Monday

3rd Oct 2022

EU Presidency row - MEPs call out Slovenia's prosecutors failure

  • Prime minister Janez Janša. MEPs warned that the media and the judiciary are being 'obstructed' in Slovenia (Photo: European Union, 2020)

A group of MEPs on Tuesday (29 June) called for the suspension of EU funds to Slovenia - over Ljubljana's failure to appoint candidates to the new European-wide public prosecutor office.

As Slovenia takes over the rotating EU presidency this week, EU lawmakers from the Left, Green, liberal Renew and Socialist & Democrats groups urged the European Commission and the Council to use all the tools available to protect the rule of law and the EU budget.

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They pointed out that European values ​​in Slovenia are under increasing pressure, warning that the media and the judiciary are being "obstructed".

In the letter, MEPs argued that the failure of Slovenian authorities to appoint delegated prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), responsible for uncovering and prosecuting fraud involving EU funds, is "a serious deficiency in Slovenia's justice system".

"At a time where the EU is distributing unprecedented amounts of funds to member states, including €1.8bn to Slovenia from the recovery fund, it is imperative for the EU to ensure that strong mechanisms are in place to protect EU funds," they said.

Following months of standstill and attempts to block the selection of EPPO nominees from moving forward, Slovenia's prime minister Janez Janša annulled, in May, the appointment of two public prosecutors proposed by the country's prosecution council.

The decision led to the resignation of Slovenia's justice minister Lilijana Kozlovič - the third minister of the Janša cabinet to step down.

MEPs argue that the Slovenian government's decision to cancel the appointment of the two prosecutors represents "an unacceptable violation of the rule of law". They insisted that the proposed candidates should be appointed.

"We demand to activate the rule-of-law mechanism in the EU and put pressure on Janša to send prosecutors to the EPPO," tweeted German Greens MP Franziska Brantner, one of the signatories of the letter.

The rule-of-law mechanism, which entered into force this year, allows the possibility of suspending EU funds if a member state breaches the rule of law, jeopardising EU funds.

The commission must first propose to suspend EU funds, then a qualified majority of member states need to okay such a decision.

Slovenian diplomat Iztok Jarc told reporters on Tuesday that the EPPO can function well without his country's representatives, but "there is the ambition and government's interest" to appoint its candidates as soon as possible.

Last week, the EU commissioner for justice Didier Reynders reached out to the new justice minister Marjan Dikaučič to request an explanation over Slovenia's failure to appoint the prosecutors to the EPPO.

The new European public prosecutor office launched on 1 June - but with only 22 member states participating in the system so far. Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland have refused to join.

Delegated prosecutors are tasked with investigations and cases at a national level.

Without Slovenian representation, it will be more difficult for the EPPO to carry out investigations effectively in the country.

EPPO chief and former Romanian anti-corruption head, Laura Kövesi, warned last month that "the manifest lack of sincere cooperation of the Slovenian authorities with the EPPO seriously undermines the trust in the effective functioning of the management and control systems for EU funds in Slovenia".

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The Slovenian prime minister recently lashed out against both journalists and MEPs. His country will soon take over the presidency. In Brussels, there is concern - but also faith that Janez Janša cannot have much impact on the EU machinery.

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Slovenia was supposed to nominate a delegated prosecutor for the new European Public Prosecutor Office, in charge of cracking down on corruption of EU funds. Ljubljana finalised procedures in December but has yet to send nominations, causing headaches.

Slovenia takes over EU presidency amid wave of criticism

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