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21st Jun 2021

Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office

The new European-wide public prosecutor office says Slovenia risks making its work more onerous.

Set up to probe financial fraud of the EU budget, which is estimated at €60bn a year, the Luxembourg-based office will be launching its first investigations in June.

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The European Public Prosecutor Office (EPPO) is headed by Laura Codruta Kovesi, a Romanian with a domestic reputation for cracking down on corruption.

In a tweet earlier this week, Kovesi accused Slovenia of "manifest lack of sincere cooperation" following delays over the recruitment of delegated prosecutors.

The EPPO is composed of a European chief prosecutor, European prosecutors, and European delegated prosecutors.

The delegated prosecutors, sourced from the participating member states, are tasked with investigations, prosecution, and bringing to judgement cases.

Slovenia has yet to put forward their candidates for the post - despite having finalised procedures in early December.

Slovenia selects those candidates internally. The names are then sent by the ministry of justice to the European chief prosecutor for approval.

But no names have come forward, causing headaches for the operational launch of the EPPO on 1 June. Extra time is needed to also train and equip those nominated to the post.

EPPO spokesperson Tine Hollevoet said the deadline for Slovenia has since passed, meaning they may now have to start short of staff.

"From a practical point of view, it makes our job even more difficult than it already is," she said, in an email on Tuesday (11 May).

"We have to rearrange our internal organisation to compensate for the missing European delegated prosecutors in Slovenia," she added.

Slovenia is not the only EU state that has yet to send candidates. Cyprus, Finland, Greece, and Luxembourg are also stalling.

But the EPPO says they know those candidates will be arriving shortly. "For Slovenia, we do not know," said Hollevoet.

Asked about the delays, a Slovenian government spokesperson said it had already ensured legislation, financial and human resources as well as premises for the functioning of the EPPO in Slovenia.

"Like other participating member states, Slovenia will also nominate its European delegated prosecutors. The procedures related to their nomination are at this point still ongoing," he said, in an email post publication of this article.

Slovenia itself will be taking over the six-month rotating EU presidency in July.

Twenty-two out of the 27 EU states have signed up to the EPPO. Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland have so far refused to join.

This article was updated at 10:24 on 17 May, 2021 with a response from the Slovenian government

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