Govt could annul procedure to pick delegated prosecutors

Ljubljana/Brdo pri Kranju – The government could vote on a proposal to annul the procedure to appoint Slovenia’s two European delegated prosecutors on Thursday and then publish a new call for applications, media have reported. PM Janez Janša said the government would check the appointment procedure Thursday to decide whether to proceed with it or repeat it.

Janša commented on the media reports as he spoke to the press at Brdo pri Kranju after holding an online meeting with European Parliament President David Sassoli.

Asked why Slovenia had not yet appointed its prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), he said there was a problem with the procedure in Slovenia.

However, this should not hinder the launch of the new office, he said, arguing its functioning did not depend on all member states appointing their prosecutors by the deadline.

The European Commission officially confirmed today that the EPPO will be launched as scheduled on 1 June.

The newspaper Delo was first to report yesterday that such a proposal had been drawn up by the government secretariat general.

The appointment procedure has been deadlocked for months, allegedly because Matej Oštir and Tanja Frank Eler, the candidates put forward by the Prosecution Council, are deemed unsuitable by Janša and his Democrats (SDS).

This is despite repeated calls from the European Commission for Slovenia to send its list of candidates and allow the EPPO to become fully operational on 1 June.

According to Delo, the proposal to annul the procedure, labelled internal, has been submitted by the acting secretary general of the government, Janja Garvas Hočevar, allegedly based on the prime minister’s decision.

The proposal, published by Delo, is for the government to ascertain that the call for applications for two European delegated prosecutors is deemed unsuccessful under the law itself, hence the proposal formed by the Prosecution Council based on it has no legal effect.

The government would thus not be acquainted with that proposal at all but would task the Justice Ministry with publishing a new call for applications in the Official Gazette immediately.

Responding to the media reports, State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa told the press today that this “could be an arbitrary decision which violates the independence of state prosecution, which is also guaranteed through appointment procedures.

“These must be governed by law and carried out transparently and on the basis of objective criteria, in unbiased procedures without any discrimination.”

Such a government decision would be unlawful and in contradiction with the constitution “because it changes the criteria in the call for application retroactively”, he added.

Šketa reiterated that both candidates “met all the conditions under the call for applications and the law” and the procedure “was conducted lawfully and correctly”.

The chief prosecutor also pointed to the fact that the EPPO must be “completely independent of any government”.

Unofficially, Janša holds it against Oštir that he has thrown out a criminal complaint against the commercial broadcaster POP TV; Frank Eler was involved in a case against him under a law governing confiscation of assets of illicit origin.

Quoting unofficial sources, the newspaper Dnevnik reported that Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič is opposed to the annulment of the appointment procedure, although she would not comment on the proposal officially. Both Delo and Dnevnik speculated the minister might step down if the proposal was adopted.