Evaluation of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

 

The Challenge

 

Conduct a 5-year evaluation of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

 

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) agency’s goal is to provide Union institutions and Member States with data, advice and expertise on fundamental rights – the minimum standards to maintain the EU’s citizens’ dignity. The FRA provides this information to lawmakers so they can leverage the knowledge when making decisions. Beyond that duty, the FRA conducts its own research and collects data. It even takes independent action to bring awareness to fundamental rights.

 

Every five years, the FRA is evaluated to measure the effectiveness and relevance of the agency. 2017 marked its 10-year anniversary and its second evaluation, and Optimity was given the opportunity to conduct it. Optimity broke the challenge down into six key tasks:

 

1.  A review of progress and achievements

2.  A review of agency tasks and practices, and their impact

3.  An assessment of the possible need to modify those practices

4.  An analysis of the financial implications of modification

5.  An assessment of the agency’s current strengths and weaknesses

6.  An assessment of internal stakeholders views about agency performance

 

How We Helped

 

Optimity provided a thorough evaluation, based on data, interviews and digital tools.

 

Since its last evaluation, the FRA changed dramatically, which made Optimity’s job harder. Historically, the FRA is a research- and advice-based agency. However, since 2016, the Agency started to do more work “on the ground,” by observing and providing advice on the respect of fundamental rights standards in migrant hotspots in Greece and Italy. The FRA’s participation has led to the Agency having more of an impact than ever have before.

 

Optimity’s evaluation was doubly difficult because the FRA was established before the Treaty of Lisbon, meaning that its founding Regulation did not take into account the changes brought about by the Treaty change. The Treaty of Lisbon fundamentally changed the EU’s role in many ways, but most notably in police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, which are are not explicitly mentioned as part of the FRA’s mandate in the founding Regulation.

 

To address this problem and undertake the evaluation, Optimity led an interview programme with the agency’s key stakeholders to determine their experiences with and expectations for the FRA. Then, online surveys and desk research were used to get a picture of not only what the FRA had done, but also where it was headed – and what needed to be changed. Case studies were also developed on the agency’s Violence Against Women survey, and on activities taken at migration hotspots in Greece and Italy.

 

Also, to do a “sentiment analysis,” or to gauge public opinion, Optimity used a unique data crawler to analyse retweets, tweets and engagement by the FRA’s social media accounts. The tool also examined the public’s interactions with the FRA online.

 

Results/Impact

 

Optimity provided the FRA with valuable advice and information to help make decisions which will affect the European Union.

As a result of the evaluation, Optimity developed a number of recommendations for the FRA, the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament. Through Optimity’s advice and the data collected, the FRA will be able to increase its relevance, effectiveness, utility and impact, and coherence and efficiency. Optimity’s conclusions were the basis for the FRA’s Management Board’s recommendations to clarify the Agency’s mandate.

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