17 March 2021
The European Committee of the Regions (CoR or 'the Committee') is one of two European Union (EU) advisory bodies, the other being the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The CoR was established by the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, following a period when regional and local interests had been demanding greater involvement in the European decision-making process. The CoR was set up as an advisory body of the Council and the European Commission, made up of local and regional representatives, independent in the performance of their duties. With the various Treaty changes, the CoR has managed to consolidate its position in the EU landscape, although some of its longstanding ambitions have yet to materialise – such as its recognition as a fully fledged EU institution with co-decision power over certain territorial matters. In particular, in addition to other reforms, the Treaties have increased the number of policy areas where the Council and the Commission (and since 1999, the European Parliament as well) have an obligation to consult the CoR during the legislative process, also affirming its budgetary and administrative autonomy. Significantly, the Lisbon Treaty gave the CoR the right to bring proceedings before the EU Court of Justice for infringement of the principle of subsidiarity in the fields of mandatory consultation or in the event of a breach of CoR prerogatives. Despite obvious progress over the years in terms of expanding its competences and adapting its way of work, views are divided over the CoR's influence in the EU decision-making process. Its opinions are not binding and other factors limit its impact on legislation and policy, particularly when compared with the co-legislators, Parliament and Council. Nevertheless, as the main point of confluence for subnational interests at EU level, the CoR is far from irrelevant. This briefing looks at the evolution and organisation of the European Committee of the Regions and describes its advisory work and its other activities, beyond the formal role assigned it by the Treaties.