European chief prosecutor again warns of delegated prosecutors issue

Brussels – European Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kövesi on Friday again raised the issue of non-appointment of European delegated prosecutors from Slovenia. She told the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control that after four months of operation this was one of the main challenges the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

Slovenia is the only participating country that has not appointed delegated prosecutors yet, so the EPPO cannot process all Slovenian cases, which seriously affects not only the cases in Slovenia but also the investigations of all cross-border cases involving Slovenia, she said.

“As a result we have a prosecution gap in the EPPO zone,” she said.

According to Codruta Kövesi, the EPPO must act as if the European Pubic Prosecutor’s Office did not exist in Slovenia.

“In this situation how can Slovenia ensure proper and complete supervision of bodies responsible for the management and control of EU funds? How can Slovenia guarantee effective judicial follow-up of all the detected fraudulent irregularities?”

“Is the EU budget properly protected?” she asked members of the committee as she presented a report on the EPPO’s work in the last four months.

“The fact that a member state is interfering with the proper functioning of an EU judicial institution sets a very dangerous precedent,” she warned.

Justice Minister Marjan Dikaučič was also invited to the session but turned down the invitation due to his busy schedule.

Kövesi said it was her duty to inform the responsible institutions of the challenges faces by the EPPO.

The European Commission could act, but it is still waiting for a decision of the Administrative Court on the appeal filed by prosecutors Tanja Frank Eler and Matej Oštir against the government over its decision not to appoint them Slovenia’s European delegated prosecutors as proposed by the Justice Ministry after they were vetted by the Prosecution Council, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said last Friday. A decision is expected shortly.

The most probable step the Commission could take if Slovenia fails to appoint prosecutors is a legal procedure over violation of the EU legislation, which could end in the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Both the Commission and the EPPO said on several occasions that the EPPO could start operating without the delegated prosecutors from Slovenia, as the European prosecutor from Slovenia, Jaka Brezigar, could potentially take over cases from Slovenia.

But this situation is not sustainable, the Commission’s spokesperson Christian Wigand warned again today.

He said he was in contact with the Slovenian authorities and noted that President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen had been clear in Slovenia in June that agreements must be kept – pacta sunt servanda.