Kövesi blasts Warsaw for refusing to cooperate

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Laura Kövesi, the EU’s top prosecutor, warned on Wednesday (February 16th) that Poland’s refusal to cooperate with her organization risks facilitating embezzlement of EU funds.

Kovesi, head of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), said Poland’s stance made it more difficult for his office to investigate cross-border corruption within the 27-member bloc.

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She issued her warning in a letter to the European Commission summarized by her office, which said that whenever the European Public Prosecutor was unable to obtain evidence from Poland, his “ability to fight crime affecting the Union budget is systematically hindered”.

Warsaw says it is not delaying but is in the process of amending its criminal law to recognize the Luxembourg-based EU agency as the competent authority.

But the European prosecutor is getting impatient in a standoff that takes place against a backdrop of tensions between Brussels and Warsaw around the rule of law.

“By saying that they must first amend the Polish Criminal Procedure Code before recognizing the EPPO as the competent authority, they are questioning the supremacy of EU law,” the European Public Prosecutor’s Office told EUobserver .

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office only came into existence in June last year, with 22 of the 27 member states participating so far.

Poland is one of five member states that have not yet joined the organization.

Sweden, however, is expected to join in 2022 while Denmark and Ireland have opt-out options for justice issues. This leaves Poland and Hungary as holdouts.

Kövesi’s office said that cooperation between the EPPO and Polish judicial authorities still needs to build on existing tools of judicial cooperation and mutual recognition.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office has asked Polish authorities to help it with 23 anti-fraud investigations involving Poland, and Warsaw has so far denied the requests.

But the European prosecutor said the Polish authorities had an obligation to protect the EU budget despite not being an EPPO participating member state.

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