EU institutions and bodies
ECHA, as an EU agency, is governed by EU public law but operates independently from the EU Institutions (Council, Parliament, Commission etc.) and has its own legal personality. The Commission is, however, a crucial institutional stakeholder for ECHA and a partner in the implementation of its mandate.
As 'guardian of the treaties', the Commission is responsible for the proper application of EU law, and hence also of ECHA's founding regulations, and executes a supervisory role for the use of public resources by the Agency, for example, by acting as the Agency's internal auditor. The Commission also holds three seats with voting rights on the Agency's Management Board and proposes three seats without voting rights for individuals from interested parties.
The role of the Commission
The Commission is responsible for updating and completing the EU Regulations defining ECHA's mandate (REACH/CLP/Biocides/PIC) and is charged with direct tasks connected to several of their processes, including taking decisions regarding the restriction of specific hazardous chemical substances; or identifying substances that should be subject to authorisation. It also decides upon the granting of authorisations under the REACH and Biocides Regulations.
Furthermore, the Commission can ask ECHA to prepare proposals for the restriction of chemical substances, or proposals for their identification as being of very high concern, and may also decide upon the identification of Substances of Very High Concern and on the evaluation of registration dossiers and substances, if no unanimous agreement can be reached by ECHA's Member State Committee.
In parallel to these tasks, the Commission also prepares implementing legislation necessary for the provisions to be put into effect, for example:
- a regulation on fees, setting out the fees to be paid by industry for REACH and Biocides-related activities e.g. registration or authorisation applications;
- two regulations on the arrangements for the ECHA Board of Appeal; and
- a regulation on test methods.
More generally, the Commission is tasked with developing and negotiating proposals for EU policy on the management of risks and hazards from chemical substances, and may ask the Agency to provide scientific advice, including in support of the EU's international activities, in this regard.
In its implementation tasks, the Commission is assisted by Committees or other meetings composed of representatives from the Member States.
European Commission Directorates-General (DGs) and ECHA
While in contact with various Commission DGs, ECHA has close links with the DG for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW) which is ECHA's official "partner DG", DG Environment (ENV) as well as DG Health and Food Safety (SANTE)
DG GROW is responsible for completing the internal market for goods and services and is implementing the industrial and sectorial policies to help turn the EU into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. It also is the lead in administrative and budgetary matters, and support access to internationalisation.
DG ENV is together with DG GROW co-responsible for the implementation of the REACH and CLP Regulations. In addition, DG ENV is in charge of the PIC Regulation and leads EU activity regarding international chemicals policy (e.g. OECD, the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions, SAICM).
DG SANTE is responsible for the Biocides legislation and a number of scientific issue, such as criteria for endocrine disruptors.
ECHA also maintains close cooperation with the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) with regard to issues including the risk assessment of nanomaterials; the Review Programme on the risk assessment of Biocides; and activities on the development and validation of alternatives to animal testing. On 13 December 2012 ECHA and the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre signed a collaboration agreement.
The variety of interactions between ECHA and the Commission results in daily contact at all hierarchical levels and in different contexts – be it on an informal working level, as part of formal regulatory activities, or in the administrative field. The main DGs are also represented in the ECHA Management Board.
The European Parliament and ECHA
As part of the EU's legislative branch, the European Parliament is responsible for decision on the content and final adoption of legislation governing and driving ECHA's work. (This is done with the Council, through a process known as ordinary legislative procedure.)
The European Parliament is also part of the EU's budgetary authority, and as such, decides upon the draft budget of the Agency (as far as it is not covered by fee income), and also grants a 'discharge' or final approval of the Agency's budget for a given year (following the audit and finalisation of its annual accounts). Issues related to the Agency's budget may be dealt with by the Parliament's Committees on Budgets (BUDG) and on Budgetary Control (CONT).
All issues related to the content of ECHA's activities are dealt with, in the Parliament, by the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), with whom the Executive Director of the Agency holds an annual exchange of views in the autumn. ECHA may also be invited to attend other meetings of the Committee when relevant to the Committee's discussions.
The European Parliament appoints two independent persons to the ECHA Management Board. In addition, the ENVI Committee may designate an informal liaison point for regular contact with the Agency. The Agency also interacts with individual MEPs on an ad hoc basis, in relation to specific areas of its work.
The Council of the European Union and ECHA
As part of the EU's legislative branch, the Council of the European Union is responsible for decision on the content and final adoption of legislation governing and driving ECHA's work. (This is done with the Parliament, through a process known as ordinary legislative procedure.)
The Council is also part of the EU's budgetary authority, and as such, decides upon the draft budget of the Agency (as far as it is not covered by fee income), and makes a recommendation to the European Parliament with regard to the granting of a 'discharge' or final approval of the Agency's budget for a given year (following the audit and finalisation of its annual accounts).
The Council is also responsible for appointing the members of the ECHA Management Board nominated by each Member State as well as the members of the Member State and Biocidal Products Committees
Other decentralised EU agencies
ECHA regularly cooperates with other decentralised EU agencies on issues of common interest, where this is of relevance to their respective mandates. ECHA has also entered into Memoranda of Understanding with several agencies in order to enhance this cooperation: in particular through efforts at information exchange; better mutual understanding and increased cooperation; and where appropriate, through joint projects.
Memoranda of Understanding have so far been signed with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).
ECHA also collaborates with other agencies through its participation in the Networks of Heads of EU agencies and of Heads of Administration. These inter-agency fora work to promote cooperation, coordination, and the exchange of knowledge and best practice on issues of common interest to the administration and management of EU agencies. ECHA will be coordinating the Networks until March 2012, and will remain, until March 2013, part of the so-called Troika of agencies supporting the coordination of the Networks and ensuring continuity across the one-year coordination terms.