Just days after the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) was finally completed following the appointment of two Slovenian prosecutors, Ljubljana has proposed amendments to the act on public prosecution.
The proposed changes would give the government greater sway in the appointment of prosecutors, and practically bar the Public Prosecutors’ Council from the process.
EPPO prosecutors in Luxembourg work with teams in their home countries to investigate and try cases in domestic courts. Slovenia’s failure to nominate prosecutors, then, has hindered investigations into possible cases of theft of EU money inside Slovenian borders.
Each country involved in the EPPO, namely all EU countries except for Poland, Hungary, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden, now has at least one prosecutor in Luxembourg working to investigate fraud and other crimes against EU funds. The agency officially began operations in June.
With the exception of Slovenia, all participating countries had already put forward a prosecutor to join the Luxembourg office. Laura Kövesi, head of the office in Kirchberg, Luxembourg city, raised concerns about Slovenia’s “persisting obstruction” during a meeting with EU justice ministers in October.
Accordingly, Kövesi warned that Slovenia’s delay had created a “prosecution gap in the EPPO zone,” a gap that raised doubts about how adequately the EU’s budget was being protected. By “interfering” with EPPO’s work, Kövesi said, Slovenia was setting a “dangerous precedent.”
“The fact that a member state is interfering with the prospering function of an EU judicial institution sets a very dangerous precedent,” Kövesi said.
Concerns over Slovenia’s participation in the EPPO come after the agency faced several delays prior to operations beginning in June; namely, the EPPO could not start its work until at least one prosecutor from each participating member country had been appointed.
In May this year, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša rejected the nominations of two candidates for EPPO suggested by Slovenia’s prosecution. In describing the overdue proposal to grant prosecutors Tanja Frank Eler and Matej Oštir full five-year terms with the EPPO as “temporary,” the Slovenian government has done little to reduce uncertainty surrounding the situation.
It is not yet clear whether or not this latest proposed amendment will succeed. National authorities can still only put candidates forward; it is up to the EPPO’s College to confirm the appointment. Moreover, Slovenian opposition parties have already tabled a legislative amendment to the same act with the intention of slowing the government down.
Since the agency began operations in June, the EPPO has received more than 2,400 reports of crime. Earlier this week, it secured its first conviction: a Slovak mayor was charged with providing false documents to illegally obtain financial aid from the EU.
Photo by Felicia Varzari on Unsplash