Romania Faces Criticism From the European Commission for Failing to Uphold Rule of Law

Romania Faces Criticism From the European Commission for Failing to Uphold Rule of Law

The European Commission and the European Parliament have criticized Romania for “backsliding the rule of law.” On Friday, the Commission called on Bucharest to ensure Laura Koevesi, the country’s front-runner to become the EU’s first anti-fraud prosecutor, is treated fairly.

Last week has been a tough one for Romania, as the country faced tough criticism from both the European Commission and the European Parliament. According to a Reuters report from March 29, the Commission warned the country to respect the rule of law and ensure fair treatment for Laura Koevesi.

Margaritis Schinas, the Chief Spokesperson for the European Commission, expressed concern over Romania’s treatment of Koevesi, who served as the country’s chief prosecutor from 2013 to 2018. Koevesi is currently a front runner to head the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office, which will be tasked with investigating fraud, corruption, and organized crime across the EU.

Koevesi was arrested and indicted on Thursday and charged with corruption and abuse of power. According to Radio Free Europe, critics of Romania’s current leftist government say that Koevesi’s dismissal and the subsequent indictment was prompted by her prosecuting and indicting an unprecedented number of ministers and politicians. The list of high-level officials indicted by Koevesi also included Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), who was prevented from becoming the prime minister because of the conviction.

Following Koevesi’s dismissal, a controversial new panel was established and tasked with investigating magistrates. On March 29, the panel confirmed that Koevesi had been indicted on counts of “passive corruption, abuse of office, and false testimony.”

The panel, which is under the government’s direct supervision, said she had been placed under a measure known as judiciary control and banned from traveling abroad for 60 days. A travel ban will prevent Koevesi from taking part in further stages of the application, as candidates are required to attend the meetings in person.

“It is crucial that all candidates put forward by an independent selection panel are treated fairly in the course of this process,” commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a March 29 news briefing.

“We call on the Romanian government and on the Romanian authorities to fully respect the principle of sincere cooperation as enshrined in the treaty regarding the selection procedure of the European chief prosecutor,” Shinas said.

“All candidates need to be able to participate in all steps of the selection procedure, unhindered,” he added.

Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, also criticized Bucharest. “Concerned by news that Laura Codruţa Kovesi has been placed under judicial control. @Europarl_EN stands by its candidate for European Public Prosecutor. I’ll raise the issue at the EP group leaders’ meeting next Wednesday,” Tajani wrote on Twitter.

Manfred Weber, the leader of the main center-right alliance in the European Parliament, called Koevesi’s indictment “totally unacceptable” in Europe and “unprecedented” for an acting Council presidency. Romania currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union.

As Koevesi has said that she has been forbidden from talking to the media about the accusations against her, her lawyer said that she will be challenging the measures against her in Romania’s highest court. The Supreme Court is expected to decide on the case on April 3, Radio Free Europe reported.

(Banner image: U.S. Embassy Romania/Wikimedia Commons)

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