Saturday, October 31, 2020

Romania anti-corruption chief gets the nod as EU’s top prosecutor

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Laura Codruta Kovesi, Romania’s former anti-corruption chief, looks set to become the EU’s top prosecutor, despite opposition from her own government.

Ms Kovesi gained the backing of most member states to head the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday.

A European Council vote is expected to confirm her appointment within weeks.

The 46-year-old became a thorn in the side of Romania’s political class while leading the country’s powerful Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA).

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Ms Kovesi took charge of the DNA in 2013 and in the years that followed, conviction rates rose sharply in one of the EU’s most corrupt countries.

Then, in July last year, she was sacked by the Romanian government.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Ms Kovesi said the development was “an important step”, but added: “We will have to wait for the official decision.”

The European Council, which has previously backed Ms Kovesi’s appointment to the new role, is expected to vote in her favour.

Her government’s deadly enemy

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A talented basketball player in her youth, Ms Kovesi became a general prosecutor at just 36.

During her five years as anti-corruption chief, she put 68 high-level functionaries on trial, including 14 government ministers or ex-ministers and 53 deputies from both houses of the Romanian parliament.

By the time she was forced out of the job by the governing Social Democrats (PSD), 37 of those politicians had already been convicted, and most of the other cases were ongoing.

The PSD consider her their enemy, even though public officials from all parties were prosecuted.

Eventually, after a long battle, the government forced the president to fire her.

Ms Kovesi stood accused of abusing her office and over-use of wire-tapping facilities from the secret services; her district prosecutors were accused of pressuring witnesses.

A fraud inquiry was launched against her, which she dismissed as part of a smear campaign.

Ms Kovesi’s ascent to head the EU’s new prosecutors’ office has been meteoric, but not without controversy. Loved by European liberals, she is hated by some of Europe’s most authoritarian governments, including Hungary’s nationalist ruling Fidesz party.

Her new office will place her at the centre of disputes about the future reach of the EU.

“I will not answer to the critics. I will answer to the citizens,” she said in a 2017 BBC interview.

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