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The European Court of Auditors

in a nutshell...

As the “guardian of EU finances”, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) audits both the revenue and expenditure sides of the EU budget and aims to improve EU financial management. Its audit competence not only covers EU institutions such as the Commission or the European Parliament, but also the countries that receive EU funds.

The tasks of the Court of Auditors include preparing an annual report for the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, which is reviewed by the Parliament before it approves the implementation of the budget through the European Commission. The ECJ functions as a collegiate body with 28 members, each with one member per EU Member State. The members shall be appointed for a term of office of six years. The members additionally elect a president from their midst for three years.

In addition, the European Court of Auditors can report suspected cases of fraud, corruption or illegal activities to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). A fundamental problem with this working method of the European Court of Justice, however, is that the Court of Auditors cannot take any legal steps of its own accord to punish possible infringements of EU institutions. And according to the annual reports published by the European Court of Auditors, these are likely to accumulate. However, the often significantly higher spending is barely revised; on the contrary, it is usually approved by the European Parliament.

The conclusion could therefore be: The role defined when it was set up in October 1977 as the “external auditor of the EU” is only fulfilled to a limited extent by the European Court of Auditors. Sparing use of taxpayers' money in the EU does not always seem to be guaranteed because action is rarely taken, despite increased evidence of misconduct in the use of EU funds.

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