Brussels-based European Union body (without the status of an Institution), set up to provided a Community-level forum for the various regional and local authorities of the Member States, set up under the Maastricht treaty. The Committee's members are appointed by their national governments, rather than elected directly or indirectly - another element of the EU's democratic deficit. The wide variations in the powers of sub-national authorities in the different Member States means that there is a mix of highly prominent political figures from decentralised and Federal countries and relative nonentities from elsewhere. The Committee has no decision-making powers but is required under the EC Treaty to be consulted (through the publication of position papers known as "Opinions") on a wide range of proposed European legislation; it may also issue opinions on its own initiative; this follows the same model as that taken for the longer-established European Economic and Social Committee. The Council, Commission and Parliament are required to take note of these opinions, but in effect they have little impact on the legislative process. Its secretariat shares some of its technical and linguistic services with the European Economic and Social Committee, which has led to some friction with staff.

Unfortunately, despite its worthy aim of trying to redistribute some of the EU's powers down to a lower level, the CoR besmirched its position in the early days of its existence in the mid-1990s when its secretariat became a byword for nepotism, parachutage and the provision of well-paid jobs to committee members' mistresses whilst bypassing the EU's normally stringent recruitment procedures.

Update: the dodgy recruitment practices appear to have resurfaced in late 2002, with some friction between the president of the Committee (against) and the Secretary-General.

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