The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Sofia is facing staffing problems. Some of the EU seconded prosecutors working on VAT and money fraud cases in Bulgaria have left the office.
The EPPO is an independent, decentralized EU prosecutor with a mandate to investigate, prosecute and bring to justice crimes affecting the EU budget. Bulgaria has been a member of the EU since 2007 but continues to struggle with high-level corruption and political instability.
The EPPO in Sofia started its work in 2020. Two of the nine Bulgarian prosecutors seconded by the EU have already resigned and are returning to the Bulgarian judicial system, while a third prosecutor is currently applying for a position at Eurojust, Sega reports.
Another five prosecutors are participating in selection processes to return to the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office, which has been criticized by the EU for its poor record in fighting corruption at the highest level.
As for the rest of the staff, almost all administrative officials and some deputy prosecutors have left the country. Others have already applied for other positions, reports EURACTIV’s partner Sega .
The resigned administrative employees have informed the head of the EU Public Prosecutor’s Office, Laura Kövesi, about a series of irregularities, informed sources have told EURACTIV Bulgaria .
Commenting for EURACTIV, Kövesi’s office explained that “the resignations are of a personal nature, so the EPPO as an organization cannot comment on them.” EPPO added that it is “closely examining the matter.”
The EPPO annual report is due to be published in early March and Kövesi is expected to comment on the problems in Bulgaria and other EU countries.
So far, the Bulgarian EPPO office has only obtained a suspended sentence in a criminal case against an employee of the State Agricultural Fund, which administers EU agricultural subsidies. This case was initiated by the Bulgarian Public Prosecutor’s Office and transferred to the EPPO after the EU institution became operational.
Personnel problems already arose during the selection process for delegated European public prosecutors.
After the first procedure, the EPPO College approved only four of the ten prosecutors nominated by the Bulgarian Supreme Judicial Council, while the rest were rejected as unsuitable. As a result, the number of European Delegated Prosecutors in Sofia was increased to nine, despite the need for a total of 15 prosecutors.