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Laura Kovesi: Romania's ex-corruption chief speaks after EU public prosecutor support

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Laura Kovesi: Romania's ex-corruption chief speaks after EU public prosecutor support
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One of Romania best-known anti-corruption chiefs has been speaking to Euronews after being backed to be the EU’s first public prosecutor.

Laura Kovesi, who was sacked as the head of the country’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) last year, was backed by a majority of EU ambassadors in a secret ballot on Thursday.

Romania’s ruling Social Democrats (PSD) forced her out of the DNA post and Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă made it clear the government did not support Kovesi’s candidacy to head up the newly established European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Kovesi dedicated the support received from EU ambassadors to Romania’s justice system and all the people who support the fight against corruption.

“This decision is recognition of activities of the whole Romanian justice system,” she said.

“But also, in my view, it is equally the success of all the Romanians who in the recent years have supported the fight against corruption, defended the rule of law and the European values in difficult times despite the challenges and risks they had to take."

European Council

Kovesi has received the backing of MEPs and now EU ambassadors. The European Council is expected to confirm her in the post in the coming weeks.

“I don't think it's correct to make any comments before the final decision,” she added. “Yesterday was an important step, but it's not finalised."

She was also asked about suggestions Romania’s EU ambassador had voted against her.

"It's very difficult to comment on this moment as I do not have any official information, only the news I saw in the newspapers,” she said.

“I don't know how the Romanian ambassador voted. I am not sure, so I can not comment.

“For me, it was not so important, because I had the support of thousands and thousands of Romanian citizens. So I can say that Romania supported me. Romania is not just a vote of an ambassador."

Brussels says the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) will be able to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgment crimes against the EU budget, such as fraud, corruption or serious cross-border VAT fraud.

Crime-fighting

The agency, which aims to be up-and-running by next year, seeks to address shortcomings of the EU’s other crime-fighting agencies.

There is already the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which is the only agency that can independently investigate corruption involving EU money. But OLAF cannot launch prosecutions, it can only recommend national authorities to do so.

Twenty-two countries have signed up to the EPPO: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Kovesi won plaudits in other European capitals for her work at the DNA, which secured convictions against ministers, mayors and MPs.

One of Romania’s most high-profile politicians, Liviu Dragnea, who was head of PSD when Kovesi was forced out, was jailed in May for three-and-a-half years for corruption.

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