S&D Group successful in strengthening fight against fraud in EU budget
The European Parliament today in Strasbourg adopted a report for a directive on combatting fraud against the EU's financial interests through criminal law (known as the 'PIF Directive').
Fraud and related illegal activities affecting the EU's financial interests are detrimental to the EU budget and therefore to taxpayers. The overall aim of the EU budget – improving living conditions and generating growth and jobs – is jeopardised if the money is misused.
The PIF report therefore aims to translate the existing Convention for the Protection of Financial Interests of the European Communities (which dates back to 1995) into EU law. The report establishes a clear set of criminal offences relating to this sort of fraud across the EU. The PIF Directive is also the first step towards the possible future establishment of a European Public Prosecutor. It defines the crimes for which the prosecutor would be responsible. Currently, different sanctions are imposed for fraud-related crimes in different EU countries.
Commenting on the adoption of the report, S&D MEP and vice-president Sylvie Guillaume said:
"I warmly welcome this report which seeks to harmonise certain criminal law measures to counteract fraud and fraud-related crimes across the EU, and will ensure effective, proportionate and dissuasive protection for the EU's financial interests.
"While we want to ensure a degree of harmonisation regarding such offences, it is important to maintain core principles of criminal law common to all member states, such as the principle of ne bis in idem (guaranteeing that no one shall be tried twice for the same offence)."
With regard to the provisions on VAT, S&D rapporteur and head of the Spanish S&D delegation, Juan Fernando López Aguilar concluded:
"I particularly welcome the inclusion of VAT fraud within the scope of the directive as VAT fraud is a significant factor in fraud against the EU's financial interests.
"It is important to recognise the expertise of EUROJUST (the EU's judicial co-operation unit) in this field and to make use of its potential to co-ordinate and facilitate cross-border prosecutions against such crimes.
"The differences which currently exist between the member states' legal frameworks for tackling and prosecuting fraud against the EU's financial interests provide incentives for potential criminal to seek out and take advantage of the most lenient judicial system."