New EU prosecutor’s office to target financial fraud | Voice of America
PARIS – The new European Union prosecutor’s office opened its doors on Tuesday in Luxembourg, responsible for fighting fraud, just before the 27 member states received an injection of $ 920 million in post-coronavirus recovery funds. But not all have signed up to the initiative – and one, Slovenia, could set up roadblocks.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office or European Public Prosecutor’s Office has been in the making for two decades. It is now a reality: an organization aiming to fight against economic and financial crime involving European funds. It is headed by Romanian anti-fraud prosecutor Laura Kovesi, who spoke at the opening.
“Make no mistake, this is the most common threat in any democratic society. It is underestimated, underestimated, often even tolerated for the benefit of organized criminal organizations which aspire to subvert and replace the legitimate authorities, ”Kovesi said.
So far, 22 of the 27 EU Member States are participating in the proceeding. Each will have a prosecutor working at the central office in Luxembourg, and at least two others based in their country of origin.
The new entity is expected to process around 3,000 cases per year. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said reported EU budget frauds amounted to more than $ 600 million in 2019 alone. Ordinary EU citizens can also report possible financial crimes . But Reynders said efforts to uncover financial crimes must extend beyond EU borders.
“The protection of the EU’s financial interests does not and should not stop at the EU’s borders. The trail of fraud and money laundering often leads us to jurisdictions in our immediate vicinity and beyond. This is why the European Public Prosecutor’s Office must create and maintain close links with the competent authorities of the participating Member States, as well as with non-participating Member States and third countries, ”said Reynders.
Several EU member states, including Hungary and Poland, have not joined the prosecutor’s office. Reports indicate that Sweden will join next year.
Meanwhile, two members, Slovenia and Finland, have yet to fill their posts as prosecutors in the country. EU officials say they expect Finland to do so soon. This is not necessarily the case for Slovenia, which takes over the rotating EU presidency in July.
Prosecutor Kovesi said that would not prevent the office from functioning, but it could cause problems.
“In my opinion, this is a lack of sincere cooperation and this problem undermines confidence and the effective functioning of the management and control system. [the] the EU in Slovenia, ”Kovesi said.
Reynders said that if Slovenia does not cooperate soon, Brussels will consider ways to force Slovenia to meet its obligations.