Tag Archives: Court of auditors

The Court of Auditors of the European Union

The Court of Auditors of the European Union

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The Court of Auditors of the European Union

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These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Fight against fraud > Anti-fraud offices

The Court of Auditors of the European Union

Document or Iniciative

Rules of Procedure of the Court of Auditors of the European Union [Official Journal L 103 of 23.04.2010].

Summary

These Rules of Procedure, which entered into force on 1 June 2010, lay down the internal workings of the Court, the rules on nominating the President and the decision-making procedure. It is the Court itself that establishes its own Rules of Procedure, subject to the approval of the Council acting by qualified majority.

Role

Article 287 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) defines the role and prerogatives of the Court of Auditors.

The Court therefore audits the legality of the revenue and expenditure of the EU and its bodies. The audit completed by the Court is carried out with the aim of both improving financial management, as well as making European citizens aware of how public funds are used.

The audit carried out by the Court shall be:

  • based on records and, if necessary, performed on the spot in the other European institutions;
  • performed on the premises of any body which manages revenue or expenditure on behalf of the EU;
  • performed in the Member States, including on the premises of any natural or legal person in receipt of payments from the European budget.

In its role as auditor, the Court shall cooperate with the national services and the European institutions. Moreover, it is able to request any information required to successfully complete its task from the EU institutions and bodies, organisations in receipt of payments from the European budget or from national audit institutions.

In respect of the European Investment Bank’s activity in managing expenditure and revenue, the Court’s rights of access to information held by the Bank shall be governed by an agreement between the Court, the Bank and the Commission.

The Court of Auditors must notify the relevant authorities of any irregularity. To this end, it shall work closely together with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

Despite its name, the European Court of Auditors has no judicial powers and therefore no power to impose sanctions. After the close of each financial year it shall draw up an annual report to be published in the Official Journal. This report concerns the management of the European budget by the competent institutions. It is a fundamental part of the European Parliament’s decision-making process regarding the granting of the budget discharge to the Commission.

The Court of Auditors also provides the Council and the Parliament with a statement of assurance concerning the reliability of the accounts and attesting that the European budget has been used well. In addition, the Court may also, at any time, submit observations, particularly in the form of special reports, on specific questions and deliver opinions at the request of one of the other European institutions.

Composition of the Court

Articles 285 and 286 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU establish rules regarding the composition of the Court of Auditors.

The College shall be the main decision-making body of the Court. It shall comprise one Member from each Member State of the EU. Members shall be appointed by the Council acting by qualified majority following consultation of the European Parliament, on the basis of proposals from the Member States. Members eligible for appointment by the Member States must belong to an external audit body in their own country or possess a specific qualification for this post. They shall carry out their duties at the Court of Auditors entirely independently. Their term of office is six years and may be renewed.

The Members of the Court shall elect the President of the Court by secret ballot. The candidate who, in the first round of voting, obtains a two-thirds majority of the Members’ votes shall be elected President. If this majority is not reached, the candidate must obtain the majority of votes in the second round of voting. The term of office is three years and may be renewed. The President’s duties shall be to:

  • draw up the agenda;
  • call and chair meetings of the Court;
  • ensure that discussions run smoothly;
  • ensure that the Court’s decisions are implemented;
  • ensure that the departments of the Court operate properly and that its various activities are managed soundly;
  • appoint an agent to represent the Court in litigation;
  • represent the Court in its external relations and in its relations with the other European institutions, etc.

The Court shall appoint the Secretary-General of the Court, who shall be responsible for the Court’s Secretariat, by secret ballot. In addition, chambers and committees shall be set up. The chambers have the task of preparing opinions and reports adopted by the Court. The committees shall deal with matters not covered by the chambers.

The Court shall decide in formal session, by the majority of its Members, on the adoption of the annual report, special reports and opinions. The Court’s meetings shall not be public, unless the Court decides otherwise. The Court may also decide, on a case-by-case basis, to adopt decisions by the written procedure.

Origins of the Court

The Court of Auditors was founded by the Treaty of Brussels, which was signed on 22 July 1975 and entered into force in October 1977. The Treaty of Maastricht (1992) gave the Court the status of a full institution. The seat of the Court is in Luxembourg.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Rules of Procedure of the Court of Auditors of the European Union

1.6.2010

OJ L 103 of 23.4.2010

The other institutions and bodies of the Union

The other institutions and bodies of the Union

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The other institutions and bodies of the Union

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These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > Building europe through the treaties > The Lisbon Treaty: a comprehensive guide

The other institutions and bodies of the Union

The Treaty of Lisbon undertakes a vast institutional reform which mainly concerns the European Council, the Commission, the Council, the Parliament and the Court of Justice. To a lesser extent, the Treaty of Lisbon also makes a number of changes relating to the composition and functioning of the EU’s two advisory committees. It also awards the European Central Bank the status of institution.

THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE

The number of seats for Member States within the Committee is limited to 350. The distribution of these seats between Member States is no longer included in the Treaty of Lisbon, as was the case previously. As it is required to do henceforth for the distribution of seats in the Parliament, the Council unanimously adopts a decision laying down rules on the composition of the Committee. Moreover, the Treaty of Lisbon extends the term of office of members of the Committee from 4 to 5 years, bringing it into line with that of members of the Commission and the Parliament. Consequently, the Committee chairman and officers will now be elected by their peers for two and a half years rather than for two years.

As part of its advisory role, the Economic and Social Committee may henceforth issue opinions following a referral from the European Parliament.

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

As with the European Economic and Social Committee, the number of seats within the Committee of the regions is limited to 350 and the distribution of seats by Member State must be the subject of a unanimous Council decision. The members of the Committee of the Regions are henceforth appointed for a term of five years, instead of four, while its chairman and officers are elected for two and a half years.

In addition, the Treaty of Lisbon strengthens the advisory role of the Committee of the Regions by extending its area of activity. Civil protection, climate change, energy and services of general interest are therefore added to the list of fields in which the Committee is to be consulted. On the same basis as the Commission and the Council, the European Parliament is also authorised to seek an opinion from the Committee of the Regions.

The Committee of the Regions also has new powers within the EU as a result of the possibility of bringing two types of action before the Court of Justice of the EU. On the one hand, the Committee becomes one of the guarantors of the principle of subsidiarity within the EU. It may bring an action before the Court of Justice seeking the annulment of an act deemed not to comply with the principle of subsidiarity (Article 8 of the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality). However, this right of referral is limited to acts for which the Committee has to be consulted. On the other hand, Article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU authorises the Committee to bring an action before the Court of Justice of the EU for the purpose of protecting its own prerogatives. It therefore has legal means which henceforth enable it to ensure that the EU institutions respect its right to be consulted.

THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK

The ECB is granted the status of EU institution on the same basis as the European Council, the Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors. It thereby becomes the only institution granted legal personality.

It is run by three main bodies:

  • the Governing Council of the ECB, which comprises the members of the Executive Board and the governors of the national central banks of the Euro zone countries. It is the main decision-making body and defines the monetary policy of the Euro zone;
  • the Executive Board, the six members of which are henceforth appointed by the European Council acting by a qualified majority in order to limit the risks of blocking;
  • the General Council, which comprises the members of the Executive Board and the governors of the central banks of all Member States.

The Treaty of Lisbon also clarifies the two principal missions of the ECB:

  • the ECB and the central banks of the EU Member States form the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). The main objective of the ESCB is to maintain price stability. It also contributes to the general economic policies of the Union;
  • the ECB and the central banks of Member States which have adopted the Euro make up the Eurosystem. In contrast with the ESCB, the Eurosystem defines and conducts the monetary policy of the Union. Until now, ‘Eurosystem’ was a term used informally by the ECB. It is henceforth fully recognised by the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Treaty of Lisbon finally reaffirms the independence of the ECB. This independence is guaranteed by the relatively long term of office of the members of the Executive Board (eight years) and by the prohibition banning the ECB and the national central banks from accepting instructions from the other EU institutions, governments of Member States or any other body.

SUMMARY TABLE

Articles Subject

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

282 to 284

Composition and prerogatives of the European Central Bank

301 to 304

Composition and prerogatives of the European Economic and Social Committee

305 to 307

Composition and prerogatives of the Committee of the Regions

Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors' assets

Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors’ assets

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors’ assets

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Judicial cooperation in civil matters

Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors’ assets

Even with a court judgment obtained, recovering cross-border debts may be difficult for creditors in practice if no information on the debtors’ assets or whereabouts is available. Because of this, the European Commission has adopted a Green Paper launching a public consultation on how to improve the recovery of debts through possible measures such as registers and debtor declarations.

Document or Iniciative

Green Paper of 6 March 2008 on the effective enforcement of judgments in the European Union: the transparency of debtors’ assets [COM(2008) 128 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The late and non-payment of debts is detrimental to business and customers alike, particularly when no information is available on the debtor’s assets or whereabouts. This is a particular cross-border issue in debt recovery and has the potential to affect the smooth running of the internal market. In launching a public consultation, the European Commission has outlined the problems of the current situation and possible solutions in this Green Paper. Interested parties can submit their comments by 30 September 2008.

State of play

The search for a debtor’s address and information on his financial situation is often the starting point for enforcement proceedings. At national level, most Member States mainly use two different systems for obtaining information, either:

  • systems of declaration of the debtor’s entire assets or at least a part of it to satisfy the claim;
  • search systems with specific information (registers).

In this Green Paper, the European Commission focuses more on a series of measures instead of one single European measure to allow the creditor to obtain reliable information on the debtor’s assets and whereabouts within a reasonable period of time. Possible measures include:

  • drawing up a manual of national enforcement laws and practices: at present, there is very little information on the different enforcement systems in the 27 European Union Member States. Such a manual could contain all sources of information on a person’s assets, which could be accessed in each country; contact addresses, costs, etc.
  • increasing the information available and improving access to registers: the main sources of information on the debtor are public registers, such as commercial or population registers. However, these vary from one Member State to the next. The Commission is asking whether to increase information available in and access to commercial registers and in what way access to existing population registers should be enhanced. Furthermore, access to social security and tax registers by enforcement authorities may be increased, while respecting rules of data protection and social and fiscal privacy.
  • exchange of information between enforcement authorities: currently, enforcement bodies are not able to directly access the (non-public) registers of other Member States which are open to national enforcement bodies. In addition, there are no international instruments dealing with the exchange of information between national enforcement bodies. In the absence of a Europe-wide register, enhancing cooperation between national enforcement authorities and direct exchange of information between them may a possible solution.
  • measures relating to the debtor’s declaration: enforcement bodies have in several Member States the option to question the debtor directly regarding his assets, whereas in some Member States the debtor’s declaration is made in the form of a testimony before the enforcement court. In some Member States, the debtor has to fill out mandatory forms, and in others a debtor’s declaration does not exist at all. The European Commission is considering introducing a European Assets declaration, obliging the debtors to disclose all assets in the European judicial area. In this way, the transparency of the debtor’s assets would not be limited by the territoriality of the enforcement proceedings.