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21st Jan 2022

Slovenia finally appoints 'temporary' EPPO prosecutors

  • Slovenian prime minister Janus Jansa personally delayed and then blocked the two appointments in May (Photo: European Parliament)
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The Slovenian government has finally decided to nominate two delegated prosecutors for the European Public Prosecutors Office (EPPO), after a long delay.

The appointment of Tanja Frank Eler and Matej Oštir is only a "temporary" proposal, the Ljubljana government said in a statement. The two candidates still have to be officially selected via the national nominating procedure.

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So far 22 EU member states have joined the new office. Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Hungary do not yet participate. Sweden is expected to join next year. Slovenia was the final EU member state to name prosecutors to the EPPO - a new body designed to claw back misspent EU funds.

The EPPO had no initial reaction, as they had not yet received an official announcement from the Slovenian authorities, an EPPO representative told EUobserver.

When the Slovenian government officially proposes the candidates, then the EPPO in Luxembourg will decide if they are suitable.

Slovenian prime minister Janez Jansa personally delayed and then blocked the appointment of Frank Eler and Oštir back in May.

This prompted the resignation of justice minister Lilijana Kozlovič, who had selected the candidates for the EU's court in Luxembourg.

In October, the Slovenian administrative court ruled against Janša's decision to annul the appointment of the two Slovenian representatives.

The government then started a new procedure - and Frank Eler and Oštir were the only candidates to apply to the new call.

The European Commission, and the EPPO chief Laura Kövesi, have made repeated calls on the Jansa government to speed up the progress, and even threatened sanctions.

"Slovenia, a member state of the EU, is interfering with the function of an EU judicial body. This sets a very dangerous precedent," Kövesi told MEPs and a commission representative in October. "We have to work as if our office does not exist in Slovenia," she said.

'Sabotaging'

Slovenia currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

On Thursday (18 November) at the autumn meeting of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden, Kövesi warned Slovenia is "sabotaging" the work of the EPPO.

She told press that since its inception in June, the EPPO has initiated 400 cases, with estimated damage worth over €5bn to EU taxpayers.

But she also warned that the forthcoming distribution of the €800bn Covid-19 pandemic recovery funds posed a "higher risk." Because it is a novel innovation, to be distributed at speed in a crisis, there is a higher risk of misallocation and opportunities for duplicity.

In the past Kövesi has told MEPs that the current budget is inadequate for the agency to do its job properly.

The parliament and the European Council upped the agency's budget by a further €7.3m in December 2020 to recruit financial analysts and IT experts.

But, as previously reported by EUobserver, the commission has not allowed EPPO to spend that money to keep cost down.

EU chief prosecutor accuses Slovenia of interference

Europe's chief prosecutor Laura Kövesi warned that the EU budget might not be safe because Slovenia continues to delay naming delegated prosecutors to the agency. "We have to work as if our office does not exist in Slovenia," she said.

Slovenian corruption estimated at 7.5% of GDP

Slovenia's anti-corruption commissioner Robert Šumi said the country misses out on €3.5bn a year due to corruption, while the EU chief corruption prosecutor Laura Kövesi visited the country.

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