ECONOMY

European parliament approves EU budget prosecutor plan

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES EU BUDGET PROSECUTOR PLAN

The European Parliament on Thursday backed the creation of a bloc-wide prosecutor's office, which will investigate and prosecute EU budget-related fraud cases.

According to the motion, the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) would allow "for swift information exchange, coordinated police investigations, fast freezing and seizure of assets, as well as arrests of suspects across borders" without approval of the national authorities.

"Currently, only national authorities can investigate and prosecute EU budget-related fraud, such as the intentional misuse of EU structural funds or cross-border VAT fraud, but their jurisdiction ends at their national borders," the European Parliament's statement said.

The parliament added that the EPPO "will work closely" with the bloc's existing agencies on justice and anti-fraud to "ensure more successful prosecutions and better recovery of defrauded taxpayers' money".

Barbara Matera, the parliament's rapporteur, said in a statement that "shortcomings of uncoordinated national investigations into the misuse of EU funds will be addressed".

While the majority of the MEPs in Strasbourg voted in favor of the measure, eight member states -- Sweden, the Netherlands, Malta, Hungary, Poland, the U.K., Ireland, and Denmark -- had declared in June that they would not participate in its implementation.

The parliament said these member states "will be able to join the cooperation any time, should they choose to do so".

Meanwhile, the European Commission in a statement welcomed the parliament's backing, and called on "other member states to join in soon."

The EPPO is expected to be operational in 2020 at the earliest.

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