Tuesday

5th Jul 2022

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.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey signs Nato protocol despite Sweden extradition row
  2. European gas production hit by Norway strike
  3. EU Commission told to step up fight against CAP fraud
  4. Ukraine needs €719bn to rebuild, says PM
  5. Germany records first monthly trade deficit since 1991
  6. Pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden strike
  7. Report: EU to sign hydrogen deal with Namibia
  8. Israel and Poland to mend relations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  2. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change
  3. The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark
  4. Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules
  5. Is China a challenge to Nato? Beijing responds
  6. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying
  7. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  8. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us