EUFINACCO: Setting up the European Public Prosecutor’s Office – Between the Europeanisation of Criminal Justice Systems and Differentiated Integration
Following long years of discussions, Member States agreed to launch a European Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2017. This panel explores various dimensions of the implications of inserting EPPO in the EU institutional and national landscapes. As of 2020, EPPO will prosecute crimes against the financial interests of the EU in the national courts. Long ago, criminal law was perceived as too linked to national sovereignty to allow EU interference, but this field has changed enormously in recent years, and EPPO is no less radical a change. Until the launching of EPPO, EU policy tools to promote convergence among criminal justice systems were mainly harmonisation (of various aspects of criminal laws) and interadministrative cooperation among police (Europol) and judicial (Eurojust) bodies. When EPPO sees the light in 2020, it will be the first EU body endowed with legal standing to exercise prosecution at the national level (even if only with regard to specific crimes). Differentiated integration and a hybrid institutional design were the price paid for member states to accept it. This panel is organised by EUFINACCO, the Research Network on Financial Accountability in the EU.
Presentations of the Symposium
Protecting the Financial Interests of the EU through Criminal Law
EU criminal policy against corruption was first focused on combating only conducts that threaten the European Communities' financial interests. Then, taking into account that corruption behaviors damage not only the financial interests but also, in general, the political and social systems, the UE launched other initiatives to fight corruption in any field. These initiatives pay special attention to the need of combating corruption through criminal law. Particularly, the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union (1997) requires Member States, among other things, to criminalise corruption of any EU official. The idea behind the requirement is that EU officials manage huge amounts of public funds, which makes them an easy target for corruption.
Given the lack of a European criminal code, Member States are the only ones that can pursue and punish this kind of conducts, and they must do it in the same way they criminalise corruption of national officials (principle of assimilation). This paper assesses the two-decades long Europeanization process of corruption as a criminal offence, identifying the main challenges linked to the implementation and application of this type of offence in the Member States laws. Additionally, the paper explores the interlink with recent developments in the fight against fraud against the EU budget and the implementation of EPPO
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office – Enhanced Cooperation in a Comparative Perspective
The Treaty of Lisbon paved the way for the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) as an additional “player” in the European Union’s system of accountability watchdogs – an idea that some parties had been promoting for many years. Initially, the EPPO’s investigation authority will be limited to cases related to the Union’s financial interests. The establishment of the EPPO can be conceived of as a transfer of new powers to the EU. However, the effectiveness of this new multilevel body raises a number of questions even before it has started to work. With a number of member states having opted out, the specific situation of enhanced cooperation makes EPPO’s tasks more complicated and challenging and in turn raises questions related to the future role of OLAF and the other agencies and bodies involved. The paper analyses the extent to which differentiated integration will hamper the EPPO from successfully meeting its expectations. The paper also looks at limitations to the effectiveness of the EPPO caused by enhanced cooperation and the divergent criminal justice systems. The comparative study includes a selection of EU member states, some of them participating, others not participating to the EPPO.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office: Fine-tuning Interinstitutional Relations for a better Protection of the EU’s Financial Interests
This paper explores the establishment of the EPPO from the dimension of interinstitutional relations. The institutional setup of the protection of financial interests of the EU (PIF) has grown in complexity since the Treaty of Amsterdam obliged Member States to guarantee at least an equivalent level of protection to the one they apply with regard to their own interests. In a parallel way, increased demands for greater financial accountability of EU budget management led to the establishment of a compound of bodies with varying tasks and powers in this field, at the EU level. Some bodies protect the EU’s financial interests as watchdogs in their own right, although with differing mandates: whereas the core activities of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) are often restricted to financial irregularities, the Office de Lutte Antifraude (OLAF) investigates fraud cases and issues recommendations to encourage national prosecutors to take criminal action in their regard. Other bodies encourage and facilitate interadministrative cooperation in PIF matters among police officers (Europol) or criminal justice officers (Eurojust), particularly with regard to the most pathological aspects of financial management, those covered by administrative or criminal penalties. The effective launching of EPPO in late 2020 will introduce profound changes in the institutional landscape and force institutional adaptation. Drawing on extensive desk research and empirical data gathered through numerous interviews with key actors, this paper advances the main opportunities and challenges created by EPPO.
Awaiting the European Public Prosecutor’s Office or Coping with it? Cross-country Examination of National Adaptation to EPPO
The creation of EPPO is the result of long negotiations among Member States which feature distinct approaches to the role of prosecutors in criminal justice. While most European states follow the so-called inquisitorial model based on the role of prosecutors as investigators in the pre-trial stage of criminal proceedings, there are still few states (Spain, France to a lesser extent) where the accusatorial model applies: the validity of all investigative measures taken by prosecutors hinges on whether a judge endorses them during the pre-trial stage. This example offers a glimpse into the national diversity which awaits EPPO. Drawing on extensive desk research and empirical data gathered through numerous interviews with key actors, this paper explores in a comparative perspective the national dynamics prompted by the creation of EPPO. It results from a cross-country research study involving five Member States which have agreed to join the enhanced cooperation scheme of EPPO. The paper also offers an interesting opportunity to explore the practical application of Europeanization theoretical backgrounds. Its strong empirical ground allows stimulating and novel reflection on the subtle (or not) clashes among epistemic communities competing to shape the negotiating position of the Member State in this very technical field. These dynamics have rarely been explored to date as regards actors in criminal justice systems (prosecutors, judges, state attorneys, police officers). The way in which they interact with the state negotiators offers new insights on the role of Member States as norm-makers or norm-takers.