The EU is set to press ahead with plans for its own prosecutor
In a humiliating snub for eurocrats the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Hungary and Malta all declared their intention to opt out of the contentious scheme which will hand Brussels sweeping new powers over the continent's legal system.
Defiant Swedish politicians told stunned officials "we don't need your help" and Holland raised concerns over sovereingty as yet another EU initiative looked set to descend into bickering and farce.
Malta and Hungary objected to the extra power the initiative would hand to Brussels over member states' tax affairs, whilst Poland said it believed the plan could ultimately lead to the creation of an EU superstate.
Earlier today bigwigs vowed to railroad through controversial plans to set up an EU-wide prosecutor's office despite fierce opposition from some member states.
A majority of European justice ministers called for "enhanced cooperation" between countries on cross-border crime, but critics argue the move is an unacceptable encroachment on sovereignty.
Plans for a European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) have been in the pipeline for a decade, but have proved highly contentious amongst member states.
Romanian eurocrat Vera Jourova called for the initiative to be up and running for 2018
Luxembourg's justice minister Felix Braz strongly backed the plan
Some are uneasy at the prospect of handing massive legal power over their own citizens' lives to Brussels, and feel the initiative undermines national governments.
Fears have also been raised that the centralised system will erode basic rights after a series of high-profile scandals concerning another Brussels justice initiative, the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).
European justice ministers met in the Maltese capital Valetta today to discuss the project, and have recommended that it now be debated by the full EU Council.
EU Commissioner Vera Jourova said: "We have some member states which still hesitate, so I am here to convince that we need a European Prosecutor's Office as an efficient and independent body.
"It seems to be the case that we will proceed towards the enhanced cooperation where as many member states as possible should be participating."
She added that she hopes a raft of measures set to be agreed by ministers today, which also include plans to allow Brussels to freeze the assets of terrorists, will be implemented "for 2018".
The people in Europe will not accept that we don't care about what is the use that is made of their money
Luxembourg's justice minister Felix Braz
In a press conference after the talks the Romanian eurocrat revealed that 17 member states have promised to join the EPPO, and rejected the objections of some countries insisting the prosecutor will not meddle in their affairs.
She said: "We need to fight against corruption, fraud, money laundering, we need to protect better the money of the European tax payers which has been collected under the European budget."
Before the meeting Luxembourg's justice minister Felix Braz agreed that an EU prosecutor should be set up despite opposition from some member states.
He said: "We know that we will probably not have unanimity, that's very clear right now but we should proceed with the procedure and we should also be willing to make an enhanced cooperation if there is no other way.
"But I hope that many countries will join. We have to care about what happens to taxpayers' money. The people in Europe will not accept that we don't care about what is the use that is made of their money."
Maltese justice minister Owen Bonnici confirmed that his country will be one of those refusing to participate in a future EPPO because of its ability to meddle in member states' tax affairs.
But he said he would champion its cause because Malta currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, and is duty bound to reflect the will of the majority of member states.
He said: "We are aware that there is no unanimity on this file but it doesn't mean that this European Prosecutor can't be created if enough number of member states would agree to start enhanced cooperation."
He added: "Malta forms part of a minority which will not join EPPO because of our position related to we believe that tax issues should be a full competence of national member states."
Blair and Juncker: Together through the years
Wed, January 25, 2017
Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair and President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker have always shared a friendly relationship over the years.
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EU Commission President Juncker greets former British PM Blair in Brussels
Britain, which has previously opposed the creation of a Brussels prosecutor, is being represented at the meeting by home secretary Amber Rudd.
The initiative is being set up ostensibly to tackle misuse of EU funds and fraud, and its judges would have the power to override national justice systems on certain issues.
But critics say the setting up of an EPPO is a key plank in the drive for a European superstate and is part of a wider plot to centralise all EU law, known as Corpus Juris.
Legal experts had previously warned Britain would be subject to the draconian system, despite supposedly having an opt-out, but that issue has been put to bed now that the country is leaving the EU.