On Thursday in Luxembourg, twenty European justice ministers endorsed the creation of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office. This service should be operational by the end of 2020. This was indicated by the Estonian Minister of Justice, Urmas Reinsalu.
The delighted minister said, “We have today achieved something of great significance.” His comments came at the end of the monthly meeting of European justice ministers. He went on, “This is major cornerstone in the realm of European justice.”
The concept of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office, has been being discussed for years. Cases involving fraud of the European Structural Funds, or VAT cross-border fraud, often prove complicated for national public prosecutor’s offices or their equivalents to deal with. Europe already has the European Anti-fraud Office, known as “OLAF”. However, the latter can only conduct administrative investigations, which it then passes on to national authorities.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office has been set up by Belgium and nineteen other countries, by means of the enhanced cooperation procedure. Countries involved in the project have three years in which to adapt their legislation. The Public Prosecutor’s Office should therefore reach full capacity by the end of 2020. The Netherlands, Poland and Sweden, amongst others, are not taking part in the project at the moment, but they will still be able to opt to join it later on.
The ministers have also discussed the possibility of extending the remit of the European Public Prosecutor, in the future, to include terrorist offences.