Bulgaria among 20 EU countries to confirm creation of European Public Prosecutor’s Office

The regulation establishing the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) was approved on October 12 by the 20 member states that are part of the EPPO enhanced co-operation, Bulgaria among them, according to a statement by the Council of the European Union.

The EPPO will be in charge of investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice the perpetrators of offences against the European Union’s financial interests. It will bring together European and national law-enforcement efforts to counter EU fraud.

“The creation of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office is an important step in European justice cooperation, which will help to protect our taxpayers money. Even when criminals act across borders, we can now make sure they are brought to justice and that taxpayers’ money is recovered,” Urmas Reinsalu, Estonian justice minister, said.

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.

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 EPPO will allow for swift information exchange, co-ordinated 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.

The date on which the EPPO will assume its investigative and prosecutorial tasks will be set by the European Commission on the basis of a proposal from the European Chief Prosecutor once the EPPO has been set up. This date will not be earlier than three years after the entry into force of this regulation.

So far, 20 member states have joined the enhanced cooperation: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

On October 5 2017, the European Parliament voted to give the green light to the creation of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The European Parliament gave its consent to the setting up of the EPPO by 456 votes to 115, with 60 abstentions, opening the way for the Council to formally adopt the regulation on the EPPO. The EPPO is expected to be operational between 2020 and 2021.

The eight 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, an October 5 statement by the European Parliament said.

On July 5, the European 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.

(Image: glentamara)



The Sofia Globe staff

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