The European Council on Monday gave the green light to the appointment of Laura Codruta Kovesi as the first European chief prosecutor. The development marks the end of a long and difficult road for the Romanian prosecutor whose own government tried to block her appointment.
The outgoing government of Viorica Dancila manoeuvred her dismissal in July 2018 when then-Justice Minister Tudorel Toader published a 20-point report accusing her of overstepping her authority and of pursuing cases with high-level media impact.
But she earned praise from the EU, the U.S. State Department, President Klaus Iohannis and thousands of ordinary Romanians for her tough approach to high-level graft.
The appointment must now also be confirmed by the European Parliament, but that’s considered a formality as the European Parliament has already let the Council know that Kovesi, 46, is their preferred candidate.
Kovesi became Romania’s first-ever female prosecutor-general in 2006 at age 33 and served two terms in office. But she made her name after her 2013 appointment to chief prosecutor of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA).
The softly-spoken but resilient former basketball player oversaw the successful prosecution of sixty-eight high-level functionaries, including 14 ministers, 39 deputies, 14 senators, and one European Parliament lawmaker. Among those was a sitting prime minister, ex-Premier Victor Ponta, who was eventually acquitted, and a former prime minister.
Under Kovesi’s supervision, she says some 1,000 people were sent to trial and about 900 people were convicted by courts every year.
But she drew the ire of the Social Democrats who began to dismantle anti-graft legislation in 2017 after they won elections. The move led to the biggest street protests since the collapse of communism.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office will be an independent body, responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the EU’s financial interests, such as fraud, corruption, cross-border VAT fraud which is higher than 10 million euros.
The unit will undertake investigations and carry out prosecutions and exercise the functions of prosecutor in the competent courts of the member states.
Kovesi will have the task of setting up the EPPO from scratch. Her job during her seven-year mandate will focus on building the administrative and operational structure of the office and establishing good working relations with national judicial authorities.
The office will be based in Luxembourg and become operational by Nov. 2020.