The European Public Prosecutor Office, or EPPO, is a new institution that has already entered into a serious institutional crisis even before it has begun.
At this moment, we are in the middle of the selection process for the appointment of the first Chief European Prosecutor and the soup has already turned sour.
There were 30 applicants for the position with 11 shortlisted and interviewed by an Independent Selection Committee that consisted of judges, prosecutors and jurists. This committee was supposed to recommend to the 22 Member States who participate in the new body, a minimum of three and maximum of five candidates for the EPPO and the Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs and Budgetary Control committees to make a final joint decision.
The Independent Selection Committee presented a list of three instead of five candidates from the 11 who were eligible. The three selected consisted of a Romanian, one French, and a German.
Interestingly, four of the candidates that were shortlisted were Italian, including the former head of the European Anti-Fraud body, OLAF, but none of them made the final cut.
And this is the main controversy. Why three and not five? And despite 11 being shortlisted, all of whom were highly qualified candidates, why not choose from them? In effect, this is the exact moment when the deprivation of the political personnel of the EU comes to light. With political balances shifting quickly in Europe, this is part of the explanation.
The Romanian candidate will – if we take logic into account – be rejected as Laura Codruta Kovesi has 18 open cases in the justice system (including allegations of bribery, abuse of power, false testimony) from her own country.
The real candidates should theoretically be only two, one French (who is highly likely to get the job) and one German. This was probably already agreed upon on the sidelines of the signing of the Aachen Treaty between Germany and France on January 22. The reality, however, is that the Romanian candidate carries strong German support, not to mention American.
It is a serious mistake for Europe, premediated for political purposes, to shortlist Kovesi among the three proposed by the Independent Selection Committee.
The Romanian candidate should not be among the three finalists and not even among the eleven shortlisted. Indeed, being under criminal investigation in her own country should be enough to be rejected by the joint Member States and European Parliament body that will take the final decision for 7-year appointment of the Chief European Prosecutor. The more so the Minister of Justice of Romania Tudorel Toader has written to his European counterparts, opposing the appointment.
The fact, however, that the Romanian candidate was selected as top candidate by the Independent Selection Committee despite the aforementioned facts (and many more not mentioned), implies that the European Union considers the Romanian Justice system totally corrupt. If this is the case, then shouldn’t Romania be partially suspended from certain functions in the European Union? Certainly, a country whose entire justice system is in question should not be allowed to have the Presidency of the Union, which it is doing a very good job of so far.
The thought is ridiculous. To say the justice system is corrupt now, but not the last years that Kovesi has been behind the biggest prosecutions of corruptions in the country’s history is preposterous. The Romanian justice system is, indeed. flawed and needs mending, but this is not new. Europe has systematically shut one eye and kept the other open.
Finally, the pharisaic attitude of the European Commission over the matter. When the Commission chief spokesperson was asked about this controversial matter, impersonating the modern version of Pontius Pilate, he replied that the Commission is not involved but only observes the process. But he said that Europe wants candidates to be treated fairly – implying that Kovesi is being wronged by Romanian justice.
Kovesi who is being charged for being in charge of an institution that has put away many guilty parties, but has also wronged many parties. Many DNA cases are indeed falling apart.
Only a few months earlier, the same European Commission which now is limited to observing the EPPO process, launched infringement procedures against Poland, for having given early retirement to 27 out of 72 Supreme Court Judges.
The Commission is in a hurry to appoint the Chief Prosecutor of Europe by the end of March. Obviously, it has its own reason – and the reason is that we cannot know what Europe will come to after the European elections in May.
However, if we want to safeguard this new necessary and important institution – EPPO, the European Parliament, must end this already ridiculed process. It is of course next to impossible, but a true system seeking fairness and justice, would see the appointment procedure re-launched by the new Parliament, after the May elections, with a fresh, really independent selection committee.
The first page of the EPPO history should not be one of division and controversy, not to mention a tribute to not so blind injustice.