Parliament to audition the three candidates for EU chief prosecutor

File photo. Laura Codruta Kovesi (C), 45, former chief prosecutor of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (DNA), exits from the Prosecutor's Office headquarters after being informed about the reasons she will be investigated for, in Bucharest, Romania, 15 February 2019. [Robert Ghement/EPA/EFE]

MEPs from the relevant European Parliament Committees will audition on Tuesday (26 February) the three candidates for the position of the first-ever chief prosecutor of the European Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

The European Public Prosecutors Office, first envisioned in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, will coordinate national law enforcement efforts with the European police and law agencies Europol and Eurojust, as well as the EU anti-fraud office OLAF.

The prosecutor will have the power to coordinate police investigations, freeze and seize assets, and arrest suspects across borders.

European Union to get a single public prosecutor

A Luxembourg-based chief prosecutor, first envisioned in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, will start work next year after getting final approval from the European Parliament today.

The most publicised figure among the candidates is Laura Codruţa Kövesi, the former chief prosecutor of Romania’s anti-corruption agency (DNA). The hype behind her candidacy is due to the fact that the entire Romanian government and MEPs from the ruling coalition are mobilised against her bid.

As chief of DNA, Kövesi has been acclaimed in Brussels and in EU capitals, but not in her home country, where the ruling social-democrats (PSD) obtained her removal from office last July.

Romania's president removes chief anti-corruption prosecutor

Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis sacked chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruța Kövesi on Monday (9 July) to honour a constitutional court ruling which Kövesi said may leave prosecutors exposed to political interference.

Kövesi has led the DNA anti-corruption agency since 2013 and, under her management, convictions of high-level officials have risen sharply. However, PSD claims her work was politically motivated and amounted to witch-hunt.

The two other shortlisted candidates are Jean-François Bohnert from France and Andres Ritter from Germany. The initial number of applicants was 24.

Last week, a secret vote on the three candidates took place at a Council level, at a meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee of the European Union – COREPER, where the ambassadors of the EU countries sit. According to diplomatic sources, COREPER gave Bohnert 50 votes, while Kövesi and Ritter obtained 29 votes each.

The European Parliament’s press office has informed that Tuesday’s public hearing is organised by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) with the participation of the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT). Each candidate will be auditioned for 75 minutes, two-thirds of the time being dedicated to Q&A.

No decision is expected on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the LIBE Coordinators will hold a meeting for deliberations on the candidates’ performance. A single candidate will be proposed to the vote of the European Parliament plenary, which will make the decision by absolute majority.

If the European Parliament and the EU Council would differ on the candidate to be appointed, the process of selection would be continued, although the details are not clear.

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