The European Committee of the Regions (ΕCoR) was established in 1992 by the Maastricht Treaty and held its inaugural meeting on 9-10 March 1994 in Brussels. As an institution of the EU, it is a political assembly representing local and regional authorities of the Member States, ensuring their participation in the policy development process of EU legislation, and is an integral part of European mechanism of governance.
The role of the Committee of the Regions in EU policy making and legislation
The role and functioning of the ECOR are set out in detail in Articles 300 and 305-307 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the Rules of Procedure of the ECoR.
Through the ECoR, EU local and regional authorities have a say in the development of EU legislatiion that affects regions and municipalities. Until 2009, the role of the ECoR was purely consultative. However, with the Treaty of Lisbon, the important role of the ECoR has been recognized and strengthened. Today, the EU institutions (Council, Commission, Parliament) have an obligation to consult the ECoR for each policy / legislative line they prepare for local / regional government.
One of the key elements that strengthened the role and position of the EUT with the Treaty of Lisbon is that, if the ECoR considers that its view has not taken into consideration in the decision-making process of the other institutions, it can resort to the European Court of Justice and halt the proceedings.
In turn, the ECoR, through its opinions, gives its views to the other institutions, either on current ongoing strategic and policy planning processes or through own-initiative opinions, ie on issues that it considers that should be under consideration. On average, the ECoR adopts 50-60 Opinions per year and its contribution is recorded in its annual report.
The involvement of the ECoR in EU policy making and legislation
The Commission’s Annual Work Program sets out the Commission’s legislative proposals and the legislative workload of the EU institutions. The Commission has an obligation to ask for the views of the Committee on Local / Regional Governance issues such as:
- social policy
- education, vocational training and youth
- public health
- trans-European transport, telecommunication and energy networks
- economic, social and territorial cohesion
- environment and
The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission may request the ECoR to provide its views on the areas and issues they consider necessary. The drafts and final texts of the Opinions prepared by the ECoR are accessible through a database.
The principles of subsidiarity and proportionality should be respected throughout the EU legislative process. Since the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force, Member States and the Committee of the Regions have the right to take legal action through the European Court of Justice if they believe that the principle of subsidiarity is not respected.
In 2007, the SCP launched a Subsidiarity Monitoring Network comprising of regional parliaments and governments with legislative powers, associations of local and regional authorities and local authorities, to monitor and verify that the subsidiarity principle is being properly applied. In 2014, the European Committee of the Regions adopted the ‘Charter for Multilevel Governance in Europe’ to ensure that the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and partnership are widely known and respected in the EU policy making process.
How does the SCP affect EU policy?
Each year, an output report is produced which summarizes the impact of the EU’s advice on EU legislation and policies. As regards the impact of the ECoR opinions, it is possible to distinguish between:
- Whether specific recommendations of the ECoR have been incorporated into the final legislation,
- Whether the policy recommendations of the ECoR have been taken into account in the proposed legislation or during the legislative process,
- Whether there is reference to the contribution of the ECoR during the ongoing political discussions,
- Whether reference is made to the positions/opinions of the ECoR in other EU documents, eg. resolutions of the European Parliament