Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Romanian prosecutor fights back critics for EU top job

  • Budget control committee backs ex Romania's anti-graft chief as European Public Prosecutor's Office (Photo: European Parliament)

Romania's former anti-corruption chief fought back against critics during a hearing on Tuesday (26 February) with MEPs for the EU's new top prosecutor job.

Romania's current government has lobbied hard against her, after the anti-corruption office she led for five years helped convict high-level politicians, while her supporters regard Laura Codruta Kovesi as a heroine for fighting corruption in a country marred by graft.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Laura Codruta Kovesi is the former chief prosecutor of Romania’s anti-corruption agency (Photo: Helga Stevens)

"I am aware that you have been exposed to a lot of negative info about me, I have absolutely nothing to hide," Kovesi told MEPs on Tuesday.

Kovesi told European lawmakers that a prosecutor must be the "servant of the rule of law" and have a strong "moral compass".

"I was independent. My results are speaking for me. We investigated members of different parties. We investigated people that have important positions, wealth. Independence was provided by law. Now, there are attempts to limit our independence," she told MEPs.

Kovesi added that under her leadership Romania's anti-corruption department (DNA) investigated 2,000 cases annually involving fraud of EU funds, and more than 1,000 people have been sent in front of a judge, with 900 sentenced. "More than 60 of them were high-level officials," she added.

The Romanian candidate for the new position of EU chief prosecutor was backed by the budget control committee after the hearing. Their decision is only advisory, MEPs from the civil liberties committee will vote on their preferred candidate on Wednesday.

The EU parliament and member states will have to decide together on the post eventually, which may result in lengthy negotiations if the two institutions put forward different names.

After heavy campaigning by the Romanian government against Kovesi, member states voted to put the French candidate Jean-Francois Bohnert in pole position, Kovesi and the third candidate, Andres Ritter from Germany, received an equal number of votes each.

Ahead of the member states' vote, a separate expert panel put Kovesi first.

At Tuesday's hearing Bohnert, who also has extensive experience as a prosecutor and participating in the setting up of Eurojust (an EU agency dealing with judicial cooperation), told lawmakers that efficiently fighting criminality and corruption, the new chief prosecutor's office could be a new tool for democratic trust in the EU.

Asked how would he deal with member states where EU funds' fraud is systemic, he said the prosecutor is not there to "name and shame" member states, and that corruption is present in every member states, and it needs to be investigated.

Some MEPs praised Kovesi, who was removed as the chief anti-corruption prosecutor in Bucharest last year after political pressure, for her resilience.

Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola from the centre-right European People's Party thanked Kovesi for her "dignified courage that inspired people across our continent".

Green MEP Eva Joly from France said: "I am proud of seeing her here despite the terrible campaign that her government started against her. We don't believe what is said. I know what is happening."

The new EU chief prosecutor position is to be set up by the end of 2020, with the participation of 22 of the 28 member states. Its job will be to fight crimes related to the EU budget, including fraud and money laundering.

It would give a boost to the EU in prosecuting misuse of funds, the task of the EU's anti-fraud agency, OLAF which cannot prosecute wrong-doings.

The Romanian government, which holds the EU presidency, has been criticised by the EU commission for backtracking on the fight against corruption. The Socialist-led government had accused Kovesi of abusing her office, which she denies.

Over the weekend, thousands of Romanians demonstrated to protest the government's efforts to weaken the rule of law.

Romanian candidate faces battle for EU prosecutor job

After member states voted for their preferred candidates for the EU's new top prosecutor, MEPs will now hear from the candidates. Romania's former chief prosecutor was the frontrunner - until her own country started to campaign against her.

EU warns Romania over corruption amnesty

Juncker warned Romania's government not to move ahead with plans to grant amnesty for corruption, as more than 200 EU laws await decisions during Bucharest's presidency.

Romania mired in corruption woes as presidency begins

With the country's de facto leader filing a lawsuit at the EU's top court over report accusing him of corruption, and concerns of the country's rule of law, Romania's EU presidency kicked off in Bucharest to a rocky start.

Agenda

Brexit no-deal and chief prosecutor top This WEEK

No-deal Brexit has become more likely than ever before, and EU leaders will start preparations for it as the drama continues in London. Negotiations also continue over the candidates for the EU's new top prosecutor.

News in Brief

  1. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  2. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown
  3. Nato rings alarm on Gulf 'escalation'
  4. Luxembourg mockery of British leader sparks 'anger'
  5. Majority of Belgians against excluding Vlaams Belang
  6. Greece: time for EU to step up on migration
  7. Germany prepared to top up post-Brexit EU budget
  8. New Saudi attack threats, but EU and US still divided

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  2. Trumpworld In Europe
  3. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  4. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  5. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  6. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  7. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated
  8. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us