Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

National MPs protest EU public prosecutor idea

  • Fraud costs the EU budget at least €500 million annually, says the commission (Photo: snorski)

National parliaments opposed to creating an EU-wide prosecutor want the European Commission to rework its flagship proposal, but EU officials say it is likely to go ahead.

Chambers in 11 national parliaments got enough votes to trigger a so-called “yellow card” procedure when they filed their complaints to Brussels earlier this week.

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They are against the creation of a new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), saying that national authorities or existing EU bodies, such as the Olaf anti-fraud agency or the joint judicial office, Eurojust, are sufficient.

The yellow card has only been triggered once before, on posted workers' rights.

It requires the commission to review the proposal and to decide whether to maintain, amend or withdraw it.

It takes at least 18 out of 56 votes in member states' upper and lower houses of parliament, but in the policy areas of freedom, security and justice, just 14 votes are needed.

The EPPO card got 19.

An EU official told this website that: "Formally, the number of votes was reached to trigger the yellow card procedure."

But they added: "It is the commission that decides if there has been a yellow card or not and what would be the consequences."

The EPPO is designed to investigate fraud committed against the EU budget in member states, which is estimated to sap EU funds of at least €500 million annually.

It is said to have broad support in the European Parliament and among EU justice and home affairs ministers.

The German Bundestag, the Polish and Portuguese parliaments, and the Romanian Senate have also written letters of support to the commission.

Despite the yellow card, some EU sources predict that EPPO will sooner or later be launched using the EU's "enhanced co-operation" procedure by nine member states or more.

MPs make their case

For his part, Ard van der Steur, an MP from the liberal VDD party in the Dutch parliament, told this website the yellow card must be respected.

“Any suggestion by the European Commission that there is no yellow card is ridiculous,” he said.

“The yellow card is in place and now it is up to the European Commission to see what they are going to do about it," he added.

Van der Steur, who sits on the security and justice committee, said the VDD is not convinced the proposal will have any impact on EU-related fraud.

He is also concerned it would breach the sovereign rights of member states to prosecute such crimes.

He suggested the EU stops sending money to abusive member states instead.

“The only way in which we will be able to fight against fraud against European subsidies is by stopping to subsidise member states that do not do enough against fraud,” he said.

An MP from the Center Party in Sweden, Johan Linander, noted that Swedish MPs want the EU to expand Eurojust and Olaf instead of creating EPPO.

“It would be better for Olaf and Eurojust to give stronger help [to national authorities], but not to take over prosecuting procedures in the countries,” he said.

EU prosecutor likely to expand powers

A top EU official on Thursday said the future EU-wide public prosecutor may expand into other domains aside from combatting fraud.

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