Laura Codruța Kövesi was praised in the West for going after corrupt officials.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis signed a decree Monday to dismiss the country’s leading anti-corruption figure, Laura Codruța Kövesi, in a move to comply with a ruling by the Constitutional Court.
“The fight against corruption must not, in any case, be abandoned or slowed down,” the president’s spokeswoman Mădălina Dobrovolschi said at a press conference in Bucharest. “Corruption affects the lives of every citizen and the development of Romania.”
Kövesi took over as head of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) in 2013, and has garnered praise from the European Commission and other international bodies for the institution’s results in prosecuting ministers, mayors and other officials for graft. Her work made her the target of numerous attacks by Romania’s politicians, who accused her of playing political games and targeting sitting prime ministers for investigations to attract media attention.
A Constitutional Court ruling at the end of May demanded the Romanian president dismiss Kövesi. The case was brought by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, who called for Kövesi’s removal in Ferbuary, accusing her of overstepping her mandate and not respecting the parliament’s authority, among other allegations. Toader, a former Constitutional Court judge himself, is a member of the government led by the Social-Democrats (PSD) and their junior coalition partner, the liberal ALDE.
Iohannis, who had the final say in the dismissal process, rejected Toader’s arguments and refused to fire Kövesi. But the Constitutional Court said in its ruling that the president did not in fact have “discretionary power” in the procedure to dismiss prosecutors, and could only evaluate the “regularity and legality” of the procedure.
The president said through his spokesperson Monday that he was compelled to respect the rule of law and follow the decisions of the Constitutional Court. He called on the ruling coalition to do the same.
“The political will now is not for an efficient judiciary, but for blocking investigations and justice,” Kövesi said in a press statement after the president’s announcement.
She asked prosecutors and citizens not to give up, and insisted the country could fix its corruption problem, saying: “DNA proved that the law is equal for all and that nobody is too powerful to get away from it. Prosecutors investigated people who seemed untouchable.”
She will continue working as a prosecutor, but not inside DNA, she said.
The president’s spokeswoman insisted that regardless of who heads DNA, the institution “has the obligation to continue its activity professionally at the highest level of performance.”