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European Public Prosecutor's Office
European Public Prosecutor's Office
In November 2017, the EU adopted Regulation (EU) 2017/1939 to set up a European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO). This Europe-wide body will tackle large-scale, cross-border crime against the EU budget.
The remit of the Office will be limited to offences of this type. And it will operate in only the 20 EU countries that have so far signed up to it.
The new Office is expected to start operating from late 2020 or early 2021 onwards.
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Slovenia.
In May 2018, the Netherlands also notified the Commission of its intention to join.
Why do we need a European-level prosecution office?
National prosecutors' tools to fight large-scale financial crime in more than one country are limited. The new EU prosecutor will be able to act quickly across borders without the need for lengthy judicial cooperation proceedings.
This should lead to more successful prosecutions and more efficient recovery of defrauded money.
Such intervention is needed to tackle the billions that organised criminal gangs make every year by circumventing national and European rules. In 2015, for example – in addition to VAT fraud – national authorities reported fraud of the EU budget worth some €638 million.
How will the Office work?
The EPPO will operate as a single office across all participating EU countries, outside the existing EU institutions.
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 European Public Prosecutor's Office will operate on 2 levels:
|Central office at EU level||Supervise the investigations and prosecutions in each participating EU Member State – to ensure independence, effective coordination and a uniform approach throughout the EU.|
|Decentralised level – consisting of European Delegated Prosecutors, located in each participating EU Member State||Carry out investigations and prosecutions in each country, using national staff and generally applying national law.|
If the Office takes up an investigation, national authorities will stand back from making their own investigation for that crime. They will also have to report to the EPPO any relevant criminal conduct.
However, the Office 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 member 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.
Setting up phase
Under Regulation (EU) 2017/1939, the European Commission is responsible for setting up and running the European Public Prosecutor's Office during an initial period (at least 3 years from November 2017), until it has the capacity to implement its own budget.
In doing so, the Commission consults an Expert Group composed of representatives from the participating countries.
The main activities in the setting up phase include:
- selecting and appointing the European Chief Prosecutor
- appointing the European Prosecutors
- selecting and appointing an interim Administrative Director