Tuesday

17th Jan 2017

Brussels explores creation of 'EU public prosecutor'

  • The Eurojust building in The Hague (Photo: eurojust.europa.eu)

MEPs on the recently established anti-mafia committee and the European Commission have revived talk of creating an EU public prosecutor's office.

Slovenian social democrat MEP Tanja Fajon - among others - proposed the initiative at a meeting of the anti-crime body in the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday (4 June).

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EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said it would be a "good idea," but added that it needs wider political backing.

A parliament spokesman said that several member states are against it as things stand.

The new EU office was first mooted in a comission study 12 years ago.

It got a legal footing in the Lisbon Treaty, which says a group of nine or more member states can create it inside Eurojust, the EU's joint judicial body in The Hague.

The commission's website says it "would be responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice those who damage assets managed by or on behalf of the EU."

The office "would also exercise the functions of prosecutor in the competent courts of the EU countries, in relation to such offences."

Malmstrom told the MEPs on Monday that - apart from the human cost to victims - crime and corruption costs the EU economy €120 billion a year, or 1 percent of total GDP.

"Huge amounts of money are lost every second in the criminal sector ... We need to get this money back to the EU citizen and back to the tax payer, especially in the economic crisis," she said.

She noted that the best way to hurt organised crime is to target criminals' wealth.

The commission in March proposed a law designed to help member states confiscate criminal assets even if the perpetrators are deceased or if they have fled.

Brussels is also working on: a study on EU countries' anti-corruption laws; a proposal for criminal sanctions specifically aimed at money-laundering; new measures against tax havens; and more involvement on cross-border investigations by the EU's joint police body, Europol.

For his part, British liberal Bill Newton Dunn noted that member states tolerate tax havens despite their role in money laundering.

"Most of the tax havens are sponsored by my member state," he said, citing the Isle of Man and the Channel islands in the UK as examples.

"The trick [will be] getting member states to co-operate and say 'We will take action'."

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