BRUSSELS – EU lawmakers have selected the former head of Romania's anticorruption agency as their favorite candidate to head a future European public prosecutor's office for financial crimes.
Lawmakers in the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) chose Laura Codruta Koevesi on February 27.
Koevesi received 26 votes, while France's Jean-Francois Bohnert received 22 votes, while Andres Ritter of Germany got one vote.
"It was a vote for Romania's judicial system, for its citizens who have been backing the fight against corruption, and for the prosecutors and judges in Europe who have to work under pressure," Kovesi told journalists at Bucharest airport upon her return from Brussels.
The parliament must now negotiate with the European Council, who had voted for Bohnert last week, placing Koevesi and Ritter in joint second place.
During a hearing before European lawmakers on February 26, Koevesi said that “the prosecutor must aim for the truth, must be a servant of the rule of law, and must have a strong moral compass.”
"I am aware that you have been exposed to a lot of negative information about me," she also said. "I would like to say very clearly that I have absolutely nothing to hide."
The government of Romania, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, has actively campaigned against Koevesi’s candidacy for the post.
She was dismissed by the government last year in what critics say was a move to prevent her anticorruption agency, the DNA, from convicting senior members of the governing alliance.
Koevesi has been widely praised by the EU for her results in fighting graft in one of the bloc's most corrupt countries.
However, several lawmakers in the European Parliament representing Romania's ruling leftist coalition launched verbal attacks against Koevesi during the hearing on February 26, accusing her of abuse of power and lying.
On February 27, Romanian lawmaker Maria Grapini, a member of the team that was counting the LIBE votes, was caught on camera while apparently failing to count one of the paper ballots in favor of Koevesi. G
Grapini was admonished by Dutch lawmaker Judith Sargentini, who took over the process and recounted the ballots.
Koevesi, Bohnert, and Ritter were chosen based on an initial February 14 recommendation by a selection panel, which placed the Romanian candidate as the front-runner due to “outstanding achievements both as a leader and as a manager” of the DNA.