Malta is the 22nd European Member state to join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).
This was announced on Tuesday during the daily mid-day briefing of the European Commission by European Spokesperson Mina Andreeva.
This is a turn of events since Malta opted out in October 2017 after disagreeing with the new European public prosecutor over concerns about the mandate. Other reasons given last year for Malta not wishing to form part of the EPPO were based on the right for a country to continue to hold certain sectors under its control.
At the time, referring to the involvement of Minister Konrad Mizzi and Prime Minister Chief of Staff Keith Schembri owning offshore entities, MP Jason Azzopardi had commented that Malta’s unwillingness to back up the prosecutor was no surprise since in his opinion, the government had a “vested interest not to fight corruption or money-laundering.”
However, in March of this year, Malta had shown interest in formally joining the EPPO and has now formally declared its intention.
in a letter to European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová, Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici stated that Malta acknowledges the role of the EPPO in ensuring that EU funds and the economic interests of the European Union are safeguarded.
The EPPO should be operational by the end of 2020 and will be in charge of investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice the perpetrators of offences against the Union’s financial interests in order to counter fraud.
It requires a minimum of nine EU members to move on with a proposal without needing unanimous support.
The 22 member states that have joined the enhanced cooperation include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Netherlands.
Sweden, Poland and Hungary have not opted in as yet, and Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom have an opt-out right.