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Bucharest Seeks To Block Romanian Candidate From EU Prosecutor's Job

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Laura Koevesi speaks during a press conference after she was fired as DNA chief in July 2018.

Romania's justice minister says he will do everything in his power to block the appointment of the lauded former head of Romania's anticorruption agency as the EU's new public prosecutor.

Laura Koevesi was named on February 4 as the preferred candidate for the job, followed by Jean-Francois Bohnert of France and Germany's Andres Ritter on a short list of three.

But Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader said that the European Union was "unaware of the abuses carried out" by Koevesi when she was leading Romania's National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).

"I will be writing to all of the European ministers of justice to inform them as to why she was removed from office," Toader, who is head of the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) during Romania's current six-month presidency of the bloc, told Romanian media.

During her tenure, Koevesi was widely praised for her bold attempts to stamp out graft in Romania, one of the EU's most corruption-plagued member states.

Toader, a member of the center-left coalition government that came to power in January 2017, ordered Koevesi's dismissal as DNA chief in July 2018, accusing her of overstepping her authority. However, President Klaus Iohannis, a former leader of the center-right opposition, refused to endorse Koevesi's dismissal.

Utimately, Romania's Constitutional Court weighed in and ruled that Koevesi's dismissal was lawful.

The government's push to rapidly undo some of the anticorruption policies and reverse some convictions were seen by many as attempts to exonerate Liviu Dragnea, the head of the ruling Social Democrats and speaker of the lower house.

Dragnea was given a suspended prison sentence after being convicted of abuse of power and is accused of corruption in another pending case. His suspended sentence barred him from becoming prime minister.

The all-out assault of the Social-Democratic-led government against the judiciary in general and Koevesi in particular led to massive street protests in 2017-18, which culminated with a huge August 10 anticorruption protest in Bucharest.

The protest, attended by up to 100,000 Romanians, was violently repressed by riot police.

Koevesi in December filed a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that her dismissal was unlawful.

Under her leadership, corruption conviction rates rose sharply as she went after high-ranking government officials, lawmakers, and others.

The European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) was set up in 2017 by 22 of the EU's 28 member states, including Romania, and is due to be launched by the end of 2020.

The final decision on the EPPO appointment is to be made by a majority of EU member states at the end of the month.

The appointment, which cannot be vetoed by any single country, must then be approved by the European Parliament.

Romania currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Romanian Service and The Guardian
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