The consultative bodies of the European Union, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR), both residing in the same building in Brussels, are usually ignored, their influence questioned and their need doubted by some and defended by these bodies.
But let us have a look in to current research shedding some light on the concrete role of these bodies:
In a recently published academic article (Journal of European Public Policy 8/2010) on the influence of the Committee of the Regions, the author Milena I. Neshkova finds that this EU body is “able to influence legislative decisions of the Commission more than one-third of the time“, in particular in its field of competence, that is regional policy.
Altogether, the study was based on a data set of of 60 Commission legislative proposals from different policy fields issued between 1996 and 2007, selecting only referrals where to consultation of the CoR was mandatory. Influence of the CoR was measured as the ratio of requested changes to accepted changes per Commission proposal, with amendments being coded as fully accepted (1), accepted partially or in principled (0.5) or rejected (0). In the field of regional policy, the influence of the CoR is found to be 0.46, i.e. (if I interpret correctly) roughly every second amendment was more or less accepted by the Commission in this policy area.
Neshkova also finds that proposals by the CoR were more likely to be accepted by the Commission if they demanded major changes and were as specific as possible (compared to general requests for changes). The study also demonstrates that CoR amendments were more likely to be approved by the Commission when previous year’s Eurobarometer survey showed public dissatisfaction with EU democracy and if the amendments were backed by either the Council or the Parliament.
Based on these findings, in particular the scope of the Committee of Regions influence and the Commission’s responsiveness to public opinion, Neshkova come to the conclusion that her findings “about the influence of subnational interests can be viewed as one of the indicators that [the EU's] democratization process has been effective“. Quod erat demonstrandum…