The EU prosecutor expects that Slovenian staff will be “very busy” with the investigation of misuse of funds
STA, 7 December – A more detailed analysis of the situation in Slovenia regarding the prosecution of crimes against the EU’s financial interests must be awaited, the bloc’s chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi told STA. However, according to current statistics, there is no doubt that European Delegated Prosecutors (EDPs) will be “very busy” in the country.
Slovenian delegated prosecutors Tanja Frank Eler and Matej Oštir took office on 1 December, so the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) was operating in the country after a several-month delay in the appointment process.
It is too early to assess the current situation, but the EU chief prosecutor told STA on Monday that she had no doubt that the office would launch investigations in Slovenia.
As concrete investigations take place, it will become clear how the police and other law enforcement agencies work and how they are prepared to cooperate with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The EU Recovery Fund will bring in more money, “more flexibility, less rules”, which means more risk of more crimes against the EU budget, she said, noting that the level of detection of such crimes needs to be increased. Slovenia is not alone when it comes to the system of perception, which should be improved.
At a joint press conference with Kovesi on Monday, General State Prosecutor Drago Šketa said that 20-30 investigations were currently open in the country. The cases will now be transferred to the EPPO office in Ljubljana.
In addition to these investigations, Chartered Prosecutors Frank Eler and Oštir will also assist their counterparts in other Member States of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office in cross-border investigations involving Slovenia. “They’re going to be very busy,” Kovesi said.
The head of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office commented on the delay in appointing Slovenian delegated prosecutors: “This was a big problem because we could not investigate cases from Slovenia.” This has also affected cross-border investigations, she added.
“This has been a major problem in the overall architecture set up by the EU to protect European money, because it was a gap in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office area.”
Kovesi reiterated what she had already said at an online press conference during her visit to Slovenia – that the appointment of Frank Eler and Oštir is final.
“Under the EPPO regulation, no Member State can dismiss European delegated prosecutors because they would like to appoint different ones. They are appointed for five years. That is the end of the story.”
Commenting on the government’s changes to public prosecutor’s law, which would allow the government to recall authorized prosecutors and give it a bigger say in their appointment, Kovesi insisted that “no national law can be in conflict with a European Public Prosecutor’s Office regulation”.
“The European Public Prosecutor’s Office Regulation and EU law take precedence over any national law; that is the rule.” If there is a provision contrary to the Regulation, EPPO shall inform the European Commission. They have already done so with regard to certain provisions in other member states, she said.
The mandate of the authorized prosecutors is renewable and they can be appointed by the EPPO college for a further five years, she added.
The regulation does not specify how EPPO members should nominate their candidates for the EDP, and the methods differ depending on the participating countries, but all their justice ministers have been urged to ensure that procedures are transparent and based on public tender, including the previous Slovenian one. Minister of Justice Lilijana Kozlovič.
So far, Kovesi has not had an official meeting with the current Minister of Justice, Marjan Dikaučič.
Asked why she is not meeting today, she said: “I did not ask for a meeting, I came to talk to prosecutors about the problems we have in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and the challenges. I have nothing to talk about with the prosecutor’s office. “the Minister of Justice at the moment. We may have something to discuss in the future.”
She also highlighted the press conference on the importance of the independence of the judiciary and noted that any attempt against the judiciary is an attempt against the rule of law.
If they try to undermine the independence of prosecutors, they should stand up, she said, adding that they are “not alone” as the European Public Prosecutor’s Office is also an independent body. “If you’re not independent, you can’t be effective,” she said.