Romanian politicians wrangle over appointments for country’s top prosecutors

Romanian politicians wrangle over appointments for country’s top prosecutors

 

By Daniel Stroe -Bucharest

Romanian politicians have been embroiled for months in a dispute over the nominations for the heads of the country’s General Prosecutor’s Office and the National Anti-Corruption Department (DNA), two key positions in the Romanian justice system and vital for the country’s anti-corruption efforts, especially amid its drive to join the Schengen area.

The bone of contention is the top job for DNA, an institution which has been praised by the European Commission for solid progress in the fight against corruption, a scourge which still plagues Romania and which remains a central element in the Mechanism of Cooperation and Verification (MCV), the means through which Brussels has monitored progress in the field of justice and home affairs in Romania and Bulgaria since the two joined EU in 2007.

President Traian Basescu supports former country’s prosecutor-general Laura Codruta Kovesi for the position of head of DNA. But Kovesi’s nomination has irked the ruling social-liberal coalition (USL), Basescu’s political rivals, after one of the coalition’s leaders, Crin Antonescu, speaker of the Senate and head of the Liberal Party, voiced dissatisfaction at her nomination. He pointed out Kovesi is wanted for the top job at DNA only because of foreign pressure.

But today, PM Victor Ponta, the head of the Social-Democrat Party (PSD), the other and main party of the ruling coalition, said he agree with Kovesi’s nomination, a move which could trouble water in USL. But Ponta’s choice may prevail, since he also holds the interim position of minister of Justice. Ponta and Basescu are attending today’s meeting of the Superior Magistrates’ Council do discuss the candidacies.

For USL, the nominations for the two positions are even more important since two of the government’s ministers – Relu Fenechiu, minister of Transport, and Varujan Vosganian, minister of Economy – are under criminal investigation, a reality which was highlighted in the European Commission’s latest MCV report in January. Ponta refused to dismiss them until a final verdict from a court.

But the political fight for the helm of DNA and the General Prosecutor’s Office is closely monitored by Brussels. Romania is not at all in the position to botch up the nomination process, especially since its Schengen accession depends on the progress made in the MCV, as Germany, Holland and Finland clearly warned early March, at the latest Justice and Home Affairs meeting in Brussels. The next MCV report in December is crucial for Romania and Bulgaria’s desire to join the borderless area.