Row over #Romania charges against former anti-corruption chief

| April 4, 2019

A furious row has flared after European Parliament president, Antonio Tajani, expressed concern over Romania pressing charges against the country’s former anti-corruption chief.

Laura Codruta Kovesi is the assembly’s preferred candidate for the new role of EU chief prosecutor but has proved a controversial choice, not least as she has now been indicted on corruption charges which means she cannot leave the country.

On Wednesday (3 March) the dispute over her selection flared again after comments Tajani  made at the plenary in Brussels.

The Italian said: “I wish to express all the concern of the European Parliament for the situation that has occurred.”

Romanian MEP Andi Cristea was among those who reacted bitterly to the comments by  Tajani.

He said:”EU leaders need to stop trying to put pressure on Romania’s justice system in the Kovesi case. This is totally inappropriate. As Parliaments President  Antonio Tajani should know, asking the government to intercede is asking the government to break Romanian law.”

In an interview, Cristea said: “Here we have an extraordinary situation in which the future chief prosecutor for the EU is being promoted by the EPP and appointed via the parliament for purely political reasons — something our Romanian government can’t do. And now they want our government to interfere in an ongoing investigation. That may be acceptable in Mr Tajani’s country. But it’s against the law and the constitution in Romania.”

In a statement, Romania Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă took Tajani to task over his comments. “I believe that no political decision-maker or decision-maker, even the President of the European Parliament, can ask for a criminal investigation to be started or stopped. We are asked not to intervene in the process of justice, and that seems to me correct, but European officials are asking us to stop criminal investigations.”

Meanwhile, the judges section of Romania’s Superior Council of Magistracy has issued an open letter castigating EU officials for their statements about the case. Under the heading “Open letter to defend the independence of the judiciary against the political pressures exerted on the national judge in court with Ms Laura Codruţa Kovesi,” the judges list a series of complaints about comments reportedly made by EPP president Manfred Weber, ALDE group chairman Guy Verhofstadt as well as Tajani.

The judges cite the EU Treaty as stating that: “In matters of judicial organization competence lies with states on the basis of the principle of decisional autonomy and the standards of an independent justice, both functional and personal for magistrates, must be respected.”

Based on this and on Romania’s constitutional guarantees of judicial independence, the judges state that “the statements and actions of some European officials, in an undisciplined way and outside their statutory resposibilities, have affected the independence of the judiciary in Romania in relation to a judicial procedure under way at the Criminal Section of the High Court of Cassation and Justice regarding Mrs. Laura Codruţa Kovesi.”

Tajani, an EPP member, was addressing a plenary session of the European Parliament after Bucharest filed charges against Laura Codruta Kovesi.

“Ms. Kovesi remains our candidate and continues to enjoy our respect and support,” he said, adding that he would write to the government in Bucharest on the matter.

Tajani also tweeted that he was: “Concerned by news that Laura Codruţa Kövesi has been placed under judicial control.”

 Parliament, he said, stands by its candidate for European Public Prosecutor, adding that he would “raise the issue at the EP group leaders’ meeting”.

The EU’s executive has also intervened on behalf of Kovesi and on Wednesday issued a warning to Romania, which the 28 member bloc fears is backtracking on anti-corruption reforms.

It is the latest intervention by Tajani on behalf of Kovesi.

Last Friday (29 March), Tajani  expressed concern about the situation, adding that Parliament “stands by its candidate” to head the European Prosecutor’s Office, which is a new office that will fight fraud.

Kovesi is the former head of the Romanian Anti-Corruption Agency (DNA) and the choice for the role of European Chief Prosecutor at the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

The list of candidates for the post also included: Jean-François Bohnert, an international prosecutor from France who help set-up Eurojust and Andrés Ritter a regional district chief prosecutor from Germany.

The new EU agency will tackle financial fraud across the European Union.Kovesi denies any wrongdoing.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, European Parliament, Romania