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Commission proposal to protect taxpayers' money receives backing from European Parliament committees

European Commission - MEMO/14/203   20/03/2014

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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 20 March 2014

Commission proposal to protect taxpayers' money receives backing from European Parliament committees

The European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) backed today with an overwhelming majority (44 votes for, 2 against and 5 abstentions) the European Commission's proposal for a Directive on the protection of the EU's financial interests (IP/12/767).

Welcoming the vote, Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner and Algirdas Šemeta, the EU's Anti-fraud Commissioner said: "Today's vote shows that the EU is serious about fighting fraud in the Member States and bringing those to justice who try to illegally make profits at the expense of the EU taxpayer. This proposal is not only providing common rules to sanction fraudsters but is also a key element of the future European Public Prosecutor's Office, which will investigate and prosecute crimes against the EU budget Union-wide. That is bad news for criminals, but good news for Europe's taxpayers. We applaud the joint efforts of the rapporteurs Fernando Lopéz Aguilar and Ingeborg Grässle."

The new EU-wide rules, as proposed by the European Commission, will first introduce common definitions of fraud, making sure that fraud against the EU budget is considered a crime everywhere in the EU. Second, they will provide for sanctions for fraud against the EU budget, including imprisonment, in order to deter fraudsters.

The proposed Directive is integral to the functioning of the proposed European Public Prosecutor's Office, which the European Parliament recently supported (MEMO/14/183). The Directive will define the offences that the European Public Prosecutor's Office may investigate and prosecute.

The opinion of the rapporteurs, on which members of the two European Parliament Committees voted today, is a strong endorsement of the Commission's approach of using criminal law to fight fraud.

The LIBE and CONT Committees backed the main elements of the Commission's proposed Directive on the protection of the EU's financial interests through criminal law, including VAT offences and the introduction of sufficiently long rules on time limitation. However, the committee votes did not back the proposed minimum sanctions of imprisonment.

Next steps: Following this vote, the European Parliament will vote in April in plenary (in first reading) on the Commission's proposal. If the Council, acting by a qualified majority, approves all Parliament amendments, the law is adopted.

Background

Protecting the financial interests of the EU means protecting the EU budget, and therefore European taxpayers' money. Data collected from Member States reveal fraud averaging 500 million euro in each year while the real figure is potentially higher. Putting in place a stronger system for deterring offenders, and investigating and prosecuting offences against the EU budget will better protect taxpayers' money and make it easier to recover funds. This will save money for taxpayers at a time when budgets everywhere are under pressure.

On 11 July 2012, the European Commission proposed a Directive on the protection of the EU's financial interests, to fight fraud against the EU budget by means of criminal law and to better safeguard taxpayers' money. The Directive creates a more harmonised framework for prosecuting and punishing crimes involving the EU budget so that criminals no longer exploit differences between national legal systems. The Directive provides for common definitions of offences against the EU budget and for common sanctions, including imprisonment in serious cases, and for a common level playing field for periods within which it is possible to investigate and prosecute offences – the so-called statutes of limitation (IP/12/767).

For more information

European Commission – Criminal law policy:

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/criminal/criminal-law-policy

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/reding

Homepage of Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/semeta/index_en.htm

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU

Follow Commisisoner Semeta on Twitter @ASemetaEU

Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice


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