Malta joins the European Public Prosecutor’s Office
Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici yesterday presented a letter to European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová by which Malta notified its intention to participate in the EPPO, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Minister Bonnici presented the letter during a meeting held yesterday morning with Commissioner Jourová at the ministry.
In the letter, Minister Bonnici states that Malta recognises that the establishment of the EPPO is a major development for safeguarding the economic interests of the European Union and ensures that union funds are employed for the achievement of the social and economic purposes for which they are intended.
The letter also says that the Government of Malta is confident that further coordination between the work of the EPPO, Europol, Eurojust, the European Judicial Network and other community institutions and agencies will ensure progression to a higher level of police and judicial cooperation in Europe to the benefit of justice, peace and security.
The EPPO’s exclusive task is to investigate and prosecute crimes affecting the EU budget and, where relevant, bring them to judgement in the member states’ courts.
The government had announced its intention to join the EPPO last March, when Bonnici informed his fellow EU justice ministers that Malta was to formally submit its interest in joining. That came to fruition yesterday.
In 2013, Malta had decided to opt out of the European Commission initiative aimed at improving the prosecution of criminals who defraud EU taxpayers by reinforcing the procedural guarantees of OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office.
Bonnici, then a parliamentary secretary, had told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee at the time that the government was in favour of the implementation of the EPPO, as long as the functions of the attorney general would not be weakened as a result.
Short of signing on to the EPPO, only national authorities can investigate and prosecute EU fraud. Their competences stop at their national borders. Existing Union bodies (such as OLAF, Eurojust and Europol) do not have, and cannot be given, the mandate to conduct criminal investigations.
The EPPO fills this institutional gap, and has exclusive and EUwide jurisdiction to deal with suspicions of criminal behaviour falling within its remit.
The EPPO is headed by a European Public Prosecutor. Its investigations are carried out by European Delegated Prosecutors located in each participating member state. The number of these delegated prosecutors will be left to member states, but they should have at least one.
The EPPO pools the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the member states and has uniform investigative powers throughout the Union, based on and integrated into the national legal systems of the member states.
Investigation measures that touch mostly on fundamental rights such as telephone interception will need prior authorisation by a national court and the EPPO’s investigations will be subject to judicial review by the national courts.