The decision was taken in Brussels yesterday. Together with the European Parliament, the EU member states appointed former Romanian corruption investigator Laura Codruta Kövesi as the first head of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is scheduled to commence work at the end of 2020. EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová said the following in this regard:
This decision is a strong signal that the EU is serious in fighting financial crime and in protecting the taxpayers’ money.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office will be a new, strong actor in the fight against fraud, corruption, money laundering and cross‑border VAT fraud.
Tackling billions of euros of fraud
Cross‑border fraud costs the EU member states at least 50 billion euros in VAT revenue each year. Moreover, according to official statistics, around 638 million euros of EU structural funds were misappropriated in 2015 alone. To date, only national authorities have been able to investigate such crimes. As their jurisdiction ends at their national borders, national public prosecution offices are often not able to effectively combat large‑scale cross‑border financial crime. At the same time, existing EU institutions such as the European Anti‑Fraud Office are unable to instigate any criminal investigations or proceedings in the member states. The European Public Prosecutor’s Office is intended to close this gap in the future by, among other things, confiscating assets and issuing warrants against those responsible.
The European Commission submitted its proposal to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office back in 2013. However, the Council was unable to achieve consensus on the proposal even after three years of negotiations. In situations such as these, a group of at least nine member states may, according to the EU treaties, establish “enhanced cooperation”, which was initiated in April 2017. At that time, 16 member states agreed to improve anti‑corruption efforts across the EU; this number stands at 22 today.