In July last year, the European Commission published its proposal to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office, to be a “body of the Union”, with a separate legal personality. It would be responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice both the perpetrators and accomplices involved in committing fraud against EU finances.
However, the Coalition Agreement, signed by the Government in 2010, indicated that the UK will not opt-in to the EPPO proposal and, under the European Union Act 2011, could not do so unless a referendum was held.
Committee Chairman, Baroness Corston, said:
"In October last year, this Committee submitted a reasoned opinion to the European Commission, outlining our objections to the creation of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office because the proposal was incompatible with the principle of subsidiarity.
"We voiced our concerns about a number of issues, including the effect the establishment of an EPPO would have on existing EU criminal and justice organisations such as Eurojust, Europol and OLAF; the fact that at least two Member States will not be participating in the EPPO; and the effect that the EPPO as proposed would have on both the UK’s citizens and our investigative, prosecuting and judicial systems.
"In fact, enough parliaments in the Member States submitted reasoned opinions to trigger the ‘yellow card’ threshold – a fact that the European Commission, after reviewing its proposal, has chosen to ignore. The UK will not participate, but it is expected that other Member States will press ahead under enhanced cooperation.
"In light of this, we have decided to investigate the proposed new EPPO: its structure and its effect on the UK, amongst other issues.
"We would encourage anyone who has an interest to contribute to this timely and worthwhile debate."
Questions the Committee are seeking responses on include:
- Should the EPPO have exclusive competence in matters affecting the EU’s budget, or should it be shared with Member States?
- How would the operation of the EPPO as proposed affect the relationship of the UK’s investigation, prosecuting and judicial authorities with those of participating Member States, non-participating Member States and third countries?
- What would effect would the EPPO as proposed have on the UK’s investigative, prosecuting and judicial systems?
- What would be the effect of the proposed EPPO on Eurojust, OLAF, Europol and other EU agencies
Evidence should be submitted online no later than Thursday 10 April 2014. The Committee is aiming to report in the summer.