The Untapped Influence of the European Court of Auditors’ Reports in EU Decision-Making 

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has published its Work Programme for 2024. Among its foreseen reports we find subjects such as artificial intelligence, smart energy grids, healthcare digitalisation, hydrogen energy, and security of gas supply. But what is the role of their reports, and what impact do they actually have on legislation?  

What is the European Court of Auditors and its role? 

The European Court of Auditors is the institution of the European Union responsible for the inspection and review of the EU’s finances and policies. It was established in 1977 and is headquartered in Luxembourg. Its 27 members – one from each EU Member State – are appointed by the Council, after consulting the European Parliament, for renewable 6-year terms. To be appointed, Members must belong or have belonged to an external audit body in their own Member State or be especially qualified for this position. 

The primary role of the European Court of Auditors is to ensure accountability and transparency in the management of the EU’s budget. While the European Court of Auditors does not have the power to take legal action or impose sanctions, its reports and recommendations play a crucial role in the oversight of EU finances. The European Parliament, in particular, reviews the ECA’s reports and holds discussions with relevant officials to address any identified shortcomings or issues in the management of EU funds. 

What is the role of the reports they make? 

At the beginning of every year, the ECA decides its own agenda. This year’s Work Programme consists predominantly of Special Reports and Reviews. What exactly are those?  

Special Reports focus on specific topics or areas of concern within the EU budget or policies. These reports are often initiated by the ECA based on its own priorities or in response to requests from the European Parliament, the Council, or other EU institutions. They offer in-depth analyses and recommendations on particular issues.  

During a Review, the ECA collects and analyses relevant data, interviews key stakeholders, examines financial documents, and assesses the implementation of EU policies and programs. The ECA’s reviews put a spotlight onto the functioning of the EU’s financial management systems, identify areas of improvement, and make recommendations to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of EU expenditures – all from an official third-party perspective.   

When the ECA has recently published a topic that further legislation is being written about, they can sometimes be invited to Trilogues with a speaking observer status. 

Let’s have a look at some of the items on the Programme

If you are in the hydrogen industry, you will be pleased to know that the ECA will publish a report on hydrogen this year. The report will assess the effectiveness of the Commission’s strategy for promoting the EU’s hydrogen infrastructure for transport. It will also look at how efficient the EU co-funding is in supporting the development and timely provision of hydrogen infrastructure for transport in the Member States.  

Artificial intelligence is the hot topic of the moment, and, after the Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the AI Act at the end of 2023, the ECA will publish a Special Report on AI. Its aim will be to assess whether the Commission was effective in creating a European ecosystem for the development of artificial intelligence. 

EU Health Policy has had a great focus on the digitalisation of healthcare in the last few years. At the end of 2023, the Council adopted its mandate for negotiation with the European Parliament on a proposal for a regulation on the European Health Data Space. It comes as no surprise that the European Court of Auditors will now be drafting a special report to examine the effectiveness of the initiatives that the EU and Member States have put in place to facilitate the digitalisation of national healthcare systems. 

Wrapping it up 

The upcoming reports clearly demonstrate not only the ECA’s commitment to evaluating the effectiveness of key EU policies and initiatives, but also the key areas of focus of the EU as a whole. The impact of these reports extends beyond mere assessments, as they provide valuable insights and recommendations that can influence legislative developments and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of EU expenditures in these critical areas. 

You can find the entire list of reports to be published by the ECA this year here. 

As a company or trade association operating at EU level it can be worthwhile to have a look at the Work Programme of the European Court of Auditors. They have a number of open events, where it is possible to provide comments for any ongoing work. It is also possible to provide facts and figures to the reports before they are published.  

If you want to learn more about the work of the ECA and how to impact it as a company or trade association, please reach out to Lykke Advice.   


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