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14th Aug 2022

Romania abused rights of EU's top prosecutor, court finds

  • Laura Codruta Kovesi now heads the EU public prosecutor's office. (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU's top public prosector Laura Codruta Kovesi had her rights violated when she was fired from her previous post in Romania, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on Tuesday (5 May).

The verdict follows a long saga into Kovesi's role in weeding out corruption in her native Romania.

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The court said her right to a fair trial, and freedom of expression, had both been violated following her dismissal as Romania's anti-corruption chief in mid-2018.

"The Court found in particular that there had been no way for the applicant to bring a claim in court against her dismissal," according to the official statement.

Before later taking up her new job as the head of the European Public Prosecutors Office, the 46-year old spent five years as Romania's chief prosecutor at the country's National Anticorruption Directorate.

Her outspoken views and determination to tackle high-level corruption attracted powerful enemies.

Romania's government had other ideas to keep her quiet.

In early 2017 it tried to pass two decrees that would rollback Romania's recent anti-corruption efforts, but instead triggered massive street protests.

One set out to commute prison sentences, while the other decriminalised graft as long as the fraud was valued under €44,000.

The measures were designed to protect Romania's most powerful politicians, including the leader of the ruling Social Democrat Party Liviu Dragnea.

Dragnea was serving a suspended prison sentence for trying to rig an election in 2012.

He was also accused by the EU's anti-fraud office Olaf of stealing EU funds and creating an organised criminal group for his own personal gain.

Around a year later in February 2018, Romania's minister of justice had also weighed in and demanded Kovesi be removed from her post.

Romania's president refused but was then ordered in May of that year by the Constitutional Court to sign the decree for her dismissal.

That same month the European Commission threatened EU sanctions if Romania moved ahead to create "de facto impunity" for corrupt officials.

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans at the time accused Romania of "backtracking" in the fight against corruption.

Timmermans had taken issue with amendments made to the Romanian criminal code approved by the parliament a month before Romania's president refused to fire Kovesi.

She lost her job in July of 2018, lodging her complaint against the government with the European Court of Human Rights in December.

"The applicant did not submit a claim for just satisfaction and the Court considered that there was no call to award her any sum on that account," noted the Court.

With Kovesi gone, Liviu Dragnea once again made headlines after he convinced Romania's data protection authority to threaten a €20m fine against a group of investigative journalists.

The reporters had investigated connections between Romanian politicians such as Dragnea and Tel Drum, a Romanian company involved in large-scale fraud. Tel Drum was also behind the initial Olaf investigation linking Dragnea to EU fraud.

New EU public prosecutor has four staff for 3,000 cases

Laura Kovesi who heads the new European Public Prosecutor's Office, tasked to tackle fraud linked to VAT, money laundering, and corruption across the EU, warned she is dangerously understaffed and underfunded.

Romania 'using EU data protection law to silence journalists'

An award-winning journalism outlet in Romania is being threatened with fines by the country's data protection authorities - for having disclosed connections, on Facebook, of powerful politicians and a firm embroiled in scandal.

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Romania blasted over animal export conditions

Romania, EU's largest exporter of live farm animals to third-countries, gets singled out in the latest European Commission report for bad practices - following the drowning of more than 14,000 sheep last November.

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