Crackdown on dirty dealings with EU funding?
The prevention of fraud, embezzlement and corruption in connection with EU funds is the mission of the newly established European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), which began its operations on Tuesday. The Luxembourg-based authority is headed by Laura Codruța Kövesi, who gained a reputation as a committed anti-corruption fighter in Romania. However, some EU states don't want to surrender sovereignty to the institution - much to the annoyance of the commentators.
Give and take
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung criticises the fact that not all member states are participating in the European Public Prosecutor's Office:
“This is regrettable, and in the case of Hungary and Poland also highly problematic. ... Because these two countries are among the biggest net recipients of EU funds. ... The logical conclusion for the representatives of the European taxpayers in Brussels must now be to only transfer large sums of money to those countries that actively help to check how they are used. ... The Central Eastern Europeans' argument that a supranational public prosecutor's office infringes too much on their sovereignty rings hollow. Those who are sovereign enough to draw on great sums of money from others must also put up with them checking their bookkeeping. All the more so since it is in these countries that the rule of law is being eroded and the executives are trying to monopolize power.”
This won't be easy
The resistance of some member states already poses a challenge for the new institution, observes Népszava:
“The European Public Prosecutor's Office has the right to drag certain matters into its own jurisdiction. In such cases the national authorities are no longer allowed to investigate, so they have no possibility to conceal criminal offences. Against this background, it is hardly surprising that neither Hungary nor Poland have joined in... There are also countries that have joined in but are already doing everything they can to make the prosecutor's job more difficult.”
Finally working together
Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Hungary are not members of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, and other governments like that in Ljubljana have shown opposition to the new body. According to Deutschlandfunk,
“it is precisely the hurdles and resistance that show how necessary this new authority is for the interests, and especially the finances, of the EU; and also for imposing law and order in Europe. ... Organised crime offences such as missing trader fraud, subsidy fraud, money laundering and corruption reportedly cost the EU 500 million euros in damages per year. ... In the future, all the member countries of the authority will work hand in hand. It will not be possible to investigate to an equal extent in all countries, but with centralised supervision and independent investigators specifically anchored at the European level, this could be possible much sooner than it has been up to now.”
The institution is more important than ever in view of the new coronavirus aid for EU member states, the Romanian service of Radio France International stresses:
“This move was more than necessary, because not just the honest benefit from the free movement of capital, goods and people. Cross-border crime can also profit from it. ... National judicial authorities are often powerless when it comes to investigating such cross-border criminal activities, so establishing an institution at the European level was necessary. And the large sums of money available to the EU states through the Next Generation EU programme - 750 billion euros in total - could be a fresh temptation for all those who want to commit fraud.”
Who's afraid of Laura Codruța Kövesi?
There are many who fear the head of the new authority, Deutsche Welle's Romanian Service notes:
“There are many politicians involved in [securing and spending EU funds], from the lowest to the highest offices. .... Laura Codruța Kövesi is returning to this guerrilla war, and many representatives of criminal groups that have exploited the weaknesses of the EU are afraid of the new head of the European Public Prosecutor's Office - whether they come from Romania or from one of the other 21 countries that have agreed to come under the wing of the European prosecutors.”
No miracle worker
Fakti.bg tries to dampen the Bulgarians' enormous expectations:
“The European Union is not like the Soviet Union, moving in with tanks to eliminate our internal problems and establish order. ... The European Public Prosecutor's Office will not free us of [Prosecutor General Ivan] Geshev and [ex-prime minister Boyko] Borisov. But it could help us to clarify what damage they have done in recent years. It could help us put an end to this authoritarian, tyrannical regime, which is incompatible with our own demands for a European constitutional state.”