Romanian president approves hand-picked prosecutors

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Romania's president appointed six chief prosecutors and deputies yesterday (15 May) who had been hand-picked by the prime minister, defying the European Union, which had called for a transparent application process.

 

It has been especially keen that prosecutors should not be political appointees, but analysts said the appointments represented a compromise between Romania's fractious power-brokers.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta chose the candidates for the prosecutor general's office, the anti-corruption department and the organised crime unit last month without applications or interviews.

The Commission has widely praised previous prosecutors' work, which has led to the conviction of several high-level public officials including former prime minister Adrian N?stase.

But critics said some of the new appointees had political connections that would make it difficult for them to pursue the anti-corruption drive.

They have also expressed concern that Tiberiu Ni?u, the new head of Romania's prosecution office, was appointed after B?sescu rejected him for the post last year.

"I am convinced he can handle the position and that the judiciary will not collapse, nor will it be controlled politically," B?sescu said. "Those who believe we could have delayed the appointments further … are mistaken."

Meanwhile, the choice to appoint Brussels-praised former prosecutor-general Laura Codru?a Kövesi to head the anti-corruption unit was criticised by a group within Ponta's alliance.

At the time Ponta picked the team, an analyst said the nominations appeared to be aimed at easing tensions between and within political parties.

Ponta's coalition is a loose alliance of liberals and leftists, who have long been at loggerheads with the rightist president. The choice of candidates for the judicial post would have had to satisfy all sides.

"The appointments are the result of a political consensus, which was needed for anything to get done," said Sergiu Miscoiu, an analyst with the CESPRI political think tank.

"The changes at the anti-corruption unit are such that could [they] keep up the standards. The general prosecution appointments are the other side of the compromise, where there are … some legitimate concerns over management abilities."

Under Romanian law, the president appoints chief prosecutors nominated by the justice minister. Ponta was acting as interim justice chief at the time of the nominations.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU on 1 January 2007, but shortcomings in their programmes for judicial reform and the fight against corruption have raised concerns in Brussels. With Bulgaria, problems have also been identified in its fight against organised crime.

A Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) was set up to assist both countries with judiciary matters after their EU accession.

The European Commission expressed concern about the ongoing political infighting in Romania in its CVM report published last summer.

A report on 18 July 2012 questioned the country’s ability to comply with the EU's fundamental principles on the sustainability and irreversibility of reform. Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that the political feuds in Romania had "shaken [the] EU's trust" in the country.

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