The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) began its work on Tuesday investigating “economic and financial criminality” throughout the European Union (EU), as officials seek to tackle fraudulent use of Covid recovery funds.
The newly established EPPO, headed by Laura Codruta Kovesi, the former chief prosecutor of Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate, will seek to address the estimated €500 million ($611 million) of EU funds that are fraudulently used every year.
Speaking on the office’s first day, Kovesi called the launch “a historic moment” that will crack down on any and all “economic and financial criminality” throughout the EU.
Make no mistake, this is the most common threat to any democratic society.
The EPPO is the newest wing of the EU’s so-called “Justice League” of transnational institutions to strengthen law and order throughout member states. Other departments in the network include the European Court of Justice and Europol.
The prosecutor’s office had been set to begin its work last year but it was delayed due to member states being slow to nominate prosecutors to work in the new department, with both Finland and Slovenia still having failed to appoint their representatives.
Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for transparency, described the office as “a unique body” that will address the void in the bloc’s ability to tackle fraudulent activity. The EPPO’s establishment is seen as “a new chapter in fighting cross-border crime.”
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The establishment of the prosecutor’s office, which is based in Luxembourg, comes as EU officials seek to ensure that hundreds of billions of euros that have been provided to nations as part of Covid recovery funds are not used illicitly.
The EU recovery plan will see nation states receive €1.8 trillion over the next few years, including €750 billion in temporary recovery funds, to help the bloc recover from the Covid pandemic and achieve its long-term goals.
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