Do EU watchdogs bark louder in times of crisis? A study of how the European Court Auditors and the European Ombudsman hold the European Commission to account during the Covid-19 pandemic

Activity: Talk or presentation / Performance / SpeechesTalk or presentation - at conferenceAcademic


The European Court of Auditors (ECA) and the European Ombudsman (EO) are specialized oversight institutions which have been coined as EU’s ‘watchdogs.’ This paper explores how these bodies have scrutinised and held to account the European executive – in particular, he European Commission – in times of crisis. We focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, which represents an interesting context because it has invited unprecedented and extraordinary measures (some of which exempt from the usual oversight framework), while simultaneously focusing public attention to the performance of EU institutions. We show that while the EO has stepped to the foreground, by pro-actively and significantly ramping up its scrutiny activity vis-à-vis the Commission, the ECA remained in the background, lending their expertise to other account-holding forums (i.e., the European Parliament and the Council) and engaging in relatively little direct scrutiny themselves. Using an actor-centred institutionalist framework, the paper interrogates the reasons behind these different strategies, thereby adding to a broader literature that seeks to explain the behaviour of accountability forums.
Period21 Jun 202125 Jun 2021
Event titleThe 27th International Conference of Europeanists: Europe’s Past, Present, and Future: Utopias and Dystopias
Event typeConference
Conference number27
LocationReykjavik, IcelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational