Thursday

9th Feb 2023

EU chief prosecutor accuses Slovenia of interference

  • 'This sets a very dangerous precedent', the European Union’s chief prosecutor Laura Kövesi told lawmakers (Photo: European Commission)
Listen to article

Europe's chief prosecutor Laura Kövesi has warned that the EU budget might not be safe because Slovenia is interfering with the proper functioning of her office.

She made the remarks on Friday (October 1) at parliamentary budget hearings.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The new European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) only started operations in June. Its aim is to investigate and prosecute cross-border financial crimes (bribery, money-laundering, tax fraud) committed with European taxpayer money throughout the EU.

The agency is located in Luxembourg, but relies on a network of delegated prosecutors sourced from each member state to lead and prosecute cases on the ground.

Slovenia is the only member state that has not yet named prosecutors.

"Slovenia, a member state of the EU, is interfering with the function of an EU judicial body. This sets a very dangerous precedent," Kövesi told MEPs and a commission representative.

She said the EPPO is a systemic part of EU architecture to protect taxpayers money against financial crime. Since its creation, the agency has already opened 350 investigations, representing damages worth up to a possible €4.6bn of the EU budget.

"Slovenia's failure to appoint a prosecutor has left a prosecution gap in the EPPO zone."

And Kövesi told lawmakers that crimes committed in other member states that lead back to Slovenia cannot be prosecuted either.

"We have to work as if our office does not exist in Slovenia," she said.

"How can Slovenia ensure proper and complete supervision of Union funds? How can Slovenia guarantee effective judicial follow-up of all the detected fraudulent irregularities? Is the EU budget properly protected?"

Slovenia currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

During her visit to Ljubljana in July, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said Slovenia must deliver and cooperate with the EPPO. "I count on the prime minister to submit names of candidates to the EPPO with utmost urgency."

Ljubljana finalised procedures in December. A government official told EUobserver in May "it had already found premises for the office." But then Slovenia's prime minister Janez Janša annulled the selections proposed by the country's prosecution.

In July, he told reporters he expects the new selection procedure is to be completed this autumn. The Slovenian ministry of justice is supposed to send names to the EPPO for approval, but candidates are still forthcoming.

The Slovenian minister of justice was invited to the parliamentary hearing on Friday but declined to attend.

Kövesi also told lawmakers that the current budget is inadequate for the agency to do its job properly.

EUobserver recently reported that the commission blocked the EPPO from using their budget to hire the specialised personnel they need.

The parliament and the European Council upped the agency's budget by a further €7.3m in December 2020 to recruit financial analysts and IT experts.

But the commission has not allowed EPPO to spend that money.

When repeatedly asked for an explanation by the budget chair Monika Hohlmeier, human relations commissioner John Urell declared that this is to keep medium and long term costs under control.

Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office

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

Slovenia formally assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council on Thursday (1 July) - amid criticism against its right-wing prime minister Janez Janša for allegadly undermining the rule of law and democratic values in the EU.

Interview

EU prosecutor opened almost 1,000 investigations in first year

The EU's first chief prosecutor's office opened 929 investigations, handed down 28 indictments, secured four convictions and froze €259m in assets — over four times the size of its annual budget — in its first year of operation.

Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk

Draft legislation in Poland aimed at relaxing some of Europe's strictest laws surrounding onshore wind-turbines has been derailed by a surprise last minute amendment, which could put Poland back on a collision course with the EU.

Opinion

Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters

The ECHR ruled that Russia was in "effective control" of separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine from 11 May 2014. In doing so, the court has formally acknowledged the inter-state character of the conflict and Russia's culpability for human rights abuses.

Latest News

  1. MEPs agree to fossil loophole in EU green building directive
  2. Racist algorithms and AI can't determine EU migration policy
  3. EU leaders attempt to hash out response to US green subsidies
  4. Russian diplomats in EU: unpaid wages, low morale
  5. Eight EU states press for more Turkey-style migrant swap deals
  6. EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid
  7. Polish MEP also went on freelance Azerbaijan trip
  8. Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  2. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  3. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  4. EFBWWEFBWW Executive Committee report on major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting
  5. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  6. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us