Slovenian justice chief resigns after government annuls EPPO procedure

“As I have stressed many times before, the justice ministry has conducted the procedure in line with the law and the EU Council’s decision,” said Kozlovič. [Shutterstock/corgarashu]

Slovenian Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič has resigned after the government decided to annul a procedure to appoint Slovenia’s two prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and to publish a new call for applications.

“As I have stressed many times before, the justice ministry has conducted the procedure in line with the law and the EU Council’s decision,” said Kozlovič.

“It is true that only 22 member states are included in the system of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, but I think this enhanced cooperation […] is an important opportunity to fight corruption,” she wrote in her resignation letter.

The resignation caps months of back-and-forth regarding the delegated prosecutors. The two candidates nominated by the State Prosecutor’s Council months ago and cleared by the justice ministry were not to the liking of Prime Minister Janez Janša because of their role in cases he was involved in, according to multiple media reports.

The government was supposed to confirm their appointment as a matter of formality. But its clearance was repeatedly pushed forward, first due to ostensible problems with their foreign-language skills, which turned out to be in line with requirements, and then because the government said it would not be relegated to a rubber-stamping role on such an important decision.

Kozlovič’s party boss, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, said on Thursday that the government decided to repeat the procedure because the appointment was so important “there must not be even a shred of doubt” about the procedure or the candidates.

To break the deadlock, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders last week proposed a compromise under which one of the two prosecutors would be appointed, but Počivalšek said such a solution had been deemed “controversial” by several experts as it would constitute an overstepping of powers by the government.

Počivalšek also stressed that the EPPO was a voluntary system and that five member states had decided not to participate at all.

The government’s official position is that the public call for application must be considered as unsuccessful according to the law, since the State Prosecutor’s Council, an independent body, put forward two candidates for the two posts when it should in fact have shortlisted six candidates.

European Chief Prosecutor Laura Kövesi said the decision signalled a “manifest lack of sincere cooperation of the Slovenian authorities with the EPPO” that “seriously undermines the trust in the effective functioning of the management and control systems for EU funds in Slovenia.” (Sebastijan R. Maček | STA)

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