The European Commission on Wednesday reiterated its longtime call for a European public prosecutor with pan-European jurisdiction, offering a concrete proposal to be voted on by the European Council and European Parliament.
The European public prosecutor’s office will investigate fraud involving official EU funds. The EU estimates that at least 500 million euros ($655.4 million) in EU spending and revenue is lost annually due to such fraud.
EU officials said that an existing uneven level of protection and enforcement across EU countries can be remedied by a federal prosecutor with multinational authority, adding that the failure to pursue many cases and an uneven conviction rate for these frauds across countries spurred their actions.
The idea of a pan-European prosecutor is not new, as it is specifically referenced in the December 2007 Lisbon Treaty.
However, under established EU treaties, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland need not participate in the criminal justice scheme.
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Earlier this week, UK Home Secretary Theresa May told the Telegraph that Britain would definitely not participate in the scheme, which she described as unnecessary and potentially invasive of British sovereignty.
“We are completely and utterly opposed to the establishment of a European public prosecutor or anything that heads in that direction,” she told the Telegraph.
Even if Britain decides not to join, though, and leaves the European Council short of the required unanimous vote, at least nine EU nations could cooperate under a similar scheme.
At a press conference on Wednesday, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reading appeared undisturbed by the virtual guarantee that Britain wouldn’t participate.
Reading reportedly welcomed the exclusion of Britain, which sources from her office said would facilitate the establishment of the office, reported the Telegraph.
The public prosecutor’s office could start work by January 2015.