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The European Public Prosecutor’s Office – EPPO

Written by Jan Avau and Alessandro D’Alfonso
Updated on 25 August 2015
The European Public Prosecutor's Office - EPPO

© Gina Sanders / Fotolia

On 17 July 2013, the European Commission adopted its legislative proposal for the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). The Office would focus on offences against the EU’s financial interests. The draft regulation is based on Article 86 TFEU, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, which allows the creation of such an office through a special legislative procedure. This requires unanimity in the Council and the consent of the European Parliament. Should unanimity not be reached, the EPPO could still be created under enhanced cooperation if at least nine Member States so agree.  In addition, Article 86 TFEU provides the possibility for the European Council to extend the powers of EPPO to include acting against serious crimes with a cross-border dimension.

At present the Commission’s proposal is being discussed in the Council.

Background of the proposal

The concept of an EPPO has been the subject of debate for some 15 years.  While the European Commission was in favour of setting up an EPPO throughout, other views remained divergent. A major step was taken with the Treaty of Lisbon, which introduced Article 86 TFEU providing a legal basis for an EPPO.

In its impact assessment , the Commission justifies its proposal by referring to the significant consequences of fraud against the EU’s financial interests (see the impact assessment’s box on the scale of fraud against the EU Budget ).  In recent years, ‘suspected fraud’ has averaged about € 500 million annually.  However, according to the Commission there are good reasons to believe that the actual fraud could amount to up to €3 billion per year, which would represent around 2% of the annual budget. Accurate numbers are not available the Commission explains, as data from Member States are not always reliable. In addition, it is very difficult to measure the scale of undetected criminal activities.

Both the EU and its Member States have the obligation to protect the financial interests of the Union (Article 325 TFEU). However, the Commission considers that in practice the EU has virtually no power to intervene in cases of criminal misuse of EU funds , since  investigation, prosecution and bringing to justice in criminal cases remain part of the exclusive jurisdiction of the Member States. The role of the Union bodies active in the field of protection of the EU’s financial interests, such as Eurojust, Europol and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), has increased over the years but still mainly focuses on coordination, cooperation, exchange of information and administrative investigation.

Since Member States implement around 80% of EU expenditure and collect its own resources, they have a significant role to play in fighting offences against the EU budget. However, policies for prosecuting fraud against the EU’s financial interests differ considerably from one EU country to another. As some findings show, the rate of successful prosecutions concerning offences against the EU budget varies between 19% and 92% among Member States. Furthermore, in the case of infringements with a cross-border dimension, it is often difficult to determine the relevant jurisdiction. In this respect, the Commission’s impact assessment gives the example of an OLAF case , which concerned a suspected fraud with multiple transnational elements.  OLAF identified the Member State which should have been in charge of the initiation of the prosecution, but the Member State in question declined jurisdiction.

General overview:

  • European Public Prosecutor’s Office / Website European Commission, DG Justice. This website provides an introduction to the concept of the EPPO and links to documents regarding the current proposal and the history of the debate on the EPPO.
  • European Public Prosecutor’s Office / Website European Commission, European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). This website also contains links to historical information.

The proposal of the Commission

Proposal for a Council Regulation on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office , COM(2013)0534, 17/07/2013. The legislative financial statement for this proposal starts on p. 50. The proposal is accompanied by the following documents:

The proposal is the subject of the interinstitutional procedure file 2013/0255(APP) (the progress of the file can be monitored in EP’s legislative observatory , in Eur-Lex , in Council Register ).

The proposal on the establishment of the EPPO is part of a more general action plan to fight fraud against the Union’s financial interests which includes also the following legislative proposals:

The European Parliament

Article 86(1) TFEU provides for a special legislative procedure requiring unanimity in the Council and the consent of the European Parliament. Please note that as a general rule, the Council and the European Parliament have full co-legislative powers (ordinary legislative procedure) in the fields regarding judicial cooperation in criminal matters (Art. 82 TFEU and following) and combatting fraud (Art. 325 TFEU).

The main documents from the European Parliament can be found in the procedure file in the legislative observatory (OEIL) 2013/0255(APP) . See in particular:

Studies:

Parliamentary questions (selection since 2013):

The Council

In order to create the EPPO, the Council needs to act unanimously after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. If unanimity is not reached, a group of at least nine Member States may decide to resort to enhanced cooperation.

Information about the progress of the Council’s work may be obtained in the following ways:

Selection of documents with a particular interest:

  • 10283/15 , 24/6/2015 – Note from the Presidency – Report from the EPPO conference on 16/17 April 2015 at the European Academy of Law (ERA)
  • 10264/15 , 24/6/2015 – Note from the Presidency – State of play.
  • 6318/1/15 , 2 March 2015 – note from the Presidency – Orientation debate/State of play.
  • 16526/14 – Press release on the Conclusions of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 4-5 December 2014 (see p. 9).
  • 15862/1/14 , 28/11/2014, note from the Presidency – Orientation debate.
  • 6116/14 , 5/2/2014, note from the Presidency containing the observations of the Member States on the EPPO proposal
  • 13863/1/13 , 14/10/2013, note from the Presidency: European Public Prosecutor’s Office: A Constructive Approach towards the Legal Framework – Conclusions of the conference organised by the Lithuanian Presidency in cooperation with the European Commission and the Academy of European Law (Vilnius, 16-17 September). The following three topics were dealt with:
    • Institutional setting of the EPPO
    • Procedural regime of the EPPO
    • Material scope of the EPPO

Member States

France

Résolution européenne sur la proposition de règlement du Conseil, du 17 juillet 2013, portant création du Parquet européen (COM[2013] 534 final) / France. Assemblée nationale, texte adopté n° 285, 31/01/2014.

Rapport sur la proposition de résolution européenne (N° 1658) sur la proposition de règlement du Conseil, du 17 juillet 2013, portant création du Parquet européen (COM [2013] 534 final) / France. Assemblée nationale. Rapporteur Mme Marietta Karamanli, rapport N° 1706,15/1/2014.

Rapport sur la proposition de résolution européenne (N° 1616) sur la proposition de règlement du Conseil portant création du parquet européen (COM[2013]534 final) / France. Assemblée nationale. Rapporteur Mme Marietta Karamanli, rapport N° 1658, 17/12/2013.

Résolution européenne portant avis motivé sur la conformité au principe de subsidiarité de la proposition de règlement portant création du Parquet européen / France, Sénat, N° 26, 28/10/2013.

Rapport d’information sur la création du Parquet européen: Le parquet européen: une création de plus en plus nécessaire / Rapporteurs: Guy Geoffroy et Marietta Karamanli ; France. Assemblée nationale, Commission chargée des affaires européennes, Rapport N° 3608, 29/6/2011.

Réflexions sur l’institution d’un Parquet européen / Etude adoptée le 24 février 2011 par l’Assemblée générale plénière du Conseil d’Etat, France; 138 p. Dossier de presse: principales conclusions de l’étude du Conseil d’Etat “Réflexions sur l’institution d’un Parquet européen”.

Germany

Stellungnahme des Deutschen Richterbundes zur Verordnung des Rates über die Errichtung der Europäischen Staatsanwaltschaft vom 18/07/2013 (COM[2013]534) / Deutscher Richterbund, Oktober 2014.

Kompetenzen und Zuständigkeiten einer Europäischen Staatsanwaltschaft. Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Fraktion DIE LINKE / Drucksache 18/2069, 7/7/2014, 21 p.

Beschlussempfehlung und Bericht des Ausschusses für Recht und Verbraucherschutz : Vorschlag für eine Verordnung des Rates über die Errichtung der Europäischen Staatsanwaltschaft (EPPO) , Drucksache 18/1658, 4/6/2014, 12 p.

Forderungen zum EU-Staatsanwalt / Ausschuss für Recht und Verbraucherschutz – 04.06.2014

Europäische Staatsanwaltschaft / Deutscher Bundestag, Wissenschaftliche Dienste, in Aktueller Begriff Europa Nr. 09/13, 20/11/2013, 2 p.

Beschluss des Bundesrates – Vorschlag für eine Verordnung des Rates über die Errichtung der Europäischen Staatsanwaltschaft / Bundesrat Drucksache 631/13, 11.10.13

United Kingdom

European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EUC Report), Motion to take note , House of Lords, debate on the report of the European Union Committee on the impact of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office on the United Kingdom (4th Report, HL Paper 53), 19/3/2015.

The impact of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office on the United Kingdom / UK, House of Lords, European Union Committee, 4th Report of Session 2014-2015, 3/11/2014.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO): The Impact on Non-Participating Member States / UK Parliament, Lords Select Committee, 2014.

Subsidiarity Assessment: The European Public Prosecutor’s Office / UK Parliament, House of Lords, European Union Committee, 12558/13, 2013.

European Public Prosecutor’s Office: Reasoned Opinion Reform of Eurojust European Anti-Fraud Office / European Scrutiny Committee, 17/9/2013.

Reasoned Opinion of the House of Commons Submitted to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, pursuant to Article 6 of Protocol (No 2) on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality concerning a Draft Regulation of the Council on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) , [22 October 2013] – ( Reply of the European Commission , 14/3/2014)

National Parliaments

The “yellow card procedure”

According to a new provision introduced by the Lisbon Treaty (A rticle 7(2) of Protocol No 2 TFEU ) the Commission has to reconsider its proposal if a sufficient number of national parliaments has sent reasoned opinions stating that the draft legislation does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity. The Commission may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw the draft, but must give the reasons for its decision. This is the so-called “yellow card procedure”.

In the case of the EPPO proposal, fourteen chambers of national Parliaments had sent reasoned opinions to the Commission, thus triggering the subsidiarity control mechanism.

The reasoned opinions of the national parliaments can be found in the IPEX database – Document sheet for COM(2013)0534 (see the section “Scrutiny status”).

The Commission maintained its proposal:

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the National Parliaments on the review of the proposal for a Council Regulation on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office with regard to the principle of subsidiarity, in accordance with Protocol No 2 , COM(2013)851, 27/11/2013.

Interparliamentary meeting

On 17 September 2014 the French National Assembly European Affairs Committee held an interparliamentary meeting in which Members of 16 national parliaments took part to discuss the legislative proposal for the establishement of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Further reading

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office : an extended arm or a two-headed dragon? / [ed. by] L.H. Erkelens , A.W.H. Meij, M. Pawlik, The Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press, 2015, 285 p..

Toward a prosecutor for the European Union / Ligeti, Katalin , Oxford: Hart, 2013.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office: analysis of a multilevel criminal justice system / Zwiers, Martijn Willem, 1980- , Cambridge: Intersentia, 2011.

Legal and institutional aspects of the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF): an analysis with a look forward to a European Public Prosecutor’s Office / Inghelram, Jan F. H. , Groningen: Europa Law Publishing, 2011.

The material scope of competence of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office: Lex uncerta and unpraevia ? / John A. E. Vervaele in ERA Forum, June 2014, vol. 15, iss. 1, pp 85-99.

A European public prosecutor: potential and pitfalls / Marianne Wade, in Crime, Law and Social Change, vol. 59, iss. 4, pp 439-486, 2013.

FRA Opinion on a proposal to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office / Fundamental Rights Agency, 25 p., 2014.

The future of prosecution after Lisbon : special edition / Valsamis Mitsilegas, in New journal of European criminal law , Vol. 4 (2013), n° 1, pp 1-198.
See in particular:

  • The European Public Prosecutor’s Office: Towards a Truly European Prosecution Service? / Katalin Ligeti and Michele Simonato.
  • Towards a decentralised European Public Prosecutor’s Office? / S. White.
  • European Public Prosecutor’s Office – Cui Bono? / L. Hamran, E. Szabova.

Eurojust and the European Public Prosecutor Perspective: From Cooperation to Integration in EU Criminal Justice? / Jörg Monar, in Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 2013, v. 14, n. 3, pp 339-356.

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