EPPO Ready to Sue EU Commission

The chief prosecutor of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), Laura Codruța Kovesi, responsible for probing significant financial crimes impacting EU interests, initiated an uncommon move on April 9. She initiated a “friendly settlement procedure” with the European Commission, marking the final legal step before potential litigation. Failure to reach an agreement could escalate the dispute to the Court of Justice of the EU.

European prosecutors – who are also investigating criminal charges related to the Covid vaccine negotiations between Ursula von der Leyen and the CEO of Pfizer – are now threatening the European Commission with legal action. Prosecutors fear that they will no longer be able to do their job properly if the Commission implements a plan to reduce its budget – a measure announced in February and which was a surprise, the EPPO claims, according to the quoted source.

Laura Kovesi’s letter, obtained by Politico, was delivered to three senior Commission officials in early April. In the correspondence, the EPPO head asserts that the European executive’s anticipated action is hindering prosecutors from effectively conducting their duties by placing financial strain, particularly on IT expenditures.

When the EPPO commenced operations in summer 2021, the Commission committed to furnishing IT resources without specifying an end date. However, the Commission has now notified the EPPO of its intention to retract IT assistance, amounting to an estimated 5 million euros according to EPPO assessments.

“The decision to unilaterally terminate the provision of these services to the EPPO by December 31, 2024, poses a threat to the ability of the independent Union Prosecutor’s Office to fulfill its duties and uphold its mission,” wrote Kovesi. She further emphasized that “it is incumbent upon the Commission to abstain from any action that might jeopardize the EPPO’s mandate to combat crimes impacting the financial interests of the Union.”

In an open letter to MEPs and in public remarks in the European Parliament, Kovesi had for several weeks asked the Commission to reassess its decision to cut a substantial part of the support it gives to the Luxembourg-based EPPO team, which recently took over a case investigating how von der Leyen handled the Covid vaccine business, Politico also notes.

A relatively new institution, the EPPO is also a very important one, as its prosecutors are empowered to conduct cross-border investigations into what member states and the Commission say are one of the biggest threats to the EU: criminal organizations chasing money EU. In 2023, the number of EPPO investigations increased sharply, the institution showed in its annual report.

Last year, more than 200 fraud investigations were opened into the EU Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, the tool that provides EU funding to help boost post-Covid economic recovery and is worth more than €800 billion Of euro. In 2022, when EU payments were in their early stages, only 15 inquiries were launched.

On the other hand, EPPO investigators took over from Belgian prosecutors the investigation targeting Ursula von der Leyen for “interference in public functions, destruction of SMS, corruption and conflict of interest”, according to legal documents consulted by Politico and a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Liege. EPPO prosecutors are investigating alleged criminal offenses, but no one has yet been charged in connection with the case, Politico said.

Covid vaccineECEPPOEuropean CommissionEuropean CourtEuropean Public Prosecutor's Officefinancial crimeslaura codruta kovesilitigationPfizersueUrsula von der Leyen
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