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The Court of Auditors, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions

THE COURT OF AUDITORS

The role of the Court of Auditors as a Community institution has been enhanced:

  • it is now included in Article 5 (ex Article E) of the EU Treaty;
  • it has been given the right to bring actions before the Court of Justice for the purpose of protecting its prerogatives, under Article 230 of the EC Treaty (ex Article 173).

Its powers as a watchdog and investigator have been increased so that more effective steps can be taken to combat fraud to the detriment of the Community budget. It must notify any irregularity in Community revenue or expenditure to the European Parliament and the Council. For this purpose it has been given powers to audit the accounts of external bodies managing Community funds, including the European Investment Bank (EIB).

In the performance of its duties the Court of Auditors may require any relevant documents or information to be produced and may conduct audits "on the spot in the other institutions of the Community, on the premises of any body which manages revenue or expenditure on behalf of the Community and in the Member States, including on the premises of any natural or legal person in receipt of payments from the budget" (Article 248(3)).

In the case of the EIB the Court of Auditors has access to the information needed for the audit of Community expenditure and revenue managed by the Bank. Its rights of access will be governed by an agreement between the Court, the Bank and the Commission (such an agreement already existed, and a Declaration invites the three institutions concerned to maintain it in force).

In addition to this increase in the powers of the Court of Auditors, Article 248 (ex Article 188c) calls for close cooperation between the Court and national audit bodies.

Furthermore, the statement of assurance provided by the Court as to the reliability of accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions is to be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE

Consultation of the Economic and Social Committee is mandatory on a wider range of topics. The new areas of the EC Treaty on which the Economic and Social Committee must first be consulted are:

  • the guidelines and incentives for employment (Articles 128 and 129);
  • the social legislation resulting from the agreements reached by management and labour (Articles 136 to 143);
  • implementation of the principle of equal opportunities (Article 141);
  • public health (Article 152).

The Economic and Social Committee may also be consulted by the European Parliament if the latter deems such consultation appropriate.

The administrative structure of the Economic and Social Committee is now separate from that of the Committee of the Regions. The Protocol to the EC Treaty providing for a common organisational structure has been repealed.

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

The Committee of the Regions must be consulted in the following additional areas:

  • the areas listed above for the Economic and Social Committee;
  • the environment (Article 175);
  • the Social Fund (Article 148);
  • vocational training (Article 150) ;
  • cross-border cooperation (first paragraph of Article 265);
  • transport (Articles 71 and 80).

The Committee may also be consulted by the European Parliament on other matters.

Like the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions now has its own separate administrative structure. Similarly, it may draw up its own rules of procedure without requiring the unanimous approval of the Council, as was required before.

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