Wednesday

22nd Sep 2021

Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office

  • Slovenia's prime minister Janez Janša said his country's prosecutors would be appointed by autumn (Photo: European Union, 2020)

Slovenia now risks court action unless it rapidly appoints two prosecutors to the recently-established EU watchdog tasked to fight financial crimes.

"We will think about a possible procedure before the court," EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders said on Tuesday (20 July).

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Slovenia is currently at the helm of the rotating six-month EU presidency. It had also signed up to the new European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), based in Luxembourg.

The EPPO is mandated to crack down on VAT fraud and theft from the EU budget.

Each participating member state is required to send delegated prosecutors to best investigate criminal cases in their respective countries.

"We are late, we are too late. Normally it was for the 1st of June," noted Reynders of supposed Slovenian appointments.

He said the commission will consider its options at the end of the summer, should the Slovenians still fail to dispatch its prosecutors.

"It must be very fast. Without that, we will have to take some initiatives," said Reynders.

The names of 29 potential Slovenian candidates were submitted domestically at the end of July last year.

But Ljubljana has yet to put forward their official candidates for the post - despite having finalised procedures in early December. Last month, Slovenia's prime minister Janez Janša said they would be appointed by autumn.

His government says the delay is due to new procedures introduced in late May, which were needed to iron out irregularities. They then published a new vacancy notice on 9 July.

However, the foot dragging is testing the patience of some European lawmakers, as well as EPPO chief Laura Kovesi.

In May, Kovesi accused Slovenia of "manifest lack of sincere cooperation".

Last month, German Green MEP Daniel Freund said the delay is due to the fact that one of the initial candidates for the post had previously investigated Janša.

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.

Reynders also made other critical remarks.

He said money-laundering cases in Slovenia took too long. His comments followed the publication of a rule-of-law report on Slovenia.

It noted the level of perceived judicial independence had improved. But the report had also highlighted wider issues, including political interference of the media.

"The situation of media freedom and pluralism has been deteriorating," it stated.

Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office

Slovenia was supposed to nominate a delegated prosecutor for the new European Public Prosecutor Office, in charge of cracking down on corruption of EU funds. Ljubljana finalised procedures in December but has yet to send nominations, causing headaches.

'There are no clean countries', EU chief prosecutor says

"For the first time, the offenses against the financial interest of the EU will be investigated in an integrated strategic manner by a prosecutorial body with supranational jurisdiction," EU chief prosecutor Laura Kövesi said.

Trust in Dutch government drops, but not for Rutte

New polling found Dutch voters have rapidly started losing trust in all levels of government. 15 percent of those surveyed have "lost all confidence" in the government. The loss of trust does not extend to prime minister Mark Rutte.

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Phil Hogan, the former European commissioner for trade, was this month hired by US-law firm DLA Piper, where he will work out of the Brussels office. Critics say the hire poses questions on weak EU ethics oversight rules on lobbying.

Fraud against EU dropped 20% last year

There were a total of 1,056 fraudulent irregularities in 2020, with a combined financial impact of €371m. Currently, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain do not have domestic anti-fraud plans.

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