EU backs Romanian former anti-corruption czar as bloc's new prosecutor

Brussels (AFP) –

Advertising

A majority of EU member states on Thursday backed making a former top anti-corruption official from Romania their bloc's first-ever anti-fraud prosecutor -- despite opposition from her own country, European sources said.

"An informal vote confirmed there is a sufficient majority" among EU ambassadors to put Laura Codruta Kovesi in charge of the new European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) set to start work at the end of 2020, according to a diplomatic official from Finland, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The 46-year-old Romanian magistrate called her endorsement "a vote of confidence and of support for a society that stood by justice and EU values".

"It's a recognition of the work of the Romanian prosecutors and judges, but at the same time it's also a success for all Romanians who in the last few years supported the fight against corruption and for the rule of law and EU values," Kovesi told AFP.

Kovesi received 17 votes from the 22 countries signed on to the new office, whose job is to investigate suspected fraud involving the EU's budget, European sources said.

Bucharest has warned it will not back Kovesi, who was instrumental in launching fraud probes in Romania against 14 former or current ministers, 43 lawmakers and more than 260 local officials between 2013 to July 2018, when the government fired her.

Romanian authorities have compiled their own corruption accusations against Kovesi in a case criticised by Brussels. Her firing also sparked massive protests in the EU's poor, corruption-plagued member.

Kovesi's path to taking the helm of the EPPO was smoothed when EU heavyweight France switched its support to her two months ago, after its own candidate was instead chosen to head a national financial prosecutorial post.