The EU is set to press ahead with plans for its own prosecutor
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.
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).
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
European justice ministers are meeting in the Maltese capital Valetta today to discuss the project, and are expected to recommend that it be voted on 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
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.