​The ECA's relations with the European Parliament and the Council

The ECA helps the European Parliament and the Council to fulfil their responsibilities as the budgetary and discharge authorities exercising control over the implementation of the EU budget.

The legal foundations of the ECA's relations with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU (Council) are laid down by Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). According to the TFEU, the ECA "shall assist the Parliament and the Council in exercising their powers of control over the implementation of the EU budget."

As the EU's independent external auditor, we examine the Union's revenue and expenditure accounts and provide the European Parliament and the Council with a statement of assurance concerning the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions. We also submit observations to the European Parliament and the Council on specific subjects in the form of special reports, reviews and opinions.

By providing the Parliament and the Council with our expert findings and recommendations, we help the EU's budget authorities to determine whether the Union's funds are correctly raised and spent, and support them in monitoring whether the EU budget achieves value for money.

Institutional relations

Throughout the financial year, the ECA maintains an active dialogue with the Parliament and the Council, while preserving its impartiality as the EU's independent external auditor.

Conveying our audit findings and recommendations to the Parliament and the Council in a clear and timely manner is a key priority for us. Inter-institutional dialogue allows our work to have a positive impact on EU financial management and enables us to support the EU legislators in evidence-based decision-making and legislative work.

The Directorate of the Presidency's (DOP) Institutional Relations team manages and coordinates the ECA's relations with the European Parliament and the Council. Formal responsibility for the ECA's external relations, particularly relations with other EU institutions, lies with the ECA's President. The President may delegate tasks to the Member for Institutional Relations (MIR), whose mandate is to facilitate broader and deeper contacts between the ECA and the other EU institutions and bodies.

Contact the Institutional Relations team:

Relations with the European Parliament

European Parliament
European Parliament - © European Union
Photo credit: EP/Genevieve ENGEL

The ECA's work is of use to all the European Parliament committees, as well as many other parliamentary structures such as the interparliamentary delegations and political groups. Each year, we present our work to various European Parliament committees and other parliamentary structures.

The ECA's key partner at the European Parliament is the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT). The CONT is responsible for the Parliament's relations with the ECA, drawing up the Parliament's opinion on the appointment of our Members, and considering our reports.

The CONT is also responsible for controlling the implementation of the budget of the Union, the European Development Fund, and the institutions and bodies financed by the EU. As such, the CONT has a key role in the annual discharge procedure. As our audit work serves as a basis for the discharge process, the CONT and the ECA collaborate closely throughout the financial year. The CONT is also responsible for monitoring the cost-effectiveness of EU financing in the implementation of EU policies. Hence, most of our special reports and reviews are presented to the CONT, while our performance work is increasingly also presented to and discussed by a variety of other EP sectoral committees.

Relations with the Council

European Council
European Council - © European Union

The ECA's work is relevant for many Council preparatory bodies. We present all our special reports to the Council preparatory bodies competent for the subject area in question.

The ECA's main counterpart at the Council is the Budget Committee, which deals with the EU's annual budgetary procedure, including discharge. In addition, the Budget Committee is responsible for all legislative work in the area of EU financial legislation, including the financial regulation.

The Council appoints the Members of the ECA, following their nomination by the respective Member States and after consulting the European Parliament, in line with Article 286 of the TFEU.

Relations with the Member States' governments and parliaments

The ECA's audit findings and recommendations can help the Member States with decision-making concerning issues related to the sound management of the EU finances and EU policy implementation.

The ECA's Members maintain contact with their respective national governments and parliaments. The ECA's key contacts at Member State level include ministries and parliamentary committees for EU affairs, finance and public accounts.

The ECA's Institutional Relations team collaborates with the National Parliament Representatives at the European Parliament.

Discharge procedure

Each year, the European Parliament and the Council decide whether to approve or "grant discharge" for the execution of the EU budget by the European Commission in a given year. This process is known as the annual discharge procedure.

President of the European Court of Auditors
Photo credit: EP Multimedia Centre

To support the Parliament and the Council in their work as the EU's budgetary authorities, the ECA provides the two institutions with annual reports, which include a statement of assurance regarding the reliability of the EU accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions.

Each autumn, the discharge procedure is officially launched when the ECA's President presents the annual report to the CONT at the European Parliament on the day of its publication. Following this, the ECA's President presents the annual report to the entire Parliament in a plenary session.

At the Council, the discharge procedure starts with the ECA President's presentation of the annual report to the Economic and Financial (ECOFIN) Council.

The CONT organises public hearings for each key EU policy area, covering all EU institutions and bodies. The ECA's reporting Members take part in these discharge hearings, presenting the various chapters of the ECA's annual report and relevant special reports and reviews.

Photo credit: Helena Piron/ECA

In parallel with the Parliament's discharge hearings, the ECA's audit teams present their corresponding annual report chapters to the Council's Budget Committee. Based on the ECA's annual report, the Council's Budget Committee prepares draft discharge recommendations, which it presents to the European Parliament's CONT committee.

Based on the public hearings organised at the CONT committee meetings, the CONT prepares discharge reports covering each key policy area and institution. The CONT's discharge reports are then considered at the plenary discharge debate, at which the Council also presents its discharge recommendations. The Parliament invites the ECA's President to take part in this public discharge debate, along with the Commissioner in charge of the EU budget.

At the plenary session, all the Members of the European Parliament vote to determine whether the Commission and the EU institutions and bodies should be granted discharge for their execution of the EU budget.

After the vote, the Parliament's President signs the discharge resolutions. When the Parliament grants discharge, this leads to the formal closure of the accounts of the institution for the year in question. In the case of a refusal to grant discharge for a particular EU institution or body, the decision is postponed to the following autumn.

By the time the discharge procedure is concluded, the next procedure is already underway. By supporting the EU's budgetary and discharge authorities - namely the European Parliament and the Council - in exercising their powers of control regarding the implementation of the EU budget, the ECA plays a crucial role in upholding a financially sound and accountable Union.

Like all the other EU institutions and bodies funded by the EU budget, the ECA is also subject to the discharge procedure. Every year, the EP and the Council scrutinise the ECA's annual accounts and its activities during the financial year in question, together with the independent auditor's report, and follow the usual discharge procedure. The CONT invites the ECA's Secretary General to a public discharge hearing to exchange views and answer the committee members' questions.

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