Update 2 – Race for European Prosecutor: Kovesi gets most votes in EP’s LIBE and CONT committees, says the success is of all Romanians who support the rule of law

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Former National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) chief prosecutor Laura Codruta has received most votes in the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament on Wednesday, i.e. 26 votes, followed by Jean-François Bohnert – 22 votes and Andres Ritter – 1 vote.

The members of the LIBE Committee casted secret ballots at 12.00h, Bucharest time, to support the candidate for the European Prosecutor top position.

Laura Codruta Kovesi received 12 votes in the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT), which Tuesday evening voted for the position of Chief Prosecutor of the European Prosecutor’s Office. The second was Francois Bohnert (France) – 11 votes and Andres Ritter (Germany) received one vote.

The ballot is consultative, digi24.ro reports.

The European Parliament and the EU Council will appoint the European Chief Prosecutor by common agreement and the Conference of Presidents will be informed of the outcome of the hearings before its next meeting on March 7, 2019.

Kovesi: A vote for all Romanians who supported the anti-corruption fight

Kovesi has returned Wednesday afternoon to Bucharest, after the votes in the European Parliament.

“The vote was for all the citizens in Romania who have supported the fight against corruption and the rule of law, for all the prosecutors in Romania and in Europe who work under pressure. I am waiting for the decision from the European decision-makers.  I’ve applied for this procedure myself. I did not want, I did not ask for, I do not expect any support from the Government in Bucharest. (…) I am honoured with the vote today, but we have to wait for the decision to be made by the Council, which is a political decision. Thank you very much, the encouragements were very important,” Kovesi said when arriving at the airport.

She commented on the magistrates’ protests against GEO 7 on the laws of justice. “I stand beside my colleagues these days, as things happen these days for justice in Romania. It is very serious, my collegues have started protests, have suspended activity, they strongly fight against subordinating the judiciary to politics, against legal changes against European norms, which are against all the recommendations from GRECO and the Venice Commission,” the former DNA chief prosecutor said.

The three candidates

Laura Codruta Kovesi, Jean-Francois Bohnert and Andres Ritter were heard on Tuesday by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and by the Budgetary Control (CONT) for the position of European Chief Prosecutor.

During hearings in the CONT committee, while several foreign MEPs praised Kovesi, including her contender German Andres Ritter, Romanian MEPs, Maria Grapini, representing the S&D group and Catalin Ivan, independent, former S&D and former PSD member, have attacked the ex-chief prosecutor of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA), insisting on the charges against her regarding the secret protocols concluded by the DNA with the Romanian Intelligence Service and regarding the last file opened against her following Sebastian Ghita’s complaint.

However, Kovesi’s opening statement has been cheered by the committee’s members, who gave her a round of applause. The former DNA head told MEPs that although the foreign officials have been exposed to a lot of negative information about her, she has nothing to hide, while emphasizing her experience of working under pressure.

Before the hearing, Kovesi has been welcomed in front of the European Parliament by some tens of Romanians who applauded her and sent her messages of encouragement: “Good luck1”, “Fight, Codruta! Don’t give up!”, “Fight for Romania!”

Laura Codruța Kovesi has presented her activity in English, but mentioned that she would speak in Romanian when answering the MEPs questions, given the interest of many Romanians in these hearings.

Kovesi’s intervention

The 45-year-old Kovesi said she had been working as a prosecutor for 23 years, so, half of her life, and that she had held the highest positions in the Prosecutor’s Office in Romania, having been Prosecutor General for 6 years and anti-corruption chief prosecutor for 5 years. I would be honoured to continue the work of so many people, she said.

The former DNA chief argued that she can contribute to the new body of the European Prosecutor’s Office by her own example, as she has a long expertise in managing big teams and in taking strategic decisions. I am used to work in stress and under public pressure, she underlined.

Kovesi continued that recovering damages has been the most important mission for her, exemplifying that during her mandate at the DNA’s helm, the institution had seized assets worth over EUR 2 billion.

She further said that she set up joint working teams and cooperated with over 40 countries, while also seizing assets and bank accounts in other states.

She said she had identified different types of financial fraud and this can help her take strategic measures. Kovesi added that the prosecutor must observe the rule of law and have a strong moral compass so that the law can be observed and as well as the fundamental rights of those involved in investigations. She stressed that all EU prosecutors have one thing in common: an honest, independent justice against crimes.

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