EU Prosecutor General accuses Slovenia of interfering with justice
BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union chief prosecutor on Friday accused member country Slovenia of interfering in the EU justice system and questioned whether the trade bloc’s budget was protected against fraud or corruption.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office started its work in June with the aim of independently investigating offenses against the EU budget, such as corruption and serious cross-border value added tax fraud. Slovenia is the only one among the 27 EU members to refuse to appoint two prosecutors to the agency.
“The fact that a member state interferes with the proper functioning of an EU judicial institution sets a very dangerous precedent,” Chief Prosecutor Laura Kovesi told EU lawmakers. She said that Slovenia’s failure to appoint prosecutors to the agency she heads has left “a prosecution vacuum in the EPPO area”.
Prime Minister Janez Jansa said in July that the process for appointing delegates in Slovenia “had not been carried out properly”. He said only two candidates had been proposed for the posts, “although several candidates came forward.”
Jansa accused her country’s own legal system of moving too slowly on fraud and corruption.
The delay is extremely embarrassing for the EU given that the small Alpine nation holds the bloc’s rotating presidency until the end of the year. The EPPO area is made up of 22 EU member countries. Hungary, Poland and Sweden have decided not to join, and Denmark and Ireland have an opt-out option in European justice.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the start of Slovenia’s current term as EU head that the prosecution “is a crucial element in protecting European taxpayers’ money”.
“It’s very good that Slovenia joined, and now Slovenia must deliver and cooperate with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office,” she said. “I am counting on the Prime Minister to submit the names of candidates to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office as soon as possible. “
Kosevi said his office should operate as if it “doesn’t exist in Slovenia. In this situation, how can Slovenia ensure proper and complete supervision of the bodies responsible for the management and control of Union funds? How can Slovenia ensure effective judicial follow-up of all fraudulent irregularities detected? Is the EU budget properly protected?
Slovenia joined the EU in 2004.
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