Monday

27th Mar 2017

EU-wide prosecutor to launch own criminal investigations

  • Reading says an estimated €500 million is stolen every year from the EU budget (Photo: tpholland)

The European commission published plans on Wednesday (17 July) for a European Public Prosecutor (EPPO) as part of efforts to clamp down on fraud committed against the EU budget.

“The European Commission is delivering on its promise to apply a zero tolerance policy towards fraud against the EU budget,” EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The EPPO will have the power to conduct, prosecute, and bring to justice its own EU-wide criminal investigations in co-ordination with member state authorities against people suspected of defrauding the EU.

And unlike any other EU law and justice agency, the EPPO will also have the power to order member state law enforcement authorities to launch an investigation into suspected fraudsters.

“What we cannot do today is to require a national law enforcement to do an investigation,” said an EU official close to the file, with conservative estimates suggesting around €500 million are defrauded from the budget each year.

The EU official noted that local prosecutors in some member states are overburdened with other case files and tend not to view crimes against the EU budget as a priority.

The complexity, costs, and extra-jurisdictional nature of investigating such crimes are possible factors in the overall low conviction rates.

There are some 2,500 cases on file each year. On average, less than half end in a prosecution.

Results among national prosecutors vary widely across member states.

Cases in Slovakia, Spain, and Hungary netted zero convictions between 2006 and 2011. Austria, Estonia, Sweden, and Finland landed between 91 percent to 100 percent conviction rates.

The aim is to increase overall conviction rates via the dedicated EU-level office.

“Many criminals who have stolen EU taxpayer money are getting away with their crimes,” Reding said.

She noted that “the establishment of such an office does not come out of the blue” with the Lisbon Treaty calling for the setting up of such an office.

Reding described the EPPO as a decentralised structure, integrated into national judicial systems.

The EPPO core will be composed of the European Public Prosecutor and four deputies. Another five delegated prosecutors will help the core office to allocate cases.

Member states will also each nominate a delegated prosecutor for EPPO approval.

The delegated prosecutors will carry out the investigations and prosecutions in member states, using national staff and applying national law.

“They will be national prosecutors and part of the European Public Prosecutors Office,” said Reding.

The EPPO’s role is to co-ordinate the investigations conducted by the delegated prosecutors.

Wiretapping, searching premises, seizing computers, or freezing assets will require a court order with national courts able to challenge the EPPO’s investigative methods.

Eurojust will provide infrastructure, finances, and human resources.

Olaf, the EU’s anti-fraud office, which is to be stripped of its budget surveillance powers, will provide the staff.

Reding will attend the informal justice and home affairs meeting in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius over the weekend where she will present the proposal to member state ministers.

“I know from a long discussion with many colleagues and ministers of justice that there are more than the nine [member states] required by the Treaty who would like to go ahead,” she noted.

Denmark opted out of the EPPO and the UK and Ireland can voluntarily opt-in at a later date, according to the Lisbon Treaty rules. The UK, however, has already stated it does not want take participate.

Official negotiations with member states kick off in Autumn. The commission hoping the office will be up and running by the beginning of 2015.

UK to scrap 100 EU justice laws

The UK wants to retain 35 out of some 130 EU-wide police and justice laws in its wider efforts to claw back power from the EU.

Danish opposition agrees to quick EU referendum

Former Danish leader, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, has proposed to abolish treaty opt-outs on defence and justice in a referendum which might be linked to next year's EU elections.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  2. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  3. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  4. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  6. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  7. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  8. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  10. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  11. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  12. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People