Judgement of the European Court of Justice on OLAF case

31 July 2003

On 10 July 2003, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered its judgement on Case C-11/00 Commission of the European Communities v. the European Central Bank, where the Commission challenged the validity of the ECB Decision 1999/726/EC of 7 October 1999 on fraud prevention (ECB/1999/5).

The ECB stresses that there has always been full agreement between the Commission and the ECB on the need to combat fraud and other illegal activities within the Community. The ECB attaches great importance to efforts to combat fraud. It was in this spirit that the ECB established, by means of its Decision of 7 October 1999, a comprehensive anti-fraud scheme under an independent committee aimed at the prevention and detection of fraud and other illegal activities detrimental to the financial interests of the ECB, which mirrored the regime established by the European Regulation concerning investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The ECB acknowledges the ECJ’s ruling that this European Regulation is applicable to the ECB and that therefore the protection of the ECB’s financial interests against fraud and other illegal activities needs to be provided under that general European regime, and not separately as has so far been the case.

The ECB welcomes that the ECJ underscores the independence of the ECB by stating that "the draftsmen of the EC Treaty clearly intended to ensure that the ECB should be in a position to carry out independently the tasks conferred upon it by the Treaty." Therefore, the application of the European Regulation concerning investigations conducted by OLAF should not impair the independent performance of the ECB’s tasks.

In full respect of the ECJ’s ruling in this case, the ECB will take the necessary steps to adapt its internal rules and procedures to the legal framework provided by the ECJ in its judgement, and will adopt the necessary measures to ensure close co-ordination with OLAF in the fight against fraud.

In this regard, the ECB welcomes that the ECJ has emphasised that "it is conceivable that matters specific to the performance of its tasks will, where appropriate, be taken into account by the ECB" when adopting the conditions and procedures necessary for the regulation of OLAF activities in respect of the ECB, and that "it is incumbent on the ECB to establish that any restrictions in that regard are necessary". The ECB notes that the ECJ has acknowledged that certain kinds of sensitive information relating to the activities of the ECB must be subject to confidentiality so that the tasks conferred on it by the EC Treaty are not jeopardised.

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