European Parliament backs former head of Romanian antigraft agency for European chief prosecutor role

European Parliament backs former head of Romanian antigraft agency for European chief prosecutor role
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest March 7, 2019

The European Parliament's Conference of Presidents endorsed the nomination of the former head of Romanian's National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), Laura Codruta Kovesi, for the role of European chief prosecutor, the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament announced on March 7.

The same day, Kovesi said she had been informed she was accused of having led an organised group of DNA prosecutors who sent an unnamed person to trial, reported. The statement was made by Kovesi after being heard by Romania’s special section for investigating magistrates for five hours. The special section for investigating magistrates had previously started another investigation into the former head of the DNA. Kovesi claims the investigations are intended to stop her from obtaining the European chief prosecutor job.

"The Romanian government, which is currently trying to pass laws to de-facto legalise corruption in the country for officials, is attempting to discredit Kovesi through the courts even today. Now, we call on EU member states to show that they are on the side of justice and not to bow to pressure from the Romanian government when it comes to the final selection for the European Chief Prosecutor," Ska Keller, president of the Greens, said in a statement.

The new European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) will be tasked with investigating and prosecuting corruption, cross-border VAT fraud and crimes against the EU budget. It will begin its work by the end of 2020.

At the end of February, the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament selected on Kovesi as their top candidate for the position of European chief prosecutor. The selection came despite harsh criticism from Romania’s ruling coalition who accuse Kovesi of abuse.

Kovesi was removed from the head of the DNA last year, after President Klaus Iohannis signed a decree dismissing her, as required by the Constitutional Court. The procedure to remove Kovesi was initiated in February 2018 by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader over alleged misconduct within the agency. After Iohannis refused to endorse the government’s request to dismiss Kovesi. Romania’s government appealed to the Constitutional Court, which ruled on May 30 that Iohannis should dismiss the head of the DNA. Kovesi has repeatedly rejected Toader's accusations, while Romania’s magistrates body, the CSM, issued a negative review of Toader’s request to dismiss her back in February.

Under Kovesi’s management, the DNA achieved important results in fighting corruption, indicting and sending to prison former MPs, ministers and mayors. In 2017 alone, the DNA sent to trial 997 defendants, including three ministers, a former head of the Chamber of Deputies, and six MPs. The number of cases completed by DNA prosecutors increased by 16.5% y/y to more than 3,800 in 2017. At the same time, the institution sent 189 people to trial for abuse of office.