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Romanian government assailed from all sides, as Kovesi has interdiction to move lifted

Socialist boss Liviu Dragnea, prime minister Viorica Dăncilă and the senate chief and ALDE leader Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu (foto: fanatik.ro)

The Socialist-led Romanian governing coalition suffered a series of serious blows today in their efforts to gain total control over justice and to pass new emergency ordinances that would pardon a number of leading politicians with convictions for corruption, including the Socialist boss Liviu Dragnea.

First, the High Court of Cassation and Justice decided on Wednesday evening to allow Laura Codruţa Kovesi‘s appeal and decided to lift the judicial control measure ordered by the newly created and government-controlled Section for the Investigation of the Magistrates.

The much feared anti-corruption champion and candidate for the position of European Prosecutor, Codruta Kovesi, had been placed, on Thursday 28 March, under “judicial control”, after she has been indicted in two different criminal cases that seem trumped-up and do not stand serious scrutiny. 

 She is now free to travel abroad and appear in front of the EU institutions.

Also on Wednesday, ambassadors from 12 key Romanian allies and partners have called on the country’s government not to pass the new legislation pardoning corrupt politicians.

“We are deeply concerned about the integrity of Romania’s justice system, which has been buffeted by unpredictable modifications that do not further Romania’s efforts to consolidate judicial progress. To the contrary, the cumulative effect of these modifications carries the risk of slowing the fight against corruption and undermining judicial independence. We expect the reform process to be based on an inclusive approach, involving all stakeholders in broad consultations. That process is to be effectuated for the well-being of all Romanians. This also requires all parties involved to reconsider the feedback and offers of support provided by domestic and international legal experts, in order to avoid further marring the remarkable judicial progress Romania has made over the past two decades,” wrote the 12 ambassadors in their statement, issued on April 3.

They represent Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the US, that is practically the most important Western partners of Romania. Romania’s prime minister Viorica Dăncilă said that she would not allow any ambassador to set the government’s agenda. “They should show respect to Romania,” she said.

Separately on Wednesday, the European Commission also cautioned Romania not to pardon corrupt politicians. 

“I want to warn against any governmental action that would disrupt the Romanian judicial system by creating a systemic de facto impunity for high office holders who were sentenced for corruption,” Timmermans said. 

“Such a move would compel the Commission to act swiftly,” he said without specifying what the EU executive would do.

About Kovesi, the Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said:

“I have worked with her [Koevesi] and have done for four years. She’s a very good lawyer. A top quality lawyer, someone who I admire for her courage and with respect to the Commission’s position. We feel that it’s important that she be able to be a candidate so that the European institutions be in a position to take a decision in full knowledge of the candidates. And I have said that very clearly and directly to the Romanian authorities.”

Also on Wednesday, the speaker of the European Parliament, Antonio Tarjani, expressed concern over Bucharest’s decision to press charges against Romania’s former anti-corruption chief, Laura Codruta Kovesi, who is the chamber’s preferred candidate for EU chief prosecutor. 

Transparency International ranks Romania among the EU’s most corrupt states and Brussels, which keeps Romania’s justice system under special monitoring, has praised local magistrates for their efforts to curb graft.

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