an assessment of the effectiveness of the anti-racist policies pursued by individual countries. Yet the production of comparative data and assessments is an essential step if the Centre is to be able to make meaningful recommendations about policies and practices to the EU Institutions and the Member States and if policymakers are to be able to draw conclusions about their work on the basis of the experience in other Member States. This is why the external evaluators conclude that, despite the fact that almost six years have passed since the adoption of the Regulation establishing the Monitoring Centre, it is still not possible to measure the effect or impact of its outputs. A number of factors have led to this situation, some of which are clearly outside the Centre's control.

In seeking to achieve its objectives, the Monitoring Centre cannot be held responsible for the fact that there has historically been a lack of common definitions across Member States relating to racism and xenophobia. However, delays in the RAXEN network becoming fully operational have meant that it is only recently that action is being taken to encourage a convergent approach to data definitions and data collection procedures. The Centre's Secretariat has commented that although the information available in each Member State is extremely variable, with the 15 National Focal Points now in place they hope to see a rapid increase in the availability, and thus dissemination, of comparable information. The Centre reports that it is increasing its efforts to persuade national authorities to adopt compatible if not common systems for data collection, in particular by establishing working groups on long-term strategies for improving data collection and on the methodology for improving the comparability of data.

Experience of developing comparable datasets in other fields (e.g. economic data, environmental data) suggests that it is essential to work closely with national governments, including statistical offices, to achieve gradual convergence. The Commission's consultations with Member States on this point have underlined that the principal value which can be added by the Monitoring Centre at European level is in providing truly comparable data. This does not necessarily entail a complete harmonisation of approaches to data collection, but ultimately the Monitoring Centre's remit is unachievable unless national authorities adopt compatible if not common classification systems. National authorities have confirmed their willingness to play a more active role in this regard in their consultations with the Commission. The proposals for the modification of the Regulation establishing the Centre reflect this point.

3.2. Other Activities

Round Tables

The Monitoring Centre is required by the Regulation to facilitate and encourage the organisation of regular round table discussions or meetings at national level. However, the actual organisation of national Round Tables is the responsibility of Member States. This has led to a variable response across the Member States: some have held several events, while others have experienced difficulties in holding regular meetings, with the lack of adequate funding cited as one example of the problems faced. Some have held only one meeting in the period to the end of 2002. The Monitoring Centre provides guidelines and support, but is not the prime organiser of national Round Tables.

The purpose of the national Round Tables is to maintain contact with civil society organisations in the Member States. They enable the Centre to take account of the points of view of various actors - NGOs, researchers, Governments - and the information they provide. In practice, the meetings have not been effective from the point of view of gathering data, though they have provided an opportunity for civil society organisations to express their views on issues related to racism and xenophobia in general and for this reason the Secretariat of the Monitoring Centre believes that they are useful events. In their consultation with the Commission, Member States suggested that the responsibility for organising such events should clearly remain at national level, with the Monitoring Centre free to participate as necessary and appropriate. However, they believed that the Centre should not be bound to promote the organisation of round tables and that other means of involving civil society in the work of the Centre may be more effective. The Commission agrees with this view and accordingly proposes an amendment to the Regulation.

The evaluators note however that there is value in continuing to organise European Round Tables, bringing together actors from the national level, as this activity brings a Community dimension to the work. The Commission recalls in particular the three European round tables on anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and intercultural dialogue organised by the Centre at the request of the Commission in late 2002 and early 2003 as an example of the value this can bring. The amendment proposed by the Commission would allow the Centre to continue with this approach.

Research and Analysis

The Monitoring Centre has until recently had only a very limited internal research and analysis capability, but is in the process of recruiting additional staff to strengthen this function. It is clear that, with the budget available to it, the Centre will not become a major centre of original research in this field. It will rather need to concentrate on the analysis and interpretation of external research, encouraging relevant research to be carried out by universities, research institutes and Governments where appropriate. The external evaluators comment that it is important that the Centre should only take undertake additional research where there is a strategic fit with its overall objectives. The Commission strongly agrees with this view and notes that the energies of the Centre should focus on core business priorities and should not be dissipated by involvement in ancillary research projects.

Dissemination of Information and Data

The Monitoring Centre has developed a wide range of publications, from regular reports, magazines and newsletters to the publication of specific studies as the need arises. Many of the publications are available on the Monitoring Centre's web site, which also provides other information about its activities, role and remit. However the Commission is concerned that there has been no clearly defined communication strategy and that, given that the primary objective of the Centre is to support the Community and the Member States when they take measures, many of the communication instruments have appeared to be inappropriate and untargeted. The Commission supports the conclusion of the evaluators that the Centre should adopt a clear communication strategy which should cover the relationship between all forms of communication, including reports, newsletters and the web, with a key focus on the needs of the target groups - principally policy-makers in the Member States and the Community Institutions. The Communication strategy should be used as a working tool in the design of all activities, ensuring that from the start it is clear exactly how each product is going to be used and with which audience. The Commission welcomes the fact that Centre has begun work along these lines.

Annual Reports

The Monitoring Centre has published annual reports for the years 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. Inevitably, the coverage of the reports for 1998 and 1999, and in particular the quality and comparability of data, was not as robust as would be wished. The reports are becoming increasingly focused and better linked to EU priorities in the fields of employment, social inclusion and anti-discrimination. This trend needs to continue. The Commission proposes that a clear link between the work of the Centre and wider EU priorities should be made in the Regulation to ensure that it adds value to the policy development process at European and national levels. In this way, the Commission believes that the Centre will have a greater impact on current policy-making at the different levels.

3.3. Resources Available to the Monitoring Centre

For the period from its commencement in 1998 to the end of 2002, the Monitoring Centre has had an available budget of some EUR20,5 million in commitments. An additional amount of EUR1,5 million was available in 1998 but not used. For the years 1998 to 2000, there was some underspending of the available budget mainly due to the Monitoring Centre not becoming fully operational as quickly as expected.

The budget in commitments for 2003 is EUR 6,5 million, of which EUR 3,3 million is for running and personnel costs and EUR 3,2 million for operations. The evaluators do not comment on the overall level of resources allocated to the Centre, but note that a higher proportion of resources (both operational and staff related) should be devoted to the work linked to its principal objective of providing objective, reliable and comparable data. The Centre has commented that following the appointment of National Focal Points in all 15 Member States, the financial resources allocated to the RAXEN information gathering system represent 53% of the operational budget. The Commission believes that the overall level of the EU subsidy is generally sufficient for the activities of the Centre, though it will need to be increased to take account of enlargement.

The evaluators conclude that, to give an overall assessment of the value of the Centre, the investment made by the Community budget needs to be measured against the impact and effect that the Centre has produced. However, as noted above, the difficulties surrounding the comparability of data have so far limited its effectiveness for the Community and the Member States and this fact prevents the evaluators from reaching an overall conclusion. In this context, they note that that the Centre cannot be said to have demonstrated value for money for the EUR13 million it had committed in the years 1998 to 2001. The evaluators note a change in priorities which may mean that this situation will change. The Commission recommends that the question of value for money should be reviewed again once these changes take effect. This conclusion is covered in more detail below.

3.4. Appropriateness of the Monitoring Centre's Objectives

The Regulation establishing the Monitoring Centre was adopted before the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, which introduced new powers for the Community in the field of fighting discrimination and for both the European Union and the Community in establishing an area of Freedom, Security and Justice [4]. Since the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, Directives [5] have been adopted to give effect to the principle of non-discrimination, modernising the approach to equality issues and promoting convergence between the Member States. Action has also been taken under Title IV of the EC Treaty to promote the protection and integration of immigrants and asylum seekers, notably in the field of family reunion [6], and proposals are currently before the Council to strengthen judicial co-operation in dealing with racist and xenophobic crimes, based on Articles 29, 31 and 34 of the EU Treaty (see footnote 4), which update the Joint Action on Racism and Xenophobia adopted in 1996. Moreover, the Community has made a commitment, in the context of the Lome Conventions and the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific States, to enhance non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural life and to develop measures against racism and xenophobia. The Monitoring Centre is on response to that commitment.

[4] The Treaty of Amsterdam gave the Community new powers under the Treaty establishing the European Community and in particular under Article 13 to combat discrimination inter alia on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin. It also introduced a new title IV to the Treaty which provides for the adoption of measures in the field of free movement of persons, immigration and asylum, judicial co-operation in civil matters and measures in the field of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters.

[5] Council Directive 2000/43/EC establishing the principle of equal treatment irrespective of racial and ethnic origin (OJ L 180, 19.7.2000, p. 22).

[6] See especially the draft directive on the right of third country nationals legally established in a European Union member state to family reunification, on which political agreement was reached in the Council on 28 February 2003.

The evaluators recommend that the areas in which the Centre operates should be updated to reflect the current situation in terms of competence in order to cover the phenomenon of racism and xenophobia comprehensively. The Commission agrees with this approach and is making proposals to this effect.

The evaluators also conclude that there is currently some legal uncertainty surrounding the ability of the Centre to deal with situations that include issues such as racial violence, as this is not specifically mentioned in the Regulation. In the light of its consultations, including with the Member States, the Commission does not believe that it is necessary to clarify this point, as it is clear that racial violence and hatred are part of the phenomenon of racism and xenophobia, as referred to in Article 2.2 of the Regulation. The Commission believes therefore that the fears of legal uncertainty are unfounded.

Geographical Coverage

The evaluators conclude that there is no need to amend the geographical scope of the Centre to include comparisons with countries outside of the EU. Preparations for enlargement are already underway (funded in 2003 by PHARE) with the establishment of an initial series of contact points in the new Member States which will become members of the RAXEN network following accession. The Commission agrees with this view, but suggests that to facilitate future accessions, the Management Board should be able to invite independent experts from candidate countries to its meetings (see below).

Changes to Scope of Monitoring Centre's Remit

The evaluators considered two possible changes to the remit of the Monitoring Centre, first to encompass a greater campaigning or lobbying role and the second to extend its scope to cover other forms of discrimination (such as those covered in Article 13 TEC) and/or human rights more generally. The Commission's consultation exercise suggested that there was broad agreement with the evaluators' conclusion that such changes were neither appropriate nor necessary. Most respondents to the consultation believed that the Centre should continue to concentrate on racism and that an extension to other fields would be an unwelcome distraction within the limits of the resources likely to be available to the Centre and that it would lead to a weakening of the emphasis on racism. The Commission agrees with this conclusion and proposes that the Centre should continue to focus on the issue of racism and related intolerance.

The Monitoring Centre's Name

The external evaluation reflects concerns expressed about the fact that the Monitoring Centre's name appears to have different shades of meaning in different Community languages and that in some it suggests a regulatory or 'overseeing' function. The Commission's consultations suggest that there is no strong support, either from the Member States nor from the Management Board, for changing the name. On the contrary, there are some concerns that a change of name would serve to weaken the Centre's identity, in particular if it sought to focus more on the promotion of diversity rather than monitoring racism.

3.5. Organisational Efficiency

Management Structure

The management structure of the Monitoring Centre is set out in the 1997 Regulation. It provides for a Management Board, an Executive Board and a Director. The Management Board consists of independent members appointed by each Member State, by the European Parliament and by the Council of Europe as well as a representative of the Commission. The Executive Board comprises the Chair of the Management Board, the Vice-Chair and a maximum of three other members of the Management Board, including the person appointed by the Council of Europe and the Commission representative. Decisions of the Boards have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of members.

There is an overriding need for a Management Board in the Monitoring Centre to provide overall policy direction within the framework of the Council Regulation and to perform certain supervisory functions such as the establishment of work programmes and budgetary control. The evaluators conclude that it is difficult for a single group to cover all of these tasks. This situation is complicated by the fact that the Regulation requires members of the Board to have expertise in the field of human rights and analysis of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic phenomena, rather than in the fields of organisational management, planning and budgetary control. Moreover, the evaluators note that the board is already a large body (with 18 members) and that the enlargement of the EU will increase the size of the Board, to at least 28 persons on the current basis. However, they conclude also that, in the light of the sensitivity of the subject matter, the management structures of the Centre should continue to include members from all Member States. They recommend revising the functions of the Management Board so that it operates in a supervisory role, meeting once a year, with key, specific functions. Most of the existing management and technical functions would then be devolved to smaller and more efficient bodies. They propose strengthening the Executive Board and creating a Scientific Committee, which together would have the responsibility of guiding and controlling the Director and her staff. The evaluators recommend that if an enhanced Executive Board and a Scientific Committee were to be set up, an appropriate payment should be made to those members not otherwise remunerated for their contribution to the Centre. The Secretariat of the Centre sees merit in the overall approach recommended by the evaluators.

The evaluators also suggest that the Management Board might, in its new guise, consist of representatives of Member State Governments rather than independent experts, and that the guarantee of independence as regards the overall policy direction should be ensured by the new Scientific Committee. The Commission's consultations suggest that there is wide support for the evaluators' conclusion that there needs to be much closer co-operation between the Centre and the Member States' authorities, both in the data-gathering function and to ensure that the information produced by the Centre is taken into account by the Member States when they take measures to combat racism. However, the current Management Board of the Centre believes that the independence of members of the Board is essential to the credibility of an institution which gathers information, at least in part, about the impact of the policies and practices of individual Member State Governments on levels of racism and xenophobia. They note that other human rights bodies, such as those of the UN, are also made up of independent experts.

Finally, the evaluators note that the decision-making procedures based on a two-thirds majority in the Management Board are unnecessarily difficult for more routine decisions. They recommend the adoption of a system whereby minor decisions of the Management Board or, in future, the Executive Board would require only a simple majority. Major decisions, such as approving the annual budget, work programmes and the annual report, would continue to require a two-thirds majority. The Commission notes that such a voting arrangement would potentially facilitate the decision-making process and has recently been adopted by a comparable agency, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, based in Lisbon.

The Commission agrees that the existing management structure foreseen by the Regulation is not adapted to many of the decisions with which it is currently charged. As with the Consultative Commission on Racism and Xenophobia (the so-called Kahn Commission) which preceded the Monitoring Centre, the Management Board provides a wealth of knowledge and experience, drawn from many academic disciplines and areas of civil society, about racism and xenophobia. The expertise of the members of the Board lies in the field of racism, and their contribution to discussions on developments in the Member States, on the substance of draft reports and on the definition of priorities and approaches has been extremely valuable. The Board has also been involved in discussions of the political relationship of the Centre with Governments and EU institutions, thus trying to define the Centre's identity in relation to other bodies. The first Management Board in particular (1998-2001) concentrated on these issues to a greater extent than its pure management tasks.

However, there is also evidence of some confusion about the overall role and responsibility of the Board, partly as a result of its being seen by some as a continuation of the Kahn Commission. Many of the principal responsibilities of the Board under the Council Regulation are related to long term and strategic planning, organisational decisions within the Centre, budgetary management and control, and human resources issues (in particular the appointment of the Director). Despite their responsibility for the oversight of these functions, members of the Board are not required by the Regulation to have skills in these areas (though some do) and budgetary and management problems have arisen. The comments regularly made by the Court of Auditors and the European Parliament on the discharge of the Centre's budget are a cause for concern. The Commission believes that the current difficulties will be exacerbated by enlargement unless measures are taken now to modify the decision-making structures and to clarify the responsibilities of the different actors.

The Commission broadly welcomes the proposals drawn by the evaluators to ensure that the members of the Management Board have the skills, experience and opportunity to ensure the smooth management of the Centre. The evaluators' proposals also have the advantage of strengthening the links between the Centre and the policy-makers in Member States, in particular by proposing that the Board should consist of representatives of Member State Governments. However, the Commission also sees some potential disadvantages in the structures the evaluators propose, particularly in terms of the perceived independence of the Centre. The consultations held by the Commission have tended to confirm the Commission's conclusions.

In its consultations, the Commission explored the possibilities for optimising the effectiveness of the decision-making structures of the Centre while taking account of three essential criteria:

- First, that the Management and Executive Boards should retain the necessary expertise to take decisions on the substance of racism and xenophobia in the EU;

- Second, that the Boards should also have the expertise to take decisions on the budgetary, financial and management questions with which any public sector organisation is faced;

- Third, that the composition of the Boards should maximise the influence of the Centre with policy-makers in the Member States, while retaining their ability to guarantee its independence.

The Commission therefore considered a number of options, ranging from maintaining the existing arrangements [7], through to the proposal made by the evaluators based on national Government representatives, to mixed systems involving independent experts and Government representatives, and, finally, a model based on drawing on the expertise of the heads of the specialised bodies in the Member States which are charged with independently promoting racial equality and combating racial discrimination.

[7] The current Management Board is strongly in favour of maintaining the existing structure, though reinforced through the creation of particular sub-committees which could be responsible for different aspects of the work.

Taking account of all the views expressed in the consultations, the Commission believes that the proposal made by the evaluators might be regarded by some stakeholders as an unacceptable interference in the independence of the Monitoring Centre. A mixed system, combining an independent expert and a Government representative from each Member State would be likely to be cumbersome and extremely expensive. A continuation of the current arrangements, whereby the emphasis is placed on the expertise of the members in the field of racism, would not solve the problems identified by the evaluators in relation to management control. However, the suggestion that the Boards should draw on the expertise of the already existing specialised bodies (whether those formally designated by the Member States under Council Directive 2000/43/EC or other public bodies with equivalent expertise) attracted broad support from stakeholders. The heads of these bodies (whether Chairpersons, Directors or Ombudsmen)

- necessarily have close contacts with national, regional and local authorities in their statutory roles within Member States;

- have expertise in the field of combating racism and a good understanding of the national context;

- have expertise in the management of a publicly funded organisation; and

- are required to be able to act independently from national governments.

The Commission believes therefore that a Management Board which is made up of such individuals will be able to bring to the Centre the necessary skills and expertise to ensure effective direction and control. It has therefore made a proposal to this effect.

Organisational Structure

The balance between administration and operational staff is broadly in line with the balance of staff at other agencies.

The balance of staff between data collection, research and publications is under the control of the Director of the Centre. The Monitoring Centre chose to build up its staff working on the dissemination of information and the establishment of the profile of the Centre at an early stage rather than concentrate on its data-gathering, research and analysis capability. The Commission believes that this decision delayed the benefits to be gained from the Centre and that it had some effect on the quality of some of its early outputs. As noted earlier, the Centre now intends to recruit further researchers, but maintains that it nevertheless needs a strong communication policy in order to disseminate the available information and to provide information efficiently to the Community, its Member States, other organisations and the media. The Member States have commented in the consultations with the Commission that they would appreciate a greater focus on contact with national governments and policy makers. The Commission agrees with the evaluators that more effort is required to improve the quality (rather than the quantity) of data collection to enable the Centre to offer products to the Community and the Member States which add value to the policy-making process. The changes proposed in the structure of the Management Board will help to address this issue, but they are not sufficient on their own. Closer co-operation with national authorities, particularly national statistical offices, is also required.

Development and Monitoring of Work Programmes

The Monitoring Centre has prepared a work programme for each of its years of operation, and this work programme has been approved by the Management Board, as required by the 1997 Regulation. Work programmes have been prepared on an annual basis, though an overall strategy paper was approved by the Management Board in June 2002. The evaluators note that the early work programmes did not clearly relate back to the Centre's objectives, making it difficult to see how individual projects fitted within the overall strategy framework, but that this problem has now been corrected. To look at the longer-term perspective of some of the Monitoring Centre's work - such as data collection - the evaluators recommend the development of a three-year programme, accompanied by detailed annual programmes. This would require the identification of strategic goals and allow the Management and Executive Boards to ensure that the Centre is following an agreed medium-term strategy.

The evaluators note that the Monitoring Centre has recently introduced a process for reporting to the Executive and Management Boards on the progress achieved in implementing its work programme. They conclude however that the reporting procedure could be developed further by more formal control of individual projects. The Executive Board has recently agreed that the progress reports should be more structured, reflecting the structure of the work programme itself, which should as far as possible contain indicators of success in order to turn the process into an effective management tool.

Finance and Administration

The Monitoring Centre faced considerable challenges in dealing with the financial and administrative responsibilities of establishing a Community agency. The reports of the Court of Auditors emphasise the scale of the difficulties it faced. The most recent report of the Court, covering the 2001 budget, continues to highlight a number of problems. Although overall the Court obtained reasonable assurance that the annual accounts for 2001 were executed in a reliable manner, it raises a number of points of concern:

- Appropriations carried over to 2002 (1,2 million euro) were twice that of the previous year. The Monitoring Centre attributes this to the late approval of the work programme by the Management Board and to the delays in implementing the RAXEN network of national experts. The Commission has, through its representative on the Management Board, expressed its concern about the size of carry-overs in previous years. Moreover, the delay in the approval of the work programme concerned only a few activities out of the overall programme. The Commission welcomes the Centre's decision to bring forward the presentation of its work programmes, ensuring that its work programme for 2003 was approved by the Management Board in November 2002.

- Over 40% of the payments relating to operating appropriations were made in the last three months of 2001, pointing to "inadequate monitoring" of the projects financed during the previous year. The Commission is concerned about the past capacity of the Centre to ensure careful management of projects and the associated cash flow.

- The nature of the changes made to the various contracts between the Centre and the National Focal Points during 2001 violated the principle of the specificity of commitments made from the Centre's budget.

- Retroactive financing was granted to a project which the Centre was then unable to provide details on.

The Commission welcomes that in its reply to the Court, the Monitoring Centre indicates that it has addressed or intends to address a number of these points in order to improve the overall management and execution of its budget. However, the Commission remains concerned by the level and nature of the Court's comments, and of other issues not included in the Court's reports but highlighted by the evaluators (such as public procurement procedures and contracts), which suggests that improvements to the control of financial and budgetary aspects are necessary. Although some of the points have already been addressed by changes made to the Regulation to bring it into line with the new Financial Regulation, the Commission believes that further measures are necessary to strengthen the Centre's capacity to deal effectively with these questions.

Recruitment and setting up the Centre

The evaluators note that the Monitoring Centre found the initial recruitment procedures cumbersome, in particular for the first additional staff members after the Director. They recommend that, in setting up an agency, it may be appropriate for the Commission to second staff for a period to provide assistance in following the correct procedures. The Commission has taken note of this recommendation.

Relationship with European Commission and other European Institutions

The Commission has one representative on the Management and Executive Boards of the Centre (out of 18 members) and has attributed overall responsibility for relations with the Monitoring Centre to the Directorate General for Employment and Social Affairs.

The Monitoring Centre's relationships with other Directorates General have developed as the responsibilities of the Community have developed, particularly with the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Centre deals with competences under the responsibility of other parts of the Commission, such as the DG for Justice and Home Affairs, the DG for Education and Culture and the DG for Research. The Centre also liaises with Directorates General with horizontal policy responsibilities such as the DGs for Enlargement, External Relations, Administration and Personnel and the Budget.

The broadening of the range of DGs which have a policy interest in the work of the Monitoring Centre has led the Commission to conclude that the way it is represented on the Board of the Centre should be reviewed. A proposal to this effect is included in the proposal to recast the Regulation establishing the Centre which accompanies this Communication.

The Monitoring Centre has also established increasingly productive relationships with the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. The Committee of the Regions has likewise taken an interest in the Monitoring Centre's work, reflecting the importance of action by local and regional authorities in combating racism and racial discrimination. The Commission very much welcomes the Committee's interest in the work of the Centre and its involvement in specific aspects of its work (such as the study and conferences on the integration of Islamic communities in certain cities). This practical involvement could usefully be enhanced.

3.6. Overall conclusions of the external evaluation

The framework used for the evaluation of the Monitoring Centre was based on five key issues: relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, utility and sustainability. The evaluators summarise their overall conclusions under these headings as follows.

Relevance: Are the working programme activities undertaken by the Monitoring Centre appropriate given its remit, wider policy objectives and the problems associated with racism and xenophobia in Europe?

Overall, the scope of work set out in the Monitoring Centre's objectives seems appropriate. The evaluators recommend, however, that the work programme concentrates more on the primary objective of data collection and analysis and have suggested other areas where less emphasis should be placed. They note that the Monitoring Centre will only succeed in achieving its primary objective with the co-operation of a number of partners including Member State governments, NGOs and others.

Efficiency: how well does the Monitoring Centre function as an organisation and to what extent do its outputs represent good value for money from the funding provided?

The evaluators suggest that the Centre is taking steps to ensure it is well run. They conclude that the various management arrangements they examined - financial control, business planning, personnel management, etc - appeared to be appropriate or to be in the process of being revised. They note however that changes may be necessary to the Board structure to bring about more effective decision-making - particularly in the light of EU enlargement (see above).

The evaluators found the wider question of value for money difficult to assess at this stage, because the Monitoring Centre had not yet produced major outputs in respect of its primary role to achieve comparable data. On this basis, they conclude that, given the delays in establishing the Monitoring Centre and the relatively modest amounts allocated to its primary role in the first three years, the Centre cannot be said to have demonstrated value for money for the EUR13 million it had committed until the end of 2001. They noted, however, evidence of a change in priorities in 2001 which may mean that the Monitoring Centre will begin to deliver outputs that reflect the substantial funding it has and continues to receive.

Effectiveness: to what extent does the Monitoring Centre achieve its specific and general objectives and contribute towards the achievement of wider EU and national policy goals relating to combating of racism and xenophobia? What is the added value of the EU level approach as opposed to separate actions taken at a national level?

The evaluators conclude that it is too early to say if the Monitoring Centre is effective in achieving its general objectives. The main outputs of the Centre are still being worked on and the effectiveness of the provision of comparable information cannot be measured until it is provided. However, the evaluators note that it is important that the Centre bears in mind the need to provide added value at a Community level - it should not just carry out functions which could be carried out by a Member State. Thus, the provision of Member State data which is not comparable is not enough - the Community value added lies in providing comparability, so that conclusions can be drawn between the effectiveness of different policies and practices in combating racism. A similar point can be made for other Monitoring Centre activities. This was a point which was strongly supported by Member States authorities in the consultations carried out by the Commission.

Utility: to what extent do the Monitoring Centre's outputs meet the needs of its target groups?

The evaluators note that the Monitoring Centre's objectives are considered important by its target groups but that further attention needs to be given to how the outputs meet the needs of stakeholders.

Sustainability: to what extent are the Monitoring Centre's activities likely to be sustainable in the longer term? Are the Centre's activities having a lasting effect in terms of contributing to increased awareness and understanding of racism and xenophobia in Europe?

Again, the evaluators conclude that it is too early to say whether the Centre has yet achieved much in this area, because of the lack of a track record in producing final outputs. The Commission's own consultations with the Member States suggest that the Centre has still to establish a solid profile in the field.

4. The Commission's conclusions

The Commission believes that the external evaluation has produced a valuable review of the performance of the Monitoring Centre and that it has, in particular, highlighted a number of points which need to be addressed. Its conclusion that the Centre has not demonstrated value for money for the EUR13 million it committed up to the end of 2001 is particularly disturbing. However, as the period covered by the evaluation ended in December 2001, the Secretariat of the Centre has already had the opportunity to comment on each of the recommendations made by the evaluators and it has already addressed, or begun to address a number of the questions which fall within its own responsibilities. Where appropriate the response of the Centre has been presented under the various points covered above.

In addition, the Management Board of the Centre has transmitted its own views to the Commission as part of the consultation process following the completion of the evaluation. The Management Board concentrated on the aspects related to the structure of the Management Board itself. It concluded that the Board should remain composed of one member per Member State, that it should continue to be composed of independent experts and that, to aid the efficiency of decision-making, it could establish separate sub-groups which would be responsible for preparing decisions in particular areas (e.g. work programme, studies and publications, financial and management issues). The Commission has taken note of these proposals and has also taken account of the views of civil society organisations active in the field of fighting racism.

The Commission concludes that the overall picture of the performance of the Centre is mixed. The Centre has made considerable progress in establishing from scratch an organisation which has the facilities and human resources it needs to perform its work. It has established a network of information providers in all Member States which tries to strike a balance between independence and objectivity. It has developed links to other organisations in the field (Council of Europe, OSCE) which are beginning to bear fruit. But it is clear that, in terms of its outputs so far, improvements in quality and value are still possible and necessary, particularly as regards the objectivity and comparability of data.

There is a strong political commitment across the European Union to combat racism and xenophobia and to improve the effectiveness of current policies and practices. To succeed, the efforts of the Union and the Member States, and the results of those efforts, need to be monitored and analysed. Monitoring racism in the European Union is an extremely complex issue, surrounded by social, cultural and political sensitivities which make it extremely difficult for a new Agency to become immediately effective. But it is essential that the Centre meets this challenge and the Commission is committed to supporting the Centre in its efforts. After nearly five years of operation, the Centre needs to improve its effectiveness. It is taking steps to tighten its management and strengthen its strategic direction in co-operation with the Management Board. The Commission believes that the Centre needs to concentrate on its role as the data collection body foreseen by the Regulation, and that it should give less weight to establishing a profile as a campaigning organisation, which has caused some confusion as to its objectives. In this context, the Management Board has requested, in its consultations with the Commission, that the objectives and task of the Centre should be clarified and presented in a more logical fashion. The Commission has accepted this request and has made proposals accordingly.

The success of the Centre in working towards comparability depends on strong co-operation with the authorities of the Member States. This is a point recognised by all stakeholders in the Commission's consultations. The Commission proposes, therefore, to use this opportunity to sharpen the focus of the Regulation on co-operation between the Centre and national authorities to ensure that maximum value is obtained from the Union's investment. Fighting racism is a shared responsibility and it is right that the Regulation should reflect that fact.

To ensure added value at a European level, the Centre needs to align its priorities with those of the Member States and the EU institutions. The Commission very much welcomes the emphasis given by the Centre in its Annual Report for 2001 (published in December 2002) to problems of racial discrimination in employment, which fits well with ongoing work in the context of the Employment Strategy. The Commission calls on the Centre to continue and deepen this work and to broaden it to other areas, in particular those dealt with by the Social Inclusion Strategy. In both these areas, overall EU objectives are agreed between the Commission and the Council, reflecting a common understanding of the priority areas for action. The Commission proposes that the Regulation should better reflect the need for the Monitoring Centre to focus on these priorities.

Finally, parts of the original Regulation are no longer relevant to the day to day work of the Centre as they apply solely to the setting up phase. The Commission therefore proposes that the Regulation should be recast to remove those parts which are irrelevant and to amend others in the light of the experience of how the Centre has operated so far. The Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the proposal to recast the Regulation provides details of the Commission's thinking on each of the changes proposed.