In a ceremony at the European Court of Justice on 28 September 2020, European Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruţa Kövesi and 22 EU Prosecutors of the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) took their oath of office, marking the commencement of the new EU institution’s activity.
Speaking inside the grand chambers of the European Court of Justice, Ms Laura Codruţa Kövesi reaffirmed the European fight against financial crime. Her speech shone a light on the foundational goals of the judicial system, “to ensure that everyone is equal in front of the law, that no one is untouchable.”
The Luxembourg-based institution is the EU’s first supranational prosecution service, responsible for fighting financial crime involving funds allocated by the European Union’s budget. EU bodies such as Europol and the EU’s anti-fraud office have worked to fight cross-border crimes, but are not given the tools to investigate and prosecute them at a national level. Where EU funds are concerned, that power is now vested in the EPPO.
The EPPO is autonomous and, in the context of their work for the institution, prosecutors report to the European Chief Prosecutor, not to their national authorities. Their oath of office reads: “I solemnly undertake to be completely independent in carrying out my responsibilities, in the interest of the Union as a whole, and neither to seek nor take instructions from any person or entity external to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. I further undertake to comply with the duty of confidentiality, as regards all information held by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.”
In 2017 alone, fraud cost the EU budget close to €500 million, a target sum that the EPPO will attempt to eradicate through its work. Crimes against the EU budget which the EPPO will address include, fraud, corruption, and cross-border VAT fraud above €10 million.
The EPPO comprises 22 member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Spain. Each EPPO member’s appointed representative will carry out investigations and prosecutions within their national jurisdiction under the direction of the European Chief Prosecutor, Laura Codruţa Kövesi, who has long experience fighting corruption in her native Romania.
In her opening speech, Ms Kövesi paid tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jan Kuciak, investigative journalists from Malta and Slovakia who lost their lives in the pursuit of exposing corruption. The commitment to help achieve justice in their cases by ensuring equality before the law was both welcome and appreciated.
Matthew Caruana Galizia, Daphne’s eldest son and the Director of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, attended the inauguration.