Thursday

15th Nov 2018

Reform proposal to limit powers of EU anti-fraud staff

  • Olaf investigators will need special permission to probe a commissioner's office under new rules (Photo: kukkurovaca)

The EU’s anti-fraud office Olaf will have to ask permission to enter the offices of elected and appointed members of the EU institutions under proposals by the European Commission.

“For all the other staff, Olaf will continue to work as it has up to now,” European Commission spokesperson Emer Traynor told this website on Wednesday (18 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The proposal tabled earlier this month by the Brussels executive aims to set up a new post to make sure Olaf investigators follow procedural rules.

The commission wants to create a so-called Controller of Procedural Guarantees.

Olaf investigators will first have to ask the Controller's permission before entering the office of a European Commissioner, an MEP, or a minister at the EU Council.

Everyone else, including staff and personnel, are not protected under the additional safeguard.

“The reason we have included that was to basically align more the Olaf practices with what is normal practice at national level when there are criminal investigations,” said Traynor.

Traynor describes the controller as a “quasi-judicial clearance of particular investigative measures that Olaf wants to employ when it comes to people who hold office.”

Olaf will have no recourse or appeal should it disagree with the controller when it comes to accessing an office in case it suspects fraud or corruption.

Investigators who want access to someone’s office, under current rules, only need permission from Olaf’s director general.

To get into an MEPs office, they need prior permission from the parliament's president, according to the EP and despite Olaf objections. The anti-fraud office says it has the right of immediate and unannounced access to any relevant information, including information in databases, held by the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, and to their premises.

Meanwhile, Olaf last year adopted new guidelines for all staff when they conduct investigations. They also set up a special unit tasked to check whether investigators have complied with the rules.

The commission's proposal is the last remaining part of a broader overhaul of the office initiated eight years ago.

Indications suggest some MEPs are already sceptical of the commission’s latest idea.

Last week, German centre-right deputy Ingeborg Graessle said the reform needs substantial revision because it risks stripping Olaf of its independence.

“This would be the end of Olaf as an independent body,” she said.

Green MEP Bart Staes, who along with Graessle has clashed with Olaf in the past, says he is not against the idea of the Controller but it needs “a lot of fine tuning and better guarantees for his independence.”

The commission, for its part, says the controller and accompanying staff would be subject to its staff regulations and rules of professional ethics.

“There is no more risk here than there is of a national judge being compromised,” said Traynor.

She noted Olaf is already receptive to the idea in part because it will provide greater legal clarity should the suspect being probed object.

The new post will also allow people under investigation to file complaints against Olaf and its director-general.

Most of the 25 complaints against the office between 2011 and 2013 were filed with the EU ombudsman.

The person to head the post would be appointed through an inter-institutional procedure involving the commission, parliament, and member states.

The position is part-time with a non-renewable five-year mandate.

Magazine

Fraudsters lured by EU structural funds

It's the job of the European Anti-Fraud Office to investigate any corruption and embezzlement of EU-funded projects. But why are structural funds in particular so attractive to criminals?

Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Romania's data protection authority is headed by Ancuta Gianina Opre, who in 2017 was charged with abuse of office in her previous job. Last week, she threatened a €20m fine against journalists in their effort to uncover corruption.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  2. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May
  3. Denmark blocks Tanzania aid over homophobic crackdown
  4. Second UK cabinet minister resigns over Brexit deal
  5. UK Brexit secretary quits morning after deal agreed
  6. Romanian MPs call for national 'Magnitsky Act'
  7. Tusk: Brexit summit on Sunday 25 November
  8. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  2. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  3. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  4. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  5. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  6. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  7. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  8. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us