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Chapter 5 The Committee of the Regions and the Challenge of European Governance


Since its establishment in 1994, the Committee of the Regions (hereinafter referred to as CoR) was vested with two main political roles: to involve local and regional authorities in the European decision-making process and to make good the EU democratic deficit. This is in accordance with the needs that have emerged during the progressive widening of the Union’s role and the consequent greater impact of EU law on local and regional policies in Member States.


  • Local Authority
  • White Paper
  • Regional Authority
  • Political Group
  • Lisbon Strategy

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  1. 1.

    See European Governance – A white Paper, COM (2001) 428 of 25 July 2001, available at (last checked on 15 June 2010).

  2. 2.

    See N. PARISI, Art. 263 EC, in Pocar (2001), p. 893. The 42 members of the Council were appointed by the Commission: see Commission Decision of 24 June 1988, No. 487, Art. 3, § 2, in O.J.C.E., L 247, of 6 September 1988, pp. 23–25.

  3. 3.

    According to Art. 307, § 2, TFEU, the time limit “may not be less than one month from the date on which the President receives notification to this effect”, and “Upon expiry of the time limit, the absence of an opinion shall not prevent further action”.

  4. 4.

    N. PARISI, Art. 265 EC, in Pocar (2001), pp. 901–902.

  5. 5.

    Art. 54 of the Rules of Procedure. The latest version of the Rules of Procedure of the CoR was adopted in 2010 (following the entry into force of the ToL): see Rules of Procedure – Committee of the Regions, in O.J.E.U., L 6 of 9 January 2010, pp. 14–31.

  6. 6.

    Art. 307, § 4, TFEU, provides: “[The Committee] may issue an opinion on its own initiative in cases in which it considers such action appropriate”.

  7. 7.

    Before the Treaty of Nice, legal scholarship was very critical of the previous text of Art. 263 EC extending the discretionary power of the Member States to the designation of “representatives of local and regional bodies”, thus leaving unresolved the question regarding the necessity for an electoral mandate or for political accountability. See, e.g. Huici Sancho (2003), pp. 160–164.

  8. 8.

    This is the allocation under former Art. 263, § 3, EC: Austria 12, Belgium 12, Bulgaria 12, Cyprus 6, Czech Republic 12, Denmark 9, Estonia 7, Finland 9, France 24, Germany 24, Greece 12, Hungary 12, Ireland 9, Italy 24, Luxembourg 6, Lithuania 9, Malta 5, Netherlands 12, Lettonia 7, Poland 21, Portugal 12, Romania 15, Slovakia 9, Slovenia 7, Spain 21; Sweden 12, United Kingdom 24.

  9. 9.

    This is the view of Domenichelli (2007), p. 8. On the concept of “regional blindness” see Ipsen (1966), p. 248 ff.

  10. 10.

    See Domenichelli (2007), p. 21, for a summary of the opinions in the literature on this issue.

  11. 11.

    Huici Sancho (2003), pp. 154–155.

  12. 12.

    Art. 13 of the Rules of Procedure.

  13. 13.

    The CoR commissions are: COTER-Commission for Territorial Cohesion; ECOS-Commission for Economic and Social Policy; DEVE-Commission for Sustainable Development; EDUC-Commission for Culture, Education and Research; CONST-Commission for Constitutional Affairs, European Governance and the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice; RELEX-Commission for External Relations and Decentralised Cooperation. There is also the Committee for Administrative and Financial Affairs and an ad hoc Temporary Commission on the European Budget Review.

  14. 14.

    Art. 47 of the Rules of Procedure. Art. 26 of the Rules of Procedure provides for “Simplified procedures” for the approval of opinions and reports. It establishes that draft opinions or reports can be submitted to the Plenary Assembly for approval without change if adopted unanimously by a lead commission. In this case a debate can still take place in the Plenary Assembly. The lead commission can propose that the approval of an opinion by the Plenary Assembly takes place without preliminary debate. This is only possible if the lead commission is of the view that the Plenary Assembly would not raise any objections.

  15. 15.

    Art. 45, § 2, of the Rules of Procedure. Art. 45, § 3, confirms the proportionality of the commissions when it stipulates that “Exceptions [to the belonging of each Committee member to at least one commission but no more than two] may be made by the Bureau for members belonging to national delegations which have fewer members than the number of commissions”.

  16. 16.

    Art. 8 of the Rules of Procedure provides that “The members and alternates from each member State shall form a national delegation”.

  17. 17.

    There are four political groups: European People’s Party (EPP), Party of European Socialists (PES), Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Union for Europe of the Nations – European Alliance (UEN-EA).

  18. 18.

    On this debate, see Huici Sancho (2003), p. 180 ff.

  19. 19.

    See Art. 28 of the Rules of Procedure.

  20. 20.

    Moreover the Bureau may (Art. 36 of the Rules of Procedure):

    1. (a)

      “Set up working groups of Bureau members or of Committee members to advise it in specific areas” and “invite other members of the Committee, by virtue of their expertise or mandate, and persons not belonging to the Committee, to attend its meetings”.

    2. (b)

      Engage the Secretary General and the officials and other servants listed in Rules 69.

    3. (c)

      Submit the draft estimates of expenditure and revenue to the Plenary Assembly in accordance with Rule 72.

    4. (d)

      Authorize meetings away from the usual place of work.

    5. (e)

      Draw up provisions for the membership and working methods of working groups and of joint committees with applicant countries.

  21. 21.

    Art. 10 of the Rules of Procedure.

  22. 22.

    See Arts. 39–44 of the Rules of Procedure.

  23. 23.

    The tripartite contracts are binding agreements among the Union, a State and a local or regional authority for the achievement of specific goals, especially in the field of the environment or of social and economic cohesion (see Communication of the Commission COM (2002) 709 of 11 December 2002). The use of tripartite contracts has not proven very successful so far.

  24. 24.

    There are various organisations of regional and local authorities: general, such as the Council of European Municipalities and Regions or the Assembly of European Regions, or sector-based, such as the Conference of European Regions with Legislative Power, or the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies. For an overview see Domenichelli (2007), p. 31 ff. In addition it must be highlighted that there are the regional liaison offices in Brussels.

  25. 25.

    See the document Committee of the Regions (2010).

  26. 26.

    The political priorities for the period 2008–2010, are the following: “• Implementing the Lisbon agenda’s goals for growth and jobs through the involvement of RLAs and making their voice heard by the European Council; • facing the challenge of climate change and diversification and sustainable use of energy resources; • participating in the inter-institutional exercise for the EU budgetary review stressing the need for reorganising the CAP – making it possible to maintain sustainable agriculture and food autonomy, and shaping the economic, social and territorial cohesion policy beyond 2013 – emphasising its leverage effect; • improving the quality of life of citizens, including facilitating cross-border cooperation for civil protection and access to better quality health services; • giving the necessary platform to RLAs to promote solidarity, intercultural and interfaith dialogue, as well as promoting all forms of regional culture and traditions; • taking part in the European debate towards a common policy on immigration and asylum and in particular exchanging the best practices on integration; • proposing a modern single market with a strategy to promote the quality of social services; • assisting and cooperating with RLAs of candidate and pre-candidate countries on their journey towards the EU”: see Committee of the Regions (2010), p. 6.

  27. 27.

    See Committee of the Regions (2010), p. 6.

  28. 28.

    The report for 2007, available from the web site of the CoR (last checked on 15 June 2010), p. 1, lists the areas of cooperation as follows: “Involvement of association expertise in selected task forces set up by the CoR in order to support the work of the rapporteurs, cooperation in the dialogue between the European Commission and the Associations, participation in joint conferences, cooperation in Subsidiarity monitoring, cooperation on Regional Policy, Territorial Cooperation and the Lisbon Strategy, joint activities in Communication”.

  29. 29.

    For a list, see the web site of the CoR Last checked on 15 June 2010.

  30. 30.

    Committee of the Regions (2009).

  31. 31.

    White Paper on Multilevel Governance, p. 1.

  32. 32.

    White Paper on Multilevel Governance, p. 7.

  33. 33.

    White Paper on Multilevel Governance, p. 1.

  34. 34.

    White Paper on Multilevel Governance, pp. 18–34.

  35. 35.

    White Paper on Multilevel Governance, p. 18.

  36. 36.

    Commission’s Communication “Dialogue with associations of regional and local authorities on the formulation on European policy”, COM(2003) 811, 19 December 2003.

  37. 37.

    For more information about the supporting activities of the CoR, see the website (last checked on 15 June 2010).

  38. 38.

    For further information on the creation of EGTCs see the web page (last checked on 15 June 2010).

  39. 39.

    See Barber (2005, p. 199).

  40. 40.

    On the “early warning procedure” see the thorough analysis by Piet Van Nuffel in Chap. III of this book.

  41. 41.

    See, under “Subsidiarity Monitoring for COR rapporteurs” (last checked on 15 June 2010).

  42. 42.

    If the Plenary Assembly is not able to convene in time to decide whether or not to bring a case, this decision is taken by the Bureau and it requires confirmation by the Plenary Assembly. If the Assembly does not confirm the decision of the Bureau, the application for judicial review will be withdrawn (cf. Art. 53 of the Rules of Procedure).

  43. 43.

    Art. 51, § 2, of the Rules of Procedure states: “Committee opinions shall contain an explicit reference to the application of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles”. At § 3 the same article states that: “The opinions and reports shall also, wherever possible, address the expected impact on administration and regional and local finances”.

  44. 44.

    See CoR’s Opinion of 16 November 2005, Guidelines for the application and monitoring of the subsidiarity and proportionality principle, CdR 220-2004_fin_ac_en_doc, of 16 November 2005, par. 3.13, p. 9, available at (last checked on 15 June 2010).

  45. 45.

    See “Subsidiarity & Proportionality Assessment Grid”, Section 5, available at (last checked on 15 June 2010).

  46. 46.

    See the CoR’s Opinion on Guidelines for the application and monitoring of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles, footnote 39, at p. 3.

  47. 47.

    See the document CoR’s Annual Activity Report 2007 (p. 7) available at (last checked on 15 June 2010); the SMN took off on the basis of two of the CoR’s opinions: Opinion on Better lawmaking 2004, CdR 121-2005_fin_ac_en_doc, of 12 October 2005, and the CoR’s Opinion on Guidelines for the application and monitoring of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles, footnote 39.

  48. 48.

    See the Report on the first test of the SMN, Executive summary, CdR 5-2006_fin_ac_en_doc, and the Report on the second test of the SMN, CdR 2-2007_fin_ac_en_doc, in

  49. 49.

    Consultation and agreements are required in Italy in order to allow the exercise of competences of the Regions by the State on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity. This “procedural” solution to the application of the principle of subsidiarity was for the first time envisaged by the Italian Constitutional Court in the Ruling No. 303 of 1 October 2003.

  50. 50.

    Art. 2 of the Subsidiarity Protocol.

  51. 51.

    Art. 5, § 3, subparagraph 2, TEU.

  52. 52.

    Art. 7, § 2, of the Subsidiarity Protocol.

  53. 53.

    See the Assessment of political influence of the CoR and the various Impact Assessment Report(s) in (last checked on 15 June 2010).

  54. 54.

    E.g. see, Review of the CoR Political impact, 2008, available at, p. 2 (last checked on 15 June 2010).

  55. 55.

    See Domenichelli (2007), pp. 136–137. The topics of the outlook opinions in the last reviews of political impact of the CoR are: Multilingualism, Outlook Opinion, CdR 6-2008_fin_ac_en_doc; Education and Awareness-Raising Promoting Sustainable Development, Outlook Opinion, CdR 127-2007_fin_ac_en_doc; Common Agricultural policy Health Check, Outllook opinion, CdR 197-2007_fin_ac_en_doc; Future of the single market and stocktaking of European Society, Outlook Opinion, CdR 339-2006_fin_ac_en_doc; Success Factor for Local and Regional Restructuring Strategies, Outlook Opinion, CdR 340-2006_fin_ac_en_doc; The situation of Migrant women in the European Union, Outlook Opinion, CdR 396-2006_fin_ac_en_doc; The Contribution of Local and Regional Authorities to the European Union’s Sustainable Development Strategy, CdR 85-2007_fin_ac_en_doc, all available at under “Opinions and Resolutions” (last checked on 15 June 2010).

  56. 56.

    On the possible development of participatory democracy after the entry into force of the ToL see Cuesta Lopez (2010), p. 123 ff.

  57. 57.

    On the difference between European governance and democracy see Tsakatika (2007), p. 867 ff.

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Ricci, S. (2010). Chapter 5 The Committee of the Regions and the Challenge of European Governance. In: Panara, C., De Becker, A. (eds) The Role of the Regions in EU Governance. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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