Negotiators from the European Parliament and EU member states agreed on Tuesday (24 September) to appoint Laura Codruţa Kövesi, the MEPs’ preferred candidate, as the first head of the newly-created EU Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).
A power struggle that had been raging since spring culminated yesterday with the decision to appoint Romania’s Kövesi as the first EU Chief Prosecutor.
In previous votes, the Council representing the EU’s 28 member states, had backed a French candidate, Jean-François Bohnert. But the Parliament ended up prevailing.
The new office will investigate crimes against the EU budget such as fraud, corruption or cross-border VAT fraud.
After the agreement with the Council negotiators on Tuesday evening, Civil Liberties Committee Chair Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) said: “Ms Kövesi is the perfect choice to become EU Chief Prosecutor. She has excellent professional competences. Moreover, Romania does not currently hold any key posts in the EU. She will be one of the strong women leading in the EU from now on.”
While it is true that Romania doesn’t hold any high posts in EU institutions, the Romanian social-democrat government strongly opposed the candidacy of Kövesi, who is seen as politically biased in her previous work as chief of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), a special prosecution unit specialized in investigating top-level corruption cases. This position has cast a shadow over the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU, in the first half of this year.
Kövesi, 46, was the first woman to become Romania’s general prosecutor as well as the youngest general prosecutor. In May 2013, she was appointed chief prosecutor of Romania’s DNA. Under her leadership, the service initiated hundreds of investigations targeting top officials.
In June 2014, DNA obtained a 4-year final jail conviction against former prime minister Adrian Nastase. Kövesi was dismissed from DNA’s helm in June 2018 following a request by former justice minister Tudorel Toader, after she opposed the Social Democratic Party’s initiatives to change sensitive legislation in the field of justice.
The PSD Government led by Viorica Dăncilă voted against Kövesi in the EU Council this spring.
The agreement to appoint Kövesi as Chief EU Prosecutor still needs to be formally approved by the Parliament and the Council, in what appears like a formality.
The EPPO, which is expected to be operational at the end of 2020, will be an independent office in charge of investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice crimes against the EU budget, such as fraud, corruption or cross-border VAT fraud above €10 million.
The list of crimes could be extended in the future to include, for example, terrorism.
So far, 22 member states have joined the EPPO. The five countries that currently do not participate – Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Ireland and Denmark – could join at any time.
The EPPO central office will be based in Luxembourg, along with the Chief Prosecutor and a College of Prosecutors from all participating countries. They will head the day-to-day criminal investigations carried out by the delegated prosecutors in all participating member states.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]