Cooperation between the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) of the European Union and the European
Court of Auditors (ECA) principally takes place within the framework of the Contact Committee structure.
This structure consists of the Contact Committee itself, composed of the Heads of the EU SAIs and the ECA,
the Liaison Officers, who provide an active network of professional contacts around Europe, as well as
working groups, networks and task forces on specific audit topics.
The first meeting of Heads of SAIs of the EU (then EEC) was held in 1960. Since then, the Heads of the
SAIs have been working together in the Contact Committee, which acts as a forum where matters of common
interest are discussed. With the introduction of own resources to finance the EU budget in the late
1960s, and the subsequent extended role of the European Parliament in budgetary matters, the need for an
independent external audit body for the EU became increasingly apparent. The Contact Committee was in
fact instrumental in setting up the ECA and codifying its powers in the Treaty of Brussels in 1975,
which led to the creation of the ECA in 1977. The Contact Committee invited the ECA to join in 1978,
thereby becoming its tenth member.
As European integration has developed since the Treaty of Rome, so too has the role of the Contact
Committee. Over the years, cooperation between EU Member States SAIs and the ECA has become more
organised and institutionalised. This is also reflected in the European treaties where reference to such
cooperation has gradually become more explicit.
The EC Treaty in its original form stated that the ECA shall undertake its audit in "liaison" with the
SAIs of the Member States*, while the Treaty of Amsterdam later added "the Court of Auditors and the
national audit bodies shall cooperate in a spirit of trust while maintaining their independence". Then,
in the Treaty of Nice, Declaration 18 of its final act invited the ECA to set up a Contact Committee
with the SAIs of the Member States (which in fact already existed)** .
However, cooperation between EU Member States SAIs and the ECA is not simply a legal obligation but
rather a practical necessity dictated by the fact that Community and national administrations have
become more and more closely linked. With the large-scale decentralisation of the management of the EU
budget towards the national authorities in the Member States and beneficiary countries, the centre of
gravity of the audit of EU money has moved towards these countries. As a consequence, the Treaty gave a
legal basis for cooperation between the ECA and national supreme audit institutions or other competent
national audit bodies. In practice, the national supreme audit institutions provide ECA's auditors with
local practical and logistical support as well as specific knowledge of the audited field.
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Cooperation with the SAIs of candidate and potential candidate countries
The Contact Committee promotes and facilitates cooperation between candidate and potential candidate
countries and EU Member States SAIs by means of several initiatives, most of them within the
framework of the Network of SAIs of candidate and potential candidate countries and the ECA. Besides
the participation of the heads of those SAIs in the Contact Committee meetings as observers, the
Joint Working Group on Audit Activities (JWGAA), successor of the former Contact Committee Working
Group for Candidate Countries, promotes small-scale, practical, hands-on cooperation.
Cooperation with international organisations
Representatives of EUROSAI, the European umbrella organisation for the Supreme Audit Institutions,
and INTOSAI, the worldwide organisation, attend meetings of the Contact Committee and are invited to
report on their development and future plans. Other examples of cooperation with EUROSAI include
joint training events and participation of EUROSAI members in multilateral activities started under
the Contact Committee. Moreover, the individual SAIs of the Contact Committee also participate in
activities organised by EUROSAI and INTOSAI.