Other EU institutions
Court of Justice
Based in Luxembourg, the Court of Justice of the European Communities is made up of one judge from each EU country, assisted by eight advocates-general. It is completely independent and ensures that EU law is understood and interpreted in the same way in all member states across the European Union. In particular, courts in the member states are required to refer questions to the Court for rulings when national and EU legislation conflict. It is also called upon to settle disputes between the EU’s different institutions and member states.
Any European citizen or organisation may bring a case before the Court if it concerns a legal act which directly affects them.
Court of Auditors
Also based in Luxembourg, the main task of the European Court of Auditors is to make sure the EU spends its money in the most efficient way possible. It keeps track of the EU budget and ensures that it has been managed properly by the European Commission. On the basis of the Court of Auditors’ reports, the European Parliament gives the Commission final discharge for the execution of each annual budget.
The European Ombudsman is appointed by the European Parliament to hear complaints of misadministration by the European institutions. Any EU citizen, company or organisation based in the EU may ask the Ombudsman to investigate their specific case. The Ombudsman is based in Strasbourg.
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank (ECB), based in Frankfurt, is the central bank for all euro area countries. It sets interest rates and is responsible for monetary policy. Its governing council consists of the governors of all national central banks in the euro area, plus the executive board. The board is made up of the Bank’s president, vice-president and four other members. Board members are nominated by the Council, and are responsible, in particular, for setting interest rates at their monthly meetings.
European Investment Bank
The EIB is based in Luxembourg and provides loans and guarantees to the EU’s less developed regions. It also funds investment programmes for businesses to make them more competitive.
European Economic and Social Committee
The European Economic and Social Committee (ESC or EESC) is sometimes known unofficially as ‘Ecosoc’ (but do not confuse this with the UN’s Economic and Social Council which is officially known by the acronym Ecosoc), and is a consultative/advisory body made up of various interest groups. Its over 200 members are drawn from European organisations, such as consumer groups, farmers’ and trade unions, as well as from employers’ associations. Member states each have a number of members (in proportion to their population). During the EU’s legislative process, the Commission is required to ask for the Committee’s opinion on its proposals for new legislation in many areas. As with the Committee of the Regions, the EESC’s opinions have no binding weight, but it examines around two-thirds of the proposals passing through the legislature.
Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the second ‘official’ advisory body to the Commission, the European Parliament and Council, representing local and regional communities at EU level, and bringing the Union closer to its citizens. CoR aims to represent the voice of local and regional government to the EU institutions. Its 344 members are drawn from municipal and regional authorities in the member states. While the ESC has been around since the Community was set up in 1957 (Treaty of Rome), CoR was only instituted in 1994 following the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. The Committee is required to be consulted on any legislative proposal that could have regional consequences, especially in areas such as health, education, transport, employment and social policy.
As with the Economic and Social Committee, CoR opinions are not binding.
European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF
OLAF was set up initially as a unit within the Commission to fight fraud in the implementation of EU programmes and policies. It now operates as an independent office. It aims to work closely with national anti-fraud and anti-corruption agencies, since much of the EU budget is actually administered by national agencies.
Office for Official Publications of the European Communities is the publishing house of the institutions and other bodies of the European Union. It is responsible for producing and distributing EU publications on all media and by all means.
European Personnel Selection Office EPSO The EPSO is a central department organising “competitions” to recruite and choose personnel for all EU institutions.
Agencies of the EU
Community Agencies are bodies governed by European public law, but are distinct from the actual Institutions and have their own legal personality. They are set up accomplish a very specific, technical, scientific or managerial task.
Common Foreign and Security Policy agencies
At present the CFSP agencies are the European Defence Agency, European Union Institute for Security Studies and the European Union Satellite Centre.