‘Very bad sign!’ EU new anti-fraud plan shunned by member states as it launches today

Orban ‘open to new proposals’ over EU budget says expert

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From today, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) will start fighting EU budget fraud but despite waiting a few decades for the introduction of this institution, some member states are yet to come on board.

The EPPO, which counts 22 EU countries as members, is designed to prosecute budget fraud in the bloc.

The office aims to rely on a network of European delegated prosecutors in each country.

But in a blow to Brussels’ bid to become more integrated and tackle crime across the bloc, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Sweden have yet to sign up to the office.

Finland has not come up with a nominee and Slovenia which will take over the Council of the EU’s rotating presidency in July, has yet to nominate any prosecutors for the office.

A disappointed Laura Codruța Kövesi, the EPPO’s chief, told POLITICO: “It’s a very bad signal.”

She blasted there is “a lack of sincere cooperation” from member states.

On Thursday, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša refused to acknowledge his country’s two candidates.

Ms Kövesi commented: “It’s obvious that something is not credible.”

The EPPO chief warned that Slovenia will take “a very huge risk” if it chooses not to appoint prosecutors.

She added: “This will influence the activity of EPPO, the efficiency of EPPO.

“How we can protect better the European money without having the prosecutors in Slovenia?”

Andrés Ritter, an EPPO deputy chief prosecutor, agreed.

He told reporters on Friday: “It would weaken us.”

The Slovenian Prime Minister responded to criticism pointing out some member states are not participating in the project at all.

He tweeted: “What about Sweden, Ireland, Poland, Hungary, Denmark…EU Prosecutor?

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“They don’t participate in EPPO at all.

“It’s our choice, so stop playing political games inspired by Renew Europe.”

In a statement, the government said the original call for candidates did not meet legal requirements, so it had “instructed the Ministry of Justice to immediately publish a new call for the submission of candidatures for the nomination of two European delegated prosecutors.”

In Finland, the government is debating how EPPO prosecutors would deal with issues such as pensions.

Helsinki is also debating whether prosecutors could take on second jobs back home.

But Ms Kövesi said: “It’s very important to have only full-time prosecutors.

“Slovenia is very clear proof that we need to have only independent prosecutors that no one could interfere in their activity.”

A spokesperson for Finland’s EU delegation said that in their reading of the regulation, each country’s EPPO prosecutors may also work as national prosecutors.

The spokesperson argued that because of the EPPO’s mandate, “a very limited number of criminal cases” will fall to these prosecutors, so they should be allowed to fill the rest of their days with other duties.

In a statement to POLITICO, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders lamented both situations, arguing “sufficient time was provided” to settle any issues.

“I have been personally involved with a large outreach to responsible ministers,” he added.

And, he insisted, “This situation will not prevent the EPPO from starting its activities.”

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