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The EU’s spending watchdog: how the European Court of Auditors operates

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The EU’s spending watchdog: how the European Court of Auditors operates


The European Court of Auditors audits European Union (EU) revenue and expenditure. It ensures the EU’s accountability to the taxpayer. Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union defines the role of the Court. The Court draws up its own Rules of Procedure which must then be approved by the Council.


They govern the internal workings of the European Court of Auditors. The Rules cover aspects such as:

the organisation of the Court (appointments, terms of office, the Court’s duties, election of the President);

operational procedures (the Court and Chambers meetings; decisions by the Court, Chambers and Committees; audits and preparation of reports, opinions, observations and statements of assurance).


Composition and structure

The Court is a collegial body, i.e. its Members are jointly responsible for decisions and actions taken. It comprises 28 Members - one from each EU country. Members are appointed for 6 years (renewable). To be appointed, Members must belong or have belonged to an external audit body in their own EU country or be especially qualified for this office. They carry out their duties at the Court of Auditors entirely independently.

Members elect one of their number as President for 3 years (renewable). His/her duties include:

calling and chairing Court meetings;

ensuring the Court’s decisions are implemented;

ensuring that the Court’s departments, including protocol and visits, communication, legal matters and internal audit, operate properly and that its various activities are managed soundly;

appointing an agent to represent the Court in litigation;

representing the Court in its external relations and in its relations with the other European institutions.

The Court has a Secretary-General, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Court's Secretariat, as well as for administration, finance and support, human resources, information technology and translation.

The Court also comprises Chambers and Committees. Chambers adopt opinions, special reports and specific annual reports. They also prepare the annual reports on the EU budget and the European Development Funds, which are then adopted by the Court. Committees (e.g. the Administrative Committee and the Audit Committee) deal with administrative matters and decisions on issues related to communication and strategy.

Tasks of the Court

The Court audits the legality and regularity of the revenue and expenditure of the EU and its bodies as well as sound financial management of the EU budget. Its role as the EU’s independent external auditor is to check that EU funds are correctly accounted for, are raised and spent in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations and have achieved value for money.

Its audits are carried out with the aim of both improving financial management, as well as making European citizens aware of how public funds are used.


These are

based on records and, if necessary, performed on the spot in the other European institutions;

performed on the premises of any organisation which manages revenue or expenditure on behalf of the EU;

performed in the EU countries and in countries across the world, including on the premises of any natural or legal person in receipt of payments from the EU budget.

In its role as the EU’s external auditor, the Court cooperates with the national authorities 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.

Work programmes

Each year, the Court adopts a work programme listing its priorities in terms of audit tasks. The programme is published, and presented to the Committee on Budgetary Control of the European Parliament by the Court’s President

Annual discharge procedure

The Court of Auditors has no judicial powers and therefore no power to impose sanctions. After the close of each financial year, it draws up an annual report to be published in the Official Journal. This report concerns the management of the EU budget and the European Development Funds, 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 budget has been used well, in accordance with the rules and regulations. In addition, the Court may also, at any time, submit observations, particularly in the form of special reports, on specific questions and deliver opinions or other review-based outputs at the request of one of the other European institutions or at its own initiative

The Court decides in formal session, by the majority of its members, on the adoption of the annual report. Its meetings are not public, unless it decides otherwise. It may also decide, on a case-by-case basis, to adopt decisions by written procedure.

The Court of Auditors reports on irregularities in the use of EU funds and refers any cases of suspected fraud detected during its audits to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).


From 1 June 2010.


The Court of Auditors was established in 1977 and since 1992 has been a fully-fledged EU institution. It is based in Luxembourg.

For more information, see:


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



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

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



OJ L 103, 23.4.2010, pp. 1-6

last update 15.10.2015