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Estonia decides to join European Public Prosecutor's Office

Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu (IRL).
Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu (IRL). Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Estonia has reversed its previous standpoint and decided to join the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), which is comprised of some EU member states in the form of improved cooperation.

Estonian Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu on Monday sent a bill to the government regarding Estonia's joining of the EPPO being established, ministry spokespeople said on Tuesday.

"The creation of the EPPO is a significant step in the battle against the misuse of EU budget funds," Reinsalu said in a press release. "In Estonia, handling crimes against the EU budget has been a priority for years, but for Europe as a whole it is necessary that member states cooperate."

The EPPO is an EU agency currently in the process of being established, the main task of which will be to investigate and prosecute EU fraud and other crimes affecting the union's financial interests. EPPO's jurisdiction includes fraud related to EU funding, large-scale cross-border tax fraud and corruption crimes that damage the EU budget. The EPPO will be leading the pre-trial procedures of such cases and represent the prosecution in member state courts.

According to the bill, the EPPO is an independent EU institution which consists of the European Public Prosecutor, chosen prosecutors from each member state and delegated prosecutors located in each member state. One European prosecutor would be sent from the EPPO to Estonia, and there should be at least two delegated prosecutors in Estonia who will remain Estonia's internal prosecutors even after heading to the EPPO.

Delegated prosecutors will be an integral part of the EPPO but also continue to work as national prosecutors. However, it is important that EPPO proceedings are clearly separated from criminal cases within the jurisdiction of the Estonian Public Prosecutor's Office and the delegated prosecutor will receive separate remuneration according to their workload in the EPPO.

The approval of the European Parliament will be necessary for the creation of the EPPO and the final establishment of the institution will likely take place during Estonia's upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU.

As of the beginning of May, countries who have expressed interest in joining the EPPO include Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Portugal and Greece. The list of countries is expected to grow.

On April 21, at a meeting with EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová, Reinsalu said that Estonia was not planning to join the EPPO as establishing it in such a way could cause practical problems. "For instance, what relations would EPPO have with institutions that already exist — such as Eurojust and the European Anti-Fraud Office — as well as what the cost would be for establishing a new institution," he cited. "We hope to find answers to these questions soon."

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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