MEPs gave final go-ahead to EPPO
EU Prosecutor's Office will combat cross border criminality
Maria Koleva, Brussels
6 October, 2017
Active and passive corruption, misappropriation of EU structural funds, large-scale cross-border VAT swindles, are among the crimes against the EU financial interests that will be investigated and prosecuted by the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO). The final go-ahead for setting up this independent EU body was given by MEPs on 5 October during the EP plenary session in Strasbourg.
The legislation now in force stipulates that only national authorities can investigate and prosecute EU fraud, and EU bodies such as Olaf, Eurojust and Europol do not have the mandate to conduct criminal investigations.
Due to the lack of unanimity among the national governments, the EPPO will be created in enhanced cooperation of 20 Member States, but non-participating EU countries can join in the future.
The EPPO will be operational in three years and its headquarters will be based in Luxembourg. Along with a chief prosecutor, the office make-up will include prosecutors from all participating countries, and there will be delegated prosecutors located nationally in each Member State, which will also continue to exercise their functions as national prosecutors. The office will allow quick information exchange, coordinated police investigations, fast freezing and seizure of assets and arrests of suspects across frontiers.
The rapporteur on the file Barbara Matera, Italian EPP MEP, underlined that thanks to the EPPO the shortcomings of uncoordinated national investigations into the misuse of EU funds will be addressed. She expressed hope that the scope of the EPPO's powers could in the near future include other trans-border crimes, like terrorism and human trafficking. Some MEPs stressed that it was regrettable that some Member States, including the largest beneficiaries of European funds, are not participating. Others said that this was not about cooperation but about creation of a federal prosecution service, with the eventual aim to become the basis of a legal system for a country called Europe.
EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova pointed out that since EPPO’s work will be more effective, especially with regard to cross border criminality, more criminals will be put behind bars, more money will recovered and more money will be put to the right use.
Just in 2015, frauds like false or falsified documents and declarations, affected €637.6m of EU budget spending across the Union. Intra-community VAT fraud robs from EU taxpayers’ pockets approximately €50bn every year.