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Fight against fraud

The fight against fraud and corruption is based on Article 325 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), requiring the European Parliament and the Council to adopt the necessary measures in the fight against fraud affecting the EU’s financial interests.

The European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) was set up in 1999 under Decision 1999/352/EC, ECSC, Euratom and its powers and competences are defined by Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 883/2013.

OLAF’s main objectives are:

  • to protect the financial interests of the EU by investigating fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities;
  • to detect and investigate serious misconduct by EU staff, which could result in disciplinary or criminal proceedings;
  • to provide assistance to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office; and
  • to support the EU institutions and national governments in developing and implementing anti-fraud legislation and policies.

In the exercise of its powers, OLAF conducts (administrative) external investigations in the EU Member States and internal investigations within the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and recommends action (where necessary) to the EU institutions and national governments concerned. As a result of OLAF’s investigative work, sums unduly spent are gradually returned to the EU budget, criminals face prosecution before national courts and better anti-fraud safeguards are put in place throughout Europe.

On the basis of Part Three, Title V, Chapters 4 and 5 of the TFEU, which deal with police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, Eurojust and Europol have the power to support Member States in the fight against fraud and corruption by providing complementary support to national authorities during transnational criminal investigations.

In 2017, under the enhanced cooperation procedure, 22 of the 27 Member States established an independent and decentralised prosecution office of the EU. Set up under Regulation (EU) 2017/1939, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office has the competence to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgment crimes against the EU’s financial interests.

Since 2019, common EU rules introduced by Directive (EU) 2017/1371 came into force to fight crime affecting the EU budget and to better protect the EU’s financial interests by harmonising the definitions, sanctions and limitation periods of certain criminal offences affecting those interests.

Under the EU’s long-term budget (multiannual financial framework) for the period 2021-2027, an allocation of €181 million will be available to support Member States’ efforts to fight fraud, corruption and other irregularities affecting the EU budget.