The decision to place the former National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi under judicial control amid the negotiation process for the office of Chief European Prosecutor has sparked harsh criticism from the European Commission and numerous MEPs, but also from the United States Embassy to Romania The criticism levelled against the Government is some of the harshest.
EC closely following probe against former DNA Chief: Gov’t shouldn’t block the selection of the Chief European Prosecutor
The European Commission is asking the Romanian Government and Romanian authorities to respect the principle of loyal cooperation in what concerns the selection procedure for the Chief European Prosecutor, and reminds that the CVM report raised concerns regarding the Special Section for Investigating Magistrates, which has placed Laura Codruta Kovesi under judicial control and has imposed a series of interdictions on her.
“Even though we cannot comment on national procedures, the European Commission is closely following the developments, against the backdrop of the selection procedure for the European Prosecutor. It is crucial for all selected candidates to be treated fairly within this process. Hence, the European Commission calls on the Romanian Government and Romanian authorities to fully respect the principle of loyal cooperation, enshrined by the treaty, in what concerns the procedure to select the Chief European Prosecutor.
“All candidates must be able to take part, unhindered, in all the stages of this selection process. If you recall, the European Commission has already pointed out, in the latest CVM report, the serious concerns we have regarding the Special Section for Investigating Magistrates,” European Commission Spokesman Margaritis Schinas stated, pointing out that this is also the position of European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
Manfred Weber on Kovesi case: This is completely unacceptable in Europe
Manfred Weber, the leader of the European Parliament’s EPP group, is very concerned about information regarding the legal procedures taken against Laura Codruta Kovesi, which he deems completely unacceptable and unprecedented.
“I am very concerned about the media reports on the legal proceedings against Laura Kovesi, the European parliament candidate to become EU Public Prosecutor. This is totally unacceptable in Europe and unprecedented for an acting Council presidency of the EU,” Manfred Weber writes on Twitter.
He calls on the other Council members to speak out against this action and asks the European Commission to guarantee that this selection procedure is fair and independent.
“I appeal to the other Council members to speak out against this and the European Commission to guarantee that this selection procedure is fair and independent. We expect a strong reaction from the responsible Commission Vice-President, Timmermans,” Weber wrote.
He warns that if the probe against Kovesi is not stopped, the EPP will ask for a debate in the next plenary session of the European Parliament and calls on the Council of the EU to intervene and the European Commission to offer guarantees that the procedure to select the Chief European Prosecutor is fair and independent. Likewise, Weber asks that the probe be stopped, and calls on the PES and ALDE to intervene against their sister parties in the Romanian Government.
“If the legal proceedings against Ms Kövesi are not undone, we will ask for a debate in the next plenary session of the European Parliament. We also urgently call on the PES and ALDE to speak out against their sister parties in the Romanian government,” Weber concluded.
EP continues to support Kovesi. Tajani: The fact she was placed under judicial control concerns me
Laura Codruta Kovesi’s bid to become Chief European Prosecutor continues to enjoy the European Parliament’s support, EP President Antonio Tajani announced on Friday on Twitter.
“Concerned by news that Laura Codruţa Kövesi has been placed under judicial control. European Parliament stands by its candidate for European Public Prosecutor. I’ll raise the issue at the EP group leaders’ meeting next Wednesday,” Antonio Tajani wrote on Twitter.
One vehement reaction came from Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, member of the Greens group, Deputy Chair of the LIBE Committee and member of the EP’s negotiation commission alongside Ingeborg Grassle and Claude Moraes.
“All the more reasons to appoint Ms Kovesi as the first European Public Prosecutor. Next week third round of talks with the Council,” Judith Sargentini tweeted after the former DNA Chief Prosecutor was placed under judicial control.
Sargentini drafted the report that led to the triggering of Article 7 against Hungary, due to the Orban Government’s backsliding from the rule of law.
Socialist Ana Gomes was even more vehement. In a tweet, she explicitly mentioned who she considered guilty for what is happening to Codruta Kovesi:
“A cheap despicable trick by current corrupt leadership of LiviuDragnea & his puppet PM. A stupid one too: it may well backfire. PES_PSE & TheProgressives hear and do what Swedish SocialDemocrats recommend on PSD Romania.”
Ska Keller, alternate member of the LIBE Committee and Greens candidate in the EP elections was just as revolted.
“This is extremely worrying and dubious: Romania formed a new judicial unit under governmental control, going against the separation of powers. Now this unit indicts EPPO candidate Kovesi. Romania must guarantee full transparency!”, Ska Keller posted on Twitter.
Renate Weber on criticism expressed by European leaders in Kovesi case: I was surprised. It’s unprecedented
ALDE MEP Renate Weber stated on Saturday, in Sibiu, that she was surprised by the reactions of the European leaders who criticised the judicial control measure taken in Laura Codruta Kovesi’s case, even though the situation is “unprecedented.”
Asked by MEDIAFAX what she thinks about the European leaders’ reactions after former DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi was placed under judicial control, ALDE MEP Renate Weber said that she is “surprised.”
“I have seen some positions, expressed by the EPP leader of the European Parliament but also by the leader of the European Parliament’s ALDE. I confess I was surprised, because I always saw them being very reserved when it came to the judicial system, in the sense that we do not interfere in what investigations and the carrying out of the act of justice as such mean in a country. At most, you can ask, when something grave is happening – as was the Malta case, the Slovakia case, when journalists were killed –, you can ask the authorities to identify the aggressors, which hasn’t happened after 3 years, but you cannot intervene in order to stop an ongoing investigation, it’s not normal,” Renate Weber said.
According to her, next week there will be discussions within the political groups and the plenum of the European Parliament, but it is not yet known whether the former DNA Chief Prosecutor’s situation will be included on the order of business.
“Of course, it’s an unprecedented situation. In fact, it is also the first time we have a selection for the chief prosecutor of a newly-established institution,” Weber said.
Likewise, asked whether Laura Codruta Kovesi’s chances to become European prosecutor have dropped, Renate Weber said: “I don’t think so. I believe some may consider she has more chances now because she is a victim. That’s how the discussions went when I watched Ms Kovesi’s presentation and hearing within the LIBE Committee. There were colleagues who stated this, that she is a victim of her own actions. I don’t believe she has lost some of her chances, but we will see what happens.”
Vosganian, message for Kovesi’s supporters: Why weren’t you outraged when it was proven that some DNA probes were set-ups?
ALDE Vice President Varujan Vosganian wondered why the MEPs and protesters who issued messages of support for former DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi were not outraged when it came to the probes against Tiberiu Nitu or Toni Grebla, which turned out to be set-ups.
“I have a question, esteemed European parliamentarians and local protesters who express your outrage and issue messages of support for the former head of the DNA: Why weren’t you outraged and why didn’t you send messages of support to Prosecutor General Tiberiu Nitu when he was investigated by the DNA? Tiberiu Nitu resigned, and it turned out that the probe was a set-up. Why weren’t you outraged and why didn’t you send messages of support to Constitutional Court Judge Tobi Grebla when he was investigated by the DNA? Toni Grebla resigned, and it turned out, once again, that the investigation was a set-up,” Varujan Vosganian wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
“Those who stage set-ups and destroy some people’s careers must be supported and eulogised, while the victims must be insulted and despised, is that it?” the ALDE Spokesperson added.
Former PM Nastase: European right-wing prefers someone who can be manoeuvred
Referring to the European officials’ support for Laura Codruta Kovesi, ex-Premier Adrian Nastase has stated that she is preferred at the helm of the EU’s Public Prosecutor Office because she is rendered vulnerable in Romania and can be manoeuvred by the European right-wing.
“Take a look at the European right-wing’s position on Yulia Timoshenko and you will see how biased these positions are for someone accused of taking huge bribes, in cahoots with all sorts of companies from Russia, and who then became a heroine of Kiev’s Maidan and is now running in the presidential elections in Ukraine. It’s the same mechanism of support for persons who can be manoeuvred in the European right-wing’s great game at this moment, and that is why they prefer someone who is already rendered vulnerable in Romania – by all the criticism regarding the abuses made – and who has these frustrations vis-à-vis what is happening to her in Romania, [because] she will be easy to manoeuvre at European level. Because, obviously, the same could not be done with the French candidate,” Adrian Nastase stated on Sunday on Antena3.
The ex-Premier added that Romania risks “falling between the chairs” and being naïve in the game of arranging the spheres of influence at the level of the EU.
“This is the stake after all, and we are talking about games that go beyond Romania, when all of Europe is simmering. Look at what is happening in London, Paris, in Germany etc. And we risk falling once again between the chairs the moment we will accept once again to be naïve in this game of arranging the spheres of influence, and at a time when things are indeed going, unfortunately, in a very bad direction in Europe. This is, in fact, the big problem with these elections. Why this stubbornness at the level of the European Parliament’s political parties, especially at the level of the right-wing ones? Because they need someone who would continue to tenderise the Eastern European countries, to hit them over the fingers, in the context in which the battle over financial resources will resume after the United Kingdom leaves the EU,” Nastase concluded.
Former DNA head challenges with Supreme Court the judicial control measure
On Thursday, Laura Codruta Kovesi was placed under judicial control by prosecutors of the Judiciary Crime Investigation Section (SIIJ) in the file in which she is accused of abuse of office, bribery and false testimony in connection with the extradition of disgraced businessman Nicolae Popa, manager of a bankrupted National Investment Fund (FNI), amid the EP and Council of the EU’s process of negotiation for the office of Chief European Prosecutor, a process whose next stages will take place on April 4 and 10.
Kovesi is under several bans, she is not allowed to leave the country and talk to the press about the case she is being investigated in. She cannot work as a prosecutor at the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Laura Codruta Kovesi was heard on Thursday, more than six hours, at the SIIJ, and said she was forbidden to talk to the press, considering that this was a measure of “muzzling her.”
The case in which Laura Codruta Kovesi is accused was opened in December 2018 following a complaint by former deputy Sebastian Ghita who had fled to Serbia after being indicted in several corruption cases. Ghita claims that in 2011 Kovesi asked him to pay 200,000 euro for bringing disgraced trust fund manager Nicolae Popa, internationally wanted back then, from Indonesia on a flight.
Prosecutors with the Judiciary Crime Investigation Section (SIIJ) claim that Laura Codruta Kovesi asked for and received in 2011 268,689 lei from businessman Sebastian Ghita in connection with the extradition of Nicolae Popa.
Former DNA head tabled on Friday an appeal with the High Court of Cassation and Justice against the measure of judicial review ordered against her by the prosecutors of the Judiciary Crime Investigation Section, in the file in which she is accused of service abuse, bribery, and false testimony in connection with the extradition of disgraced businessman Nicolae Popa, manager of a bankrupted National Investment Fund (FNI).
For the time being, the Supreme Court has not set a deadline for judging the appeal.
“We are very concerned about information that Laura Codruta Kovesi has been placed under judicial control, forbidden from travelling outside Romania and speaking to the press. These actions infringe upon democratic principles and seem to take the form of judicial harassment,” the U.S. Embassy states, according to HotNews.ro.
Protest in University Square against Gov’t and supporting former DNA head Kovesi
Some hundred persons protested on Saturday evening in the University Square against the ruling coalition and in support of former National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) chief Laura Codruta Kovesi.
Most protesters were on the sidewalk and in the park in front of the National Theatre. They chanted “Thieves!,” “Resign!,” “Justice, not corruption,” “10 August,” “PSD, the red plague,” “Romania, wake up!.” Furthermore, the participants in the protest displayed placards with messages such as “All for justice” or “Codruta, don’t forget, the street is on your side.”
The protesters also waved tricolour flags and a big EU flag was unfolded on the pavement.
Traffic in the area was normal and Gendarmerie teams were present on site.
Kovesi on bid to European Prosecutor’s Office: We’ll see influence of events on negotiations
Former Romania’s chief anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi on Monday morning reported to Bucharest Police Precinct 18 to sign for court supervision in a court case in which she is accused of abuse of office, bribe taking and false testimony related to the repatriation of controversial former chief investor Nicolae Popa.
Asked by journalists about her chances of becoming the head of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, given that she is not allowed to leave the country, Kovesi said that she cannot say for the moment how the latest measures against her will influence the outcome of the vote for the offfice.
“We will see; I do not know what will be considered when negotiating, we will see what the decision will be, how much the negotiations have been influenced by the events of late. It is hard to say now what will happen one way or another,” Kovesi said.
She added she would like to continue to work at Romania’s Public Prosecutor’s Office.