EU budget deadlock will hamper crime fight, EPPO warns
04 Dec 2020

Europe’s newly established body to fight financial crime warned that the deadlock in approving the European Union’s next budget was threatening its ability to investigate crimes in the way EU funds are spent.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) will have to work with just its actual 65 staff – less than a third of what it needs – if the 27-nation bloc does not find away around Poland and Hungary’s veto of the so-called Multi-Annual Financial Framework for 2021/2027.

The delay “could potentially have a serious impact on the EPPO budget for 2021, as it will on other EU bodies,” an EPPO spokesperson said. “If the whole EU budget is not [adopted], we will need to look for alternative resources to get EPPO operational.”

Poland and Hungary last week renewed their threat to block the EU’s €1.8 trillion budget, as they object having to explicitly adhere to basic democratic principles, a condition to get a share of the funds.

The European Commission and the European Council are at loggerheads over EPPO, which started its work in Luxembourg this year. The Council of national leaders wants to reduce the Commission’s headcount of nearly 35,000 employees before approving to fully staff EPPO.

The Commission’s draft €37.7 million budget for EPPO for 2021 provides for 122 employees only, including a college of 22 national prosecutors, which makes up its governance body. But to fulfil its mission of prosecuting fraud, EPPO has said it needs a workforce of 219 next year.

That would require a budget increase of €18 million to €55 million, EPPO said. At the moment, EPPO employs just 65 people.

EPPO cannot formally start its work before each country has appointed a minimum of two delegated prosecutors, who will work in their home countries and not in Luxembourg. Of the 22 EU countries participating in EPPO, 18 have not yet submitted their candidates.

By Julie Edde, Luxembourg Times, 3 December 2020

Read more at Luxembourg Times

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