Thursday

4th Mar 2021

Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office

  • Around 10 percent of the European Public Prosecutor's Office caseload will be linked to Cyrpus (Photo: Nikolasphotography)

Around 10 percent of all pending fraud cases against the EU budget to be tackled by a new EU prosecutors office are linked to Cyprus.

The figure was revealed on Tuesday (26 January) by Laura Kovesi, who leads the new European Public Prosecutors Office (EPPO).

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"That is a lot of work and this is the reason why we need to have full-time prosecutors there in Cyprus," she said.

The Luxembourg-based EPPO is tasked to carry out criminal investigations against the EU budget.

The stakes are particularly high after the EU recently agreed to a €1.85trn recovery package.

The office is set to become fully operational on 1 March but has run into a host of problems given a lack of support from member states.

Among them is the nomination of national prosecutors linked to the EPPO.

These delegated prosectors will be tasked to carry out investigations against the EU budget in their home countries.

European justice commissioner, Didier Reynders, described the delegated prosectors as "the pillar of the EPPO". "They will investigate and prosecute the EPPO cases on the ground," he told MEPs along side Kovesi.

The plan is to have at least 140 such prosecutors. But as of the 6 January this year, only nine are up and running.

Kovesi said they were able to appoint 18 European delegated prosecutors from four participating member states.

Only Estonia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Slovakia out of the 22 participating member states have so far selected their delegated prosectors.

Delays include making sure the appointed prosecutor is not bogged down on work not related to the EPPO. Both Cyprus and Finland fall in this category, noted Kovesi .

Reynders says more member states should be ready before the March deadline but that a shortfall is likely.

Among them is Italy.

Italy's recovery fund is around €222bn, most of it coming from the European budget.

But Italy has yet to even pass the required legislation needed to select a European delegated prosecutor.

Kovesi says they expect to receive an initial 3,000 cases. After that, around 2,000 cases are expected each year.

Not all member states have joined the EPPO.

Hungary, Poland, Sweden have so far refused to subscribe to the EPPO - while Denmark and Ireland have special opt-outs.

Kovesi said they are finalising a working agreement with Hungary.

Poland, she said, is demanding more time to decide. Denmark and Sweden have yet to comment on the substance of any agreement.

"But I have to confess I am a little bit surprised by the lack of any kind reaction from Ireland," she said.

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