Agencies of the European Union

A number of specialized and decentralized EU agencies have been established to support EU member states and their citizens. These agencies respond to a desire for geographical devolution and the need to cope with new tasks of a legal, technical and/or scientific nature. This glossary contains short descriptions on those agencies, whose mandates have a direct connection to topics of public and global health.

These include:

The European Centres for Prevention and Disease Control (ECDC)

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)

The Executive Agency for Health and Consumers (ESHC)

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

European Medicines Agency (EMEA)

European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (FRONTEX)

European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (EUROFOUND)

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)

The European Center for Prevention and Disease Control (ECDC): Based in Stockholm, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control launched operations in May 2005. Its mission is to help strengthen Europe's defences against infectious diseases, such as influenza, SARS, and HIV and AIDS. It has a small core staff as well as an extended network of partners across the EU and the EEA/EFTA member states.

ECDC works in partnership with national health protection bodies to strengthen and develop Europe-wide disease surveillance and early warning systems. Through such collaboration, ECDC pools Europe's health knowledge in order to develop authoritative scientific opinions on risks posed by new and emerging infectious diseases.

The centre's tasks include:

  • enhancing the capacity of the Community and the member states individually to protect human health through the prevention and control of human disease
  • acting on its own initiative when outbreaks of contagious illnesses of unknown origin are threatening the Community
  • ensuring complementary and coherent action in the field of public health by linking the tasks and the responsibilities of the member states, the EU institutions and the relevant international organizations

The European Agency for Saftey and Health at Work (EU-OSHA): The continuous improvement of safety and health at work is a key objective of European social and employment policy. However, the range and diversity of the occupational safety and health (OSH) issues that face Europe are beyond the resources and expertise of a single member state or institution. This is why the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) was formed: to bring together and share the region's vast pool of knowledge and information on OSH-related issues, particularly good prevention practices.

The agency, which is based in Bilbao, Spain, acts as a catalyst for developing, analysing and disseminating information that improves occupational safety and health in Europe. As well as developing a comprehensive network of safety and health web sites, the agency also runs campaigns and an active publications programme producing everything from specialist information reports to factsheets covering a wide variety of OSH problems.

National focal points, typically the lead OSH organization in each country, coordinate and disseminate information from the agency within their respective countries. In addition, the agency cooperates with a wide range of partners including the European Commission, other European institutions and European social partners, as well as international organizations, and safety and health organizations worldwide.

The Executive Agency for Health and Consumers (ESHC): (formerly known as the Public Health Executive Agency) was created on 1 January 2005 to support the implementation of the EU Public Health Programme.

In 2008, the agency's mandate was prolonged until 31 December 2015 and its remit expanded to include actions in the field of consumer protection and training for safer food. The EAHC's new mandate includes the implementation of the EU Health Programme, Consumer Programme and Better Training for Safer Food initiative.

The agency provides a professional service in performing the tasks entrusted to it by the European Commission, and it works closely with the Directorate General for Health and Consumers. The EAHC manages relations with some 2200 beneficiaries involved in more than 200 projects in the field of health. It has about 40 staff members and is based in Luxembourg.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): Based in Italy, the European Food Safety Authority provides independent scientific advice on all matters with a direct or indirect impact on food safety, including animal health and welfare and plant protection. EFSA is also consulted on nutrition in relation to Community legislation. The authority communicates to the public in an open and transparent way on all matters within its remit.

EFSA's risk assessments provide risk managers (EU institutions with political accountability, i.e., the European Commission, European Parliament and Council) with a sound scientific basis for defining policy-driven legislative or regulatory measures required to ensure a high level of consumer protection with regards to food safety.

The collection and analysis of scientific data, identification of emerging risks and scientific support to the Commission - particularly in the event of a food crisis - are also part of EFSA's mandate.

European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (FRONTEX): Based in Poland, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union focuses on the following areas of activity:

  • coordinating operational cooperation between member states in the field of management of external borders
  • assisting member states in the training of national border guards, including the establishment of common training standards
  • carrying out risk analyses
  • following up the development of research relevant for the control and surveillance of external borders
  • assisting member states in circumstances requiring increased technical and operational assistance at external borders
  • providing member states with the necessary support in organizing joint return operations

FRONTEX liaises closely with other Community and EU partners responsible for the security of the external borders, such as Europol, CEPOL, OLAF, the customs cooperation and the cooperation on phytosanitary and veterinary controls, in order to promote overall coherency. FRONTEX strengthens border security by ensuring the coordination of member states' actions in the implementation of Community measures relating to the management of the external borders.

The European Foundations for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (EUROFOUND): The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions was set up in 1975 to contribute to the planning and establishment of better living and working conditions in Europe. It provides findings, knowledge and advice from independent and comparative research, to governments, employers, trade unions and the European Commission. The foundation organizes its work around three core areas of expertise, with a focus on working conditions, living conditions and industrial relations. It recently set up the European Monitoring Centre on Change (EMCC) to analyse and anticipate industrial and company change to support socio-economic progress.

The European Medicines Agency (EMEA): The European Medicines Agency is a decentralized body of the European Union with headquarters in London. Its main responsibility is the protection and promotion of public and animal health, through the evaluation and supervision of medicines for human and veterinary use. EMEA is responsible for the scientific evaluation of applications for European marketing authorization for medicinal products (centralized procedure). Under the centralized procedure, companies submit one single marketing authorization application to EMEA. All medicinal products for human and animal use derived from biotechnology and other high-technology processes must be approved via the centralized procedure. The same applies to all human medicines intended for the treatment of HIV and AIDS, cancer, diabetes or neurodegenerative diseases, and for all designated orphan medicines intended for the treatment of rare diseases.

In 2001, the Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products (COMP) was established, charged with reviewing applications to develop medicines for rare diseases (so-called ‘orphan drugs'). The Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC) was established in 2004 and provides scientific opinions on traditional herbal medicines.

EMEA contributes to the European Union's international activities through its work with the European Pharmacopoeia, the World Health Organization, and the ICH and VICH trilateral (EU, Japan and US) conferences on harmonization, among other international organizations and initiatives.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction: The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction is the hub of drug-related information in the European Union. Its role is to gather, analyse and disseminate objective, reliable and comparable information on drugs and drug addiction and, in so doing, provide its audiences with a sound and evidence-based picture of the drug phenomenon at European level. At the heart of the centre's work is the task of improving the comparability of drug information across Europe and devising the methods and tools required to achieve this. As a result of efforts to date, countries can now view how they fit into the wider European picture and examine common problems and goals. The centre obtains information primarily from the Reitox network, a group of focal points in each of the 27 EU member states, Norway, the candidate countries to the EU and at the European Commission. The annual report on the state of the drugs problem in the European Union and Norway, and an online statistical bulletin offer a yearly overview of the latest European drug situation and trends. Meanwhile, online country situation summaries provide a rich pool of national drug-related data.


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