Hungary’s opt-out of EPPO: It’s about sovereignty

While the fight against corruption is extremely important to us on both the national and European level, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office might just become another blackmail device in the hands of EU bureaucrats.

Following a ceremonial press conference on Tuesday in Luxembourg, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) began its first day in action. While according to Laura Codruța Kövesi, the official serving as the first European Chief Prosecutor, the establishment of EPPO is a “historical step in the fight for rule of law,” let’s first take a look at a few details.

In line with a preliminary ruling of the Hungarian National Assembly, the Hungarian government decided not to participate in the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, as well as the entire process surrounding it. We were not alone in this decision, as four other EU Member States — Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Sweden — also chose to stay away.

The issue with EPPO is, in fact, a matter of national sovereignty, as the document establishing the Prosecutor’s Office does not meet fundamental, professional requirements such as the right to national self-determination and full respect of the constitutional structure of Member States. What’s more, with the setup of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, it has become clear that Brussels (and in this case Luxembourg) is seeking to secure even more power over Member States.

In addition, the idea of EPPO as a joint, EU-level body is still raising some serious questions, including a good handful of unresolved problems and deficiencies. If we look at the overall picture, the rules of procedure and the organization’s operating structure remain chaotic and uncertain.

Despite our concerns, as always, Hungary is once again open to cooperation and partnership with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. The office of Hungary’s public prosecutor has, by the way, ahead of other dissenting EU members, already signed a working agreement with EPPO.

As an observer, Hungary will keep a close eye on the operation of EPPO in the upcoming period because we want to avoid a situation where the new office becomes simply another tool for blackmail in the hands of EU bureaucrats.

While Hungary is the EU’s committed ally in the struggle against corruption, we do not believe that the solution to the problem lies in the establishment of new institutions. There are other European entities that address corruption, including Eurojust and OLAF. In Hungary’s view, instead of setting up more institutions that may at some point violate Member States’ national sovereignty, we must try to improve the tools we already have.