The creation of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) was underway for almost 25 years. Some key dates:
During a meeting of the Presidents of the European Criminal Law Associations at Urbino University (Italy) in 1995, the idea of a European legal area for the protection of the financial interests of the European Communities is launched. A group of experts, led by Professor Emeritus Mireille Delmas-Marty, is tasked to develop guiding principles in relation to the criminal law protection of the EU’s financial interests within the framework of a single European legal area.
The expert group delivers a report called ‘Corpus Juris: Introducing penal provisions for the purpose of the financial interests of the European Union’. The Corpus Juris maintains the traditional distinction between criminal law and criminal procedure. Whereas the first 17 Articles are dedicated to substantive criminal law issues, Articles 18 to 35 contain principles of and rules on criminal procedure, including the proposal for the creation of a European Public Prosecutor. The Corpus Juris is intended to apply across the entire territory of EU Member States. However, the Corpus Juris also includes a subsidiarity clause, making national law applicable where there is a lacuna in the Corpus. It focuses on the procedure before trial, the latter being left to the national judiciary, with the European public prosecutor present during the trial stage in order to ensure continuity of the proceedings and equality of treatment among those being judged, in spite of the differences between national systems.
Two important follow-up studies were conducted:
2000: The Corpus Juris 2000 (‘Florence proposal’) is a follow-up to the 1997 project, with the aim of analysing the feasibility of the Corpus Juris in relation to the legislations of the Member States. This revised version maintains the original structure, composed of 35 articles.
2003: The study ‘Penal and Administrative Sanctions, Settlement, Whistleblowing and Corpus Juris in the Candidate Countries’ is coordinated by the Academy of European Law (ERA), with Professor Christine Van den Wyngaert as scientific coordinator. It scrutinises the potential reception of the Corpus Juris in the legal systems of the Central and Eastern European candidate countries.
In December 2001, the European Commission publishes its Green Paper on criminal-law protection of the financial interests of the Community, and the establishment of a European Prosecutor. This is an important step in the creation of what comes to be the EPPO. The Green Paper seeks practical solutions in implementing the ambitious and innovative project of a European Public Prosecutor. The Commission notes that the authors of the Corpus Juris proposed a high level of harmonisation of the substantive criminal law, but considers that such harmonisation must be proportionate to the specific objective of the criminal protection of the Community’s financial interests. The debate is restricted to the minimum requirement for the European Public Prosecutor to be able to operate effectively.
The Corpus Juris and, in particular, the subsequent shaping of the EPPO is prevalent for many years and is frequently discussed in the European Parliament and in the Members States by national parliaments, government officials, and academics. It generates great interest among academics in Latin America and in China, and is used as a model for the revision of penal codes in Central and Eastern European countries before their accession to the European Union.
The Lisbon Treaty provides the long sought-after legal basis for the creation of the EPPO. According to Article 86 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (introduced by the Lisbon Treaty), the Council − by unanimous decision after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament – may establish the European Public Prosecutor’s Office ‘from Eurojust’. It also allows for the initiative of a group of at least nine Member States to seek a Council decision, and to establish the EPPO by way of enhanced cooperation.
In the years following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission carries out preparatory work – including expert workshops, stakeholder consultations, and the commission of further scientific studies.
In July 2013, the Commission presents its proposal for a regulation. It seeks to establish the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and define its competences and procedures. It designs the EPPO as an independent European Union body with competence for directing, coordinating, and supervising criminal investigations, and for prosecuting suspects in national courts in accordance with a common prosecution policy. As for the definition of criminal offences affecting the financial interests of the European Union, the EPPO proposal refers to the solutions of the proposed PIF directive.
In October 2017, the Council adopts the Regulation ‘implementing enhanced cooperation on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office’. This Regulation defines the mandate of the EPPO, and is published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 31 October 2017.
This date is important because of the following abstract (Article 120): The EPPO shall assume the investigative and prosecutorial tasks conferred on it by this Regulation on a date to be determined by a decision of the Commission on a proposal of the European Chief Prosecutor once the EPPO is set up. The decision of the Commission shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The date to be set by the Commission shall not be earlier than 3 years after the date of entry into force of this Regulation.
This means that the EPPO can start its operational phase no earlier than 20 November 2020. A date is to be decided by the European Commission, based on a proposal from the European Chief Prosecutor.
2020: The Council appoints 22 European Prosecutors, one for each of the participating EU Member States, on 27 July 2020. The European Prosecutors and the European Chief Prosecutor give solemn oath before the Court of Justice of the EU on 28 September 2020.
2021: The EPPO starts operations on 1 June 2021, after the European Commission officially confirms the starting date on 26 May 2021.
2022: The EPPO issues its first annual report.
Text adapted from:
- Francesco De Angelis. The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) – Past, Present, and Future
- Mireille Delmas-Marty et al. Corpus Juris: Introducing Penal Provisions for the Purpose of the Financial Interests of the European Union (Paris: Economica, 1997)