From watch-dog to lap-dog- the case of Fundamental Rights Agency

I requested a few times in the past to be removed from the FRA distribution list. A few days ago I received a standard letter from the Director of FRA. It has been sent to many; the letter invites people to provide feed-back on the FRA report for 2012. The report is about the “key developments and promising practices” as well as “challenges for the immediate future”.

The letter came almost at the same time with the publication (June 2013) of a report on best practices related to anti-discrimination in sports that was started in 2008 and was supposed to be published in 2009. It describes good practices in sports. Some of them happened 7 to 9 years ago.

A “key development” might be to align FRA’s understanding to common understanding of term “immediate future”. The fact that the standard insipid and largely meaningless in the European Union jargon term of “good practices” was replaced with the more ambiguous  “promising practices” might be the other key development.

Mind numbing wording such as “multi-modular approach”, “cross-cutting”, “tightly interwoven” “emphasis is placed on properly substantiating” and looking at discrimination from different “angles” and “degrees” can be found in two consecutive paragraphs on the second page. An impressive pie chart showing that 93 % of those questioned considered the report to be either excellent or good occupies half of the next page.

If anyone bothers to read the report she/he will find out that the chart is based on 64 replies. There are well over 300 civil society organisations that are part of the FRA Platform. Some, if not many of these organisations receive or have received funding from the FRA. FRA might consider that managing to persuade less than 20% of the members of its own Platform to asses a report that is supposed to be based on these same organisations inputs is a major success. In the real world this is an abysmal result.

Many parts of the reports have an eerie similarity with the world described by Orwell in 1984. Despite the fact that independent evaluation of the previous annual report showed clearly that the report has no impact whatsoever on policies (therefore no impact at all) the recently published report is full with glorious achievements of the European Commission and FRA. Most of these achievements are powerful wording, great speeches, excellent meetings of experts, great future plans and strong recommendations. Again in real world these are more likely to be considered hot air and rationalizing wasting public money.

In fact the report itself writes– “…a prominent role for the EU is to safeguard the role of law, however, to do so, it faces a limited normative basis and a certain political reluctance.” To translate- the EU and FRA assumes a prominent role in safeguarding something that it can’t safeguard.

The report is boring, incoherent or “multi-modular” if you prefer the FRA’s jargon. A mish-mash collection of copy paste information that is easily available on the internet, pompous wording and self-praise. Could work great instead of sleeping pills.

The only things that are not ambiguous and interesting can be found in the financial report.

10,569,271.70  Euros – that is how much the FRA spent in 2012 for its 90 employees. That is 117.500 EUR in 2012 per each employee. On top of this there are some other expenses as the -145.000 EUR or 1611 EUR for the year for each employee for their phone bills. Would be very interesting indeed to see what are the total expenditures for its top management and director. That information is missing. FRA shows the worst signs of institutional racism among all EU institutions and governments when it comes to Roma as it spends a significant part of its budget talking, meeting and writing about Roma and positive action while not employing any Roma.

A good part of the people working for the FRA are seconded by the EU governments. The management board of the FRA is more or less controlled by the European Commission –an organization known for its dislike to criticizing EU member states. Some of the best experts in the FRA were marginalized; first action and then criticism was replaced with diplomatic and useless language in the last years- since the  director was appointed. A serious financial and human resources scandal involving the same director was in the press.

The FRA is supposed to be the EU watch-dog when it comes to fundamental rights. As it is built nowadays it is nothing but an insanely expensive lap dog that costs the EU citizens over 21.000.000 EUR per year. As expected from a lap dog it produces mainly empty and cute barks and yelps that can be slightly annoying for some member states and meaningless for the majority of human rights activists.

The fact that FRA needs to be reformed is well known inside and outside the FRA.

The management board made a clear first step in this direction. It prolonged the contract of the Director for another three years.

Mind blowing…


1 Comment

  1. Dear Nicolae I’ve been reading your blog for months now and I can’t agree more with absolutely everything you said so far. I was wondering if there is a place where I can contact you. There is a situation in Poland, Wroclaw … few Roma families from Romania are living in an illegal camp for more than 6 years … there is a grass-root NGO Nomada working with the people … the situation is getting worse as the city wants to ‘clean up’ the area. The NGO is doing some great work …however they need advice on what to do next … I wrote hundreds of e-mails to all the ‘Roma networks’, international organizations, experts etc. thus far nobody has bother to answer (and we are not asking for money just somebody to talk to about what is going on) … I know you have experience working with the people … and perhaps you can give us some ideas … please contact me [email protected], then I will be able to give you more details …. Thank you …and thank you for your critical discussions …

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