Romania summons Kövesi in court in attempt to thwart her designation

A supporter of former chief prosecutor of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi holds a placard reading: 'Kovesi, do not surrender. You will prevail against the Mafia, We are on your side'. [Robert Ghement/EPA/EFE]

Romanian magistrate Laura Codruța Kövesi, a hot favourite to become the EU’s first-ever top prosecutor, is due to appear in court in Bucharest next week over allegations of corruption, media reports said Thursday (28 February).

Kövesi has been summoned for 7 March — the day when the European Parliament and member states are set to discuss the next steps in picking a leader for the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office, Romanian news agency Agerpres said Thursday.

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Kövesi is Romanian. But make no mistake, Romania is against her candidacy.

The former anti-graft chief has been locked in an escalating battle with Romania’s leftwing government, which accuses her of abuse of office and giving false testimony — charges she has rejected.

The rows have overshadowed Romania’s first-ever term as head of the rotating European Union presidency, with Bucharest making clear its opposition to Kövesi taking the job in Brussels.

Kovesi tells MEPs: I know you received negative information about me

Laura Codruţa Kövesi, the former chief of Romania’s anti-corruption agency (DNA) who is one of the three shortlisted candidates to become the EU’s first-ever chief prosecutor, emerged as the favourite after a hearing in the European Parliament on Tuesday (26 February).

The prosecutor’s office in Bucharest refused to confirm the report to AFP.

Kövesi had already appeared in court in February around the time when she was due in Brussels to present her candidacy for the top EU job.

She became a household name as head of Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), which she led from 2013 to 2018 before being controversially removed at the government’s behest.

Under her watch, hundreds of elected officials were convicted of corruption offences, earning her the enmity of many in Romania’s political class and criticism that she had overstepped her mandate.

However, many Romanians retain a positive view of her as a symbol of the fight to rid the country of endemic corruption.

Bucharest has sought to dissuade other EU countries from appointing the 45-year-old to lead the European prosecutor’s office, meant to be in place by the end of 2020.

Last week, member states seemed to heed the call and backed Kövesi’s French rival Francois Bohnert.

But on Wednesday, MEPs defied Bucharest and threw their support behind the Romanian magistrate.

MEPs support Kövesi for chief EU prosecutor, defying member states

The European Parliament chose Romania’s former anti-corruption chief Laura Codruţa Kövesi as its top pick for the EU’s first-ever chief prosecutor on Wednesday (27 February), setting itself on a collision course with the member states, which had opted for Kövesi’s French rival.

As a result, both sides will now need to find a compromise next week.

The European Public Prosecutors Office, first envisioned in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, will coordinate national law enforcement efforts with  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.

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