Last week the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) was formally created. The new institution’s task is to investigate and prosecute fraud against the EU budget as well as other crimes against the union’s financial interests. According to the Estonian prosecutor general, Lavly Perling, EPPO will have to include member states’ practising prosecutors as soon as possible.
Prosecutor General Lavly Perling told ERR’s Aktuaalne kaamera newscast that the Estonian prosecutors had supported the project of an EU prosecutor’s office from the beginning, but that they had also pointed out the importance to the people setting it up of including the member states’ prosecutors as much as possible.
“Taking into account the 24 different languages used in Europe, the different justice systems, we have to start today and make sure that we’re approaching the structure [of EPPO] from the point of view of keeping it effective,” Perling said. Among other things, what was needed was a way to make sure serious financial investigations didn’t stand still at the national level, that prosecutors could share evidence as quickly as possible, and that police raids and searches could be done quickly, without EPPO’s structure slowing down the process.
There were plenty of issues left to sort out, among other things what would happen if a financial crime to be investigated by EPPO also involved other crimes, like e.g. involving narcotics or a murder case.
All of these points had been the reason why the Estonian Office of the Prosecutor General had been insisting that practising prosecutors should be included in the building-up of EPPO as soon as possible, Perling stressed.
So far 20 member states have formally joined EPPO. Within its structure, every member state is treated the same, which means that a country’s size doesn’t affect its participation in the new institution. In addition to EPPO’s own offices, two prosecutors will be assigned to it in every member state that joins it. EPPO is expected to be up and running by 2020.
Justice advisor at Estonia’s permanent representation in Brussels, Julia Antonova, made it clear that EPPO didn’t amount to the creation of an EU justice system. The member states’ own laws and system would come into play every time an investigation or operation was to be carried out.
“For example, if there’s the need to carry out a search in Estonia, then this will be done based on Estonia’s rules. The Estonian police will investigate, an Estonian prosecutor will make the decisions, and the punishment will have to be served in an Estonian prison,” Antonova stressed.
Editor: Dario Cavegn