This new Europe-wide body will tackle large-scale, cross-border crime against the EU budget. It is currently being set up with the aim to start operating in the end of 2020, at this stage in the participating 22 EU countries.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) will be the EU’s first independent and decentralised prosecution office. It will have the power to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgment crimes against the EU budget, such as fraud, corruption or serious cross-border VAT fraud.
OLAF plans to become a trusted and privileged partner for the EPPO as soon as it starts operating.
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Slovenia
Why a European-level prosecution office ?
The creation of the EPPO marks a fundamental development in the fight against crimes affecting the EU’s budget. It is also an important step towards creating a common criminal justice area in the European Union as a whole.
Currently, only national authorities can investigate and prosecute fraud against the EU budget. But their powers stop at national borders and their tools to fight large-scale financial fraud in more than one country are limited. The EPPO will be able to act quickly across borders without the need for lengthy judicial cooperation proceedings. This should lead to more successful prosecutions and help to recover defrauded money more efficiently.
Such intervention is needed to tackle the billions that organised criminal gangs make every year by circumventing national and European rules. In 2018, for example — in addition to VAT fraud — national authorities reported fraud against the EU budget worth some €1197 million.
How will the Office work ?
The EPPO will operate as a single office across all participating EU countries. It will not be part of the existing EU institutions and will combine European and national law-enforcement efforts in a unified, seamless and efficient approach.
It will be fully independent, acting in the interests of the EU — and will neither seek nor take instructions from either EU or national authorities.
EU & national roles
The EPPO will operate on 2 levels:
|Central office at EU level||Supervise the investigations and prosecutions in each participating EU country – to ensure independence, effective coordination and a uniform approach throughout the participating countries.|
|Decentralised level – consisting of European delegated prosecutors, located in each participating EU country||Carry out investigations and prosecutions in each country, using national staff and generally applying national law.|
If the EPPO takes up an investigation, national authorities will stand back from making their own investigation into that crime. They will also have to report any relevant criminal conduct to the EPPO.
However, the EPPO will prosecute the criminals involved in the relevant national courts.
What will OLAF’s role be ?
The EPPO will be responsible for criminal investigations.
OLAF will continue its administrative investigations into irregularities and fraud affecting the EU’s financial interests, in all EU countries. In doing so, it will consult and coordinate closely with the EPPO.
This division of responsibilities will ensure the widest possible protection of the EU budget.
In November 2017, the EU adopted Regulation (EU) 2017/1939 to set up a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). Its creation has been a major policy priority for the European Commission, mainly for the Directorate-General Justice and Consumers and for OLAF. The Commission is responsible for the EPPO during the setting-up phase, until it will have the capacity to implement its own budget.
The Commission also consults an expert group composed of representatives from the participating countries.
Important activities in the setting-up phase included:
In 2018, the EPPO selection panel was established to assess and bring forward a list of qualified candidates for the positions of European Chief Prosecutor and European Prosecutors. In January 2019, the panel presented the European Parliament and the Council the list of shortlisted candidates for the European Chief Prosecutor position. In September 2019, the European Parliament and the Council agreed to appoint Ms Laura Codruta Kövesi as the first European Chief Prosecutor. Her term is of seven years, non-renewable. Ms Kövesi is in charge of organising the work of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office: representing it, directing its activities and taking care of its effective functioning.
Structure and characteristics
Definition of enforceable criminal activities
The definition and scope of enforceable criminal activities are to be found in Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2017 on the fight against fraud to the Union’s financial interests by means of criminal law (Official Journal of the European Union, L 198/29, 28.7.2017).