Crimes affecting the financial interests of the Union can be efficiently confronted through the creation of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office, said Transparency International (TI), the global coalition against corruption, ahead of the next European Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Luxemburg.
With the entry into force of the EU Lisbon Treaty in December 2009, the EU now explicitly has the mandate to set up a European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Whether this opportunity will be seized is now largely a question of political will.
“The Lisbon Treaty offers a golden opportunity for the EU to boost actual enforcement of anti-corruption legislation” said Jana Mittermaier, Head of TI’s Liaison Office to the EU. “We are convinced that the number of corruption cases in domestic courts will increase, if EU-level investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) are systematically followed up by a European Public Prosecutor.”
At present cross-border fraud and corruption investigations are not being pursued actively enough. Domestic prosecution offices are seen as being slow, hesitant or even hampered in pursuing such complex cases. Consequently, the chances of timely convictions are currently relatively limited. “The missing link in the procedural chain is an efficient European Public Prosecutor Office that is equipped with the authority to direct and coordinate the work of domestic judicial institutions, the European network of judicial authorities (Eurojust) and OLAF”, said Mittermaier.
In the longer term, and once the European Public Prosecutor Office is established, it should be provided with a comprehensive mandate that includes not only crimes that directly affect the financial interests of the EU, but also serious cross-border crimes, such as cross-border corruption and other crimes.
A European Public Prosecutor’s Office would ultimately help to restore trust in EU institutions and their capacity to deal effectively with transnational corruption-related cases. The reputation of the institutions has suffered considerably, as was demonstrated by a recent European Commission Eurobarometer survey in which 78 per cent of EU citizens responded that the EU should do more to fight against corruption.
Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption
Note to Editors: There are TI chapters in almost every EU member state, accession candidate and potential candidate states. For more information on TI’s views regarding anti-corruption and the EU visit: www.transparencyinternational.eu
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