EP green light for setting up EU Prosecutor to fight fraud against EU funds
- Prosecutor will tie together European and national law enforcement efforts
- Exclusive and EU-wide jurisdiction
- Until now, only national authorities could prosecute for misuse of EU budgets
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office will be in charge of investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of offences against the EU budget.
Currently, only national authorities can investigate and prosecute EU budget-related fraud, such as the intentional misuse of EU structural funds or cross-border VAT fraud, but their jurisdiction ends at their national borders.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) will allow for swift information exchange, coordinated police investigations, fast freezing and seizure of assets, as well as arrests of suspects across borders. It will work closely with and complement the EU criminal justice agency Eurojust and the EU anti-fraud investigation office OLAF to ensure more successful prosecutions and better recovery of defrauded taxpayers’ money.
Parliament’s rapporteur Barbara Matera (EPP, IT) said: “Thanks to the EPPO, which will unify the work of national prosecutors under one European body, the shortcomings of uncoordinated national investigations into the misuse of EU funds will be addressed. Hopefully, the scope of the EPPO's powers could in the near future also include trans-border crimes, like terrorism and trafficking of human beings."
Now that Parliament has given its consent to the setting up of the EPPO by 456 votes to 115, with 60 abstentions, Council can formally adopt the regulation on the EPPO. The EPPO is expected to be operational between 2020 and 2021.
The EPPO will be set up in enhanced cooperation among 20 member states. The 8 countries that currently do not participate - Sweden, the Netherlands, Malta, Hungary, Poland, UK, Ireland and Denmark - will be able to join the cooperation any time, should they choose to do so.
The EPPO central office will be based in Luxembourg, with a chief prosecutor and prosecutors from all participating countries, who will be heading the day-to-day criminal investigations carried out by delegated prosecutors in all participating member states.
On 5 July, Parliament approved the common definitions of the fraud-related crimes that will fall under the jurisdiction of the EPPO. The list of crimes could in future be extended to include, for example, terrorism.