President Levits, Prime Minister Karins, Minister Bordāns, Prosecutor General Stukāns, distinguished guests,
I am delighted to launch the OECD Report Performance of the Prosecution Services in Latvia: A Comparative Study. I would like to thank Prosecutor General Stukāns and former Prosecutor General Kalnmeiers for the excellent support of their teams during the preparation of this study. I also thank the State Audit Office for the opportunity to present this Report alongside theirs. The study has also benefited from the engagement of peers in ten OECD countries, whom I would like to thank for their valuable insights.
The OECD was born as part of a broader effort to entrench a rules-based international order to promote global economic development and improve people’s well-being. Effective justice institutions, including prosecutors, help to underpin that order, by providing for law-based economic activity, including international trade and investment. They also protect society from a culture of impunity and foster trust. This is essential now, as we seek to build back better in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
In Latvia, the OECD 2019 Economic Survey showed that economic crimes are holding back access to credit, to training and to social protection. Systemic abuse of otherwise legitimate financial avenues can threaten inclusive growth, and undermine the rule of law. Strengthening the justice sector capacity is thus crucial to overcome this challenge and develop an inclusive recovery.
Thus, Latvia has launched an ambitious agenda to strengthen its criminal justice system and improve its prosecution practices. Parliament has recognised the threat of economic and financial crimes as a growing vulnerability to the economy. The Prosecutor General has also identified effective performance as a priority of his mandate.
The Report we are launching today makes several policy recommendations to support these objectives, drawing on the experience of the OECD benchmarking countries. Let me underline three key messages:
First, the need to focus on improving the prosecution service’s performance. The Report calls for embedding strategic management tools into prosecution services, especially planning, monitoring and evaluation. This could enable stronger accountability of the prosecution service both to Parliament as well as to the general public, without affecting its crucial independence. The Report also calls for strengthening cooperation across the different actors of Latvia’s criminal justice system, particularly prosecutors and investigators during the pre-trial investigation stage.
Second, Latvia should improve the capacity of its criminal justice system to prosecute complex crimes. Strengthening prosecutors’ training and specialisation in financial, economic and anti-corruption crimes is a first step in this direction. Moreover, efficiency can be increased via simplified procedures and standardisation of processes.
And third, a comprehensive integrity strategy that addresses the risks of corruption in the justice system should be developed. As part of this strategy, the Prosecutor General’s Office could consider establishing an integrity office, scaling up guidance and training on integrity issues and promoting a true culture of public integrity.
Financial and economic crime is a moving target of ever-growing complexity and sophistication. This challenge requires new thinking and a whole-of-justice approach. While prosecution practices are essential, we should not lose sight of the importance of strengthening the overall legal system and ensuring cooperation across the criminal justice chain. It is crucial to build on the current momentum and implement reforms that will strengthen the Latvian criminal justice system. The OECD stands ready to support your efforts to build back better, and to advance our collaboration and friendship.