A new European Union-level prosecutor's office position started work Tuesday, with Kristel Siitam-Nyiri (pictured) appointed Estonia's functionary. The office has been established as a way of investigating more efficiently financial crime which harms the European Union directly and which costs the bloc hundreds of millions of euros per annum.
"This is a historic moment for the European judicial space: for the first time, there is a body at European Union level with independent competence to carry out criminal proceedings and bring charges," Siitam-Nyiri said of her appointment to the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO),
"Every year, member states report fraud of around €500 million, on average; if the if EPPO can get back even a tenth of this, our work will already be of great help," she added.
"The EU's budget is, after all, a budget for all of us. We often do not realize that if people who cheat tens of millions of euros from the EU's budget go unpunished, this can also indirectly affect, for example, subsidies to our Estonian farmers or to road construction funds.
The EPPO was formed in 2017, after around four years' preparation, while 22 of the EU27 member states have signed up to it so far.
Kati Maitse-Pärkna and Silvia Kruusmaa are appointed Siitam-Nyiri's deputies.
Justice minister Maris Lauri (Reform) said that: "I am delighted that years of work have borne fruit and the EPPO can start work. This will definitely also help promote the Estonian economic environment and ensure its transparency."
"I believe that, upon the launch of EPPO, the quality of investigations into cross-border economic offenses will improve, the use of EU funds in the whole of Europe will become more lawful and together we can fight fraud more effectively," Lauri added.
The EPPO's remit will include fraudulent activities arising from EU grants and other funding, as well as cross-border money laundering, VAT fraud and other financial crime, where the target is the EU's wallet, BNS reports.
Each of the 22 member states appoint one representative public prosecutor to the EPPO headquarters in Luxembourg, while delegated prosecutors are active within each member state, including Estonia, and are independent of the national prosecutor's office.
Editor: Andrew Whyte