A Romanian civic initiative offers a solution that would unblock the deadlock between the EU Parliament and the Council concerning the appointment of the next (and first) European Prosecutor: a petition started circulating, in French, Romanian and English, asking the French candidate Jean-François Bohnert to back off, a move that would automatically lead to the appointment of the Romanian candidate, the former chief anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruța Kövesi.
The EU wants to set up the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) next year to tackle graft, VAT fraud and other crimes involving the bloc’s multi-billion-euro joint budget, and Laura Codruta Kövesi is a frontrunner for the job.
During Kövesi’s five-year tenure as head of Romania’s DNA anti-corruption office, conviction rates for political graft jumped, drawing praise from the European Union, civil society groups and investors. But her EPPO bid is opposed by Romania’s ruling Social Democrats, who forced her out of the DNA last year.
The petition says in essence:
Dear Mr Bohnert,
I watched your hearing in the European Parliament with great attention and you convinced me. You are undoubtedly qualified for the position of Chief Prosecutor of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and your appointment would be a well-deserved victory for you and a crowning achievement of your career. Your appointment could also nourish the pride of the French people in their prestigious public service. Unfortunately, this appointment would also represent a victory for certain politicians and interest groups – for reasons contrary to the true aspirations and needs of European citizens.
In the procedure for the appointment of the Chief Prosecutor of the EPPO, these corrupt politicians voted for you, Mr Bohnert, but not for the right reasons. The Romanian politicians are not the only ones to have taken this approach – because the hope for a Europe without corruption that Ms Kövesi awakened in the Romanian people has spread in other countries. This hope has rightfully worried many other European politicians. As reported in the media in this context, the Bulgarian government is a good example in this respect, but there are also other governments led by people who tremble in the face of values such as honesty and the transparency of public spending. In the case of these governments, the vote cast in favour of your candidacy, Mr Bonhert, was not a vote in your favour, but against these values that I am convinced you share yourself. This is a tough reality that you must have the courage to face.
However, withdrawing from the race and thus supporting Ms Kövesi would constitute a clear gesture of professional solidarity and a strong signal that, in the EU, the body of prosecutors, so often subjected to unimaginable pressure, is capable of defending itself. /…/ Obviously, the decision is yours entirely and even if you decide to stay in the race, I am convinced that you will do so with the sincere wish to put your energy and your skills in the service of the citizens. If, however, you were to respond to this invitation favourably, this would nourish my hope, and certainly the hope of most Europeans, for a world where people are ready to put aside their own immediate interests to serve the general interest and the values at the core of the European project.
a European citizen
The petition can be signed here in three languages: French, English, Romanian.
As reminded in the petition, the Bulgarian government did indeed vote against Kövesi, as the Bulgarian MEP Peter Kouroumbashev confirmed in an interview with this blog.
While this might not suffice to convince the Frenchman to retreat from the race, given the intensity of the French government’s lobbying in his favour, it might still show the other governments that a large swath of Romanian citizens does not take at face value the assurances that the procedure or the nomination of the EU Prosecutor is free from political interference.
The Romanian government even tried to stop Kovesi from leaving the country, by placing her placed under “judicial control” (which was eventually lifted), after she has been indicted in two different criminal cases that seem trumped-up and do not stand serious scrutiny.
MEPs defied Bucharest and threw their support behind Kövesi, while a majority of member states are still backing Kovesi’s French rival Jean-François Bohnert.
A Laura Codruta Kövesi nomination as EU Prosecutor would be the Romanian Socialists’ worst nightmare, since she is familiar with the most important of their corruption dossiers, especially those concerning the boss of the party, Liviu Dragnea.
For the time being, chances are that the whole procedure will be adjourned until after the election of the new Parliament… when it might have to be started again from scratch.
On 04 April, the families of two murdered Slovak and Maltese journalists backed Kovesi’s bid to become the EU’s first fraud prosecutor – against the wishes of her country’s government.
In an open letter to the EU Council, the families of murdered journalists Jan Kuciak, from Slovakia, and Malta’s Daphne Caruana Galizia urged member states to choose the Romanian.
They called her “the bravest and most distinguished candidate … who has shown herself willing to bring charges forward when all other institutions within a member state have failed to act.
“…A collapse in the rule of law in our countries (…) led to the murders of our family members (…). De facto immunity from prosecution emboldened their murderers, who operated complex cross-border rackets that should fall under the EPPO’s mandate.”