A proposal for the creation of a European Public Prosecutor to fight fraud against EU funds and protect taxpayers’ money was given the green light by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties MEPs on September 28.
The European Public Prosecutors Office (EPPO) will be in charge of investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice those committing offences against the EU budget, such as fraud against the EU structural funds or large-scale cross-border VAT fraud.
According to a European Parliament press release, the 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.
Currently, only national authorities can investigate and prosecute EU-related fraud, but their jurisdiction ends at their national borders. OLAF, Eurojust and Europol cannot be given the mandate to conduct criminal investigations against fraud.
“It is time for the EU to ensure effective coordination of the investigation and prosecution of fraud against EU funds,” said Parliament’s rapporteur Barbara Matera (EPP, IT). “Establishing a European Public Prosecutor’s Office will add value to the European integration process, because it will result in more prosecutions of crimes affecting the Union’s financial interests. The little control that the Union has over the way in which EU funds are spent in member states has led to a misuse of those funds, not least because they have failed to prosecute these crimes properly. The deterrent effect that EPPO will have will also enhance the perception that citizens have of the EU as a whole.”
The full house is scheduled to vote on the proposal to establish the EPPO in Strasbourg on October 5.