The Fundamental Rights Agency and civil society: reminding the gardeners of their plants' roots
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the EU body responsible for advising EU institutions on fundamental rights, is equipped with a Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP) to ensure an on-going and structured exchange of information and feedback between the FRA and Civil Society. When the FRA was founded in 2007, there was little pre-existing knowledge on how to design such a Platform; hence, the development of the relationship between the FRA and Civil Society over the first five years proved an interesting experiment. Although the Platform was never intended as a mechanism of democratic co-decision making, it is far more than a loose marketplace where Civil Society actors across the spectrum of fundamental rights themes gather. The Platform offers channels of consultation and exchange not only among the participants but also with the FRA. It allows for cross-pollination, ensuring informed grassroots input into FRA work and FRA expertise flow to Civil Society actors. This synergetic relationship builds upon both the self-organising forces of Civil Society and the terms of references of the FRP as defined by the FRA. The Platform allows to find a certain unity in the remarkable diversity of fundamental rights voices. To what degree, however, the Platform’s dynamics allow the transformation of sometimes 'compartmentalised' single human rights discussions into wider trans-sectoral and transnational debates within the Human Rights Community depends on the motivation and the interest(s) of the different Civil Society players.