Making the case for a European Public Prosecutor’s Office

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

International Co-Prosecutor Andrew Cayley, at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, November 22, 2011. [Khmer Rouge Tribunal (ECCC) / Flickr]

Under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has the chance to set up a pan-European prosecutor’s office. Progress has been slowed by national governments blocking the proposal. Now, a number of prosecutors in favour of the idea call on the member states to move forward with the plan.

See below for the full list of prosecutors that have lent their signatures to this opinion piece.

Crime does not stop at national borders, be they European or external, and many efforts have been made over the last 20 years to improve cross-border cooperation.

Most of us have experienced working side by side either as liaison prosecutors for another EU country or at Eurojust in joint investigation teams.

This is not enough: seizing evidence abroad is still too slow or swift simultaneous investigations are too lengthy. The cooperation procedures are still too often held up at national borders, which ignore today’s reality in Europe, where people, including criminals, circulate freely.

We urge the EU member states to finally make the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) a reality.

Our economies and EU taxpayer money deserve to be better protected from criminal activities.  Every year at least €50 billion in VAT revenue is lost due to cross-border crimes. Fraud should be efficiently tackled: the EPPO will take the EU’s fight against crime to a new level, beyond mere cooperation.

What will be different? The European Prosecutor will be a strong, independent and efficient prosecution office, which will be equipped with the necessary investigation and prosecutorial powers.

It will operate on an EU level across all participating member states where it will fight fraud, organised crime, high-level corruption, sophisticated carousel fraud and money laundering.

EU funds should contribute to stimulating growth, tackling unemployment, nurturing economic and social equality as well as strengthening education and research, and not end up financing criminal activities. The European Prosecutor will be able to better protect this purpose.

The prosecution service will have a single and decentralised office structure to guarantee smooth communication channels and avoid language barriers.

Its staff will be able to operate across all participating member states in real-time allowing round-the-clock information exchanges, coordinated police investigations, fast freezing/seizure of assets and arrests – all in line with a common European investigation and prosecution strategy.

Operating under the control of national and European courts, the EPPO will also ensure that the rights of defence, including the right to a fair trial, are preserved in its proceedings.

With our experience of prosecution at EU-level, we strongly believe in the added value of the EPPO. In order to make these benefits a reality we call upon the member states to finalise the negotiations engaged in 2013 and adopt the regulation as soon as possible.

We hope to see the EPPO fighting cross border crime in the coming years.

Prosecutors in favour of the idea:

  • Belgium: Cédric Viscart de Bocarmé, Federal Prosecutor;
  • Bulgaria: Daniela Masheva, Prosecutor, Analytical Department; Tsvetomir Yosifov, Head of International Department, both at the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation of the Republic of Bulgaria;
  • Greece: Dimitriou-Vassilopoulou, Prosecutor General of Greece;
  • Spain: Rosa Ana Moran Martinez, Senior Prosecutor also on behalf of the Network of Spanish Prosecutors in Judicial Cooperation composed of 67 prosecutors, La Red Judicial Española de Cooperación Judicial Internacional (REJUE);
  • France: Catherine Pignon, President of the College of Prosecutors General; François Falletti, Former General Prosecutor of Paris;
  • Romania: Augustin Lazăr, Romanian General Prosecutor; Anca Jurma, Chief Prosecutor, Service for International Cooperation and Programs National Anti-corruption Directorate.

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