27th Oct 2016

Dutch MPs take lead to weaken EU prosecutor plans

  • Around €500 million is stolen every year from the EU budget (Photo: Images Money)

Dutch MPs are spearheading national efforts to weaken a European Commission proposal to set up an EU-wide public prosecutor (EPPO).

Their envoy and national EPPO rapporteur is Ard van der Steur from the liberal VVD party.

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Tasked to mobilise allies from around the EU to reject the commission’s idea, Van der Steur is seeking to pressure decision-makers in Brussels to accept an alternative vision for the office.

“If you want to have an EPPO, it should only be as a overseer,” he told this website on Monday (30 June).

The office is designed to tackle fraud against EU money, although its powers could expand in the future.

The commission estimates some €500 million is stolen every year from EU coffers. It says the office is needed to step up prosecutions and rein in the abuse.

Efforts last year by national parliaments to scrap or amend the proposal fell flat.

Chambers in 14 parliaments in 11 member states had obtained enough votes to trigger a so-called “yellow card” procedure.

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

The commission rejected the move, sparking protest from national MPs who opposed the office from the start.

Van der Steur has since been appointed by the Dutch parliament to rally member states and governments to amend the office altogether.

The European Parliament in March endorsed the commission’s plans.

The EU assembly says the EPPO should have a decentralised structure, integrated into national judicial systems. Delegated European prosecutors would then carry out investigations and prosecutions in the respective member states.

The majority of MPs in the Dutch house of representatives oppose this.

They say the EPPO should only intervene when the authorities in the member states are unable or unwilling to stop fraud.

They also demand any country or company caught committing fraud should have its subsidies and grants scrapped immediately.

Van der Steur is now hoping their plan will attract supporters at the EU decision-making level.

On Monday, he met 17 experts from member states working on the issue.

To drum up support elsewhere, the Dutch House of Representatives earlier this month invited representatives to The Netherlands from each member state.

The national ambassadors were then asked to relay the Dutch ideas back to their respective governments and national parliaments.

“It was the first time they were requested by the national parliament to be a liaison to their own parliament,” said Van der Steur.

Meanwhile, others are working on the issue too. Greece, which had the EU presidency in the first half of this year, issued some ideas of its own.

In March, it put forward a proposal to create a so-called college to make sure the Office is properly run and monitor casework.

Most member states are said to support the college idea.

To become reality, the commission’s proposal needs to be unanimously adopted by member states.

If unanimity is not reached, the Office can still be launched with at least nine participating member states later on.

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