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News 03 Nov 17

Romanian Politicians Accuse Ambassadors of Interference

Senior politicians in Romania have accused the Dutch and US ambassadors of interfering in Romania's internal affairs.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Romania's National Anticorruption Directorate chief prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi. Photo: ionutzmovie/Wikimedia commons.

The Dutch embassy in Romania has stressed its support for the fight against corruption in the country, a day after two ruling coalition politicians accused one of its former ambassadors of lobbying for the appointment of Laura Codruta Kovesi as chief prosecutor of the powerful National Anticorruption Directorate in 2012.

“The fact that the Netherlands supports and has supported the fight against corruption in Romania is well known. It is also an important element in the reporting done in the context of the EU’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism,” the statement by the embassy, sent to BIRN, read.  

“Clearly, Mrs Stella Ronner-Grubacic, the current ambassador, does not know what was exchanged at the meetings referred to by Mr Titus Corleatan and Mr Calin Popescu Tariceanu. What we do know is that, in order for the fight against corruption to be effective, you need an effective institution, with a clear mandate, performing its tasks and duties within a sound legal framework and run by competent and professional people,” the statement added.

Former Social Democrat Minister of Justice Titus Corlatean told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that both former US Ambassador Mark Gitenstein and former Dutch Ambasador Matthijs van Bonzel had pressured him in 2012 to appoint Kovesi to a top position. He said he did not remember which position they were aiming at, either chief prosecutor of the anti-graft watchdog or attorney general.

“I did not like the persistence of the Dutch ambassador who I met on several occasions. I did not like the persistence of the US ambassador, Mr Gitenstein at that moment, to nominate a certain person we know. They wanted Kovesi nominated for a top position,” Corlatean told a hearing of the commission investigating access to a classified archive of a dismantled intelligence service of the Ministry of Justice.

“The pressure I was under exceeded the acceptable limits in diplomatic relations between states,” he added.

On Wednesday night, Senate speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu also criticized the former Dutch ambassador for what the politician called interference in Romnia's domestic affairs.

Tariceanu said he had complained to his Dutch counterpart and the ambassador was called back to the Netherlands in two months. He did not say whether the episode happened while he served as prime minister from 2004 to 2008.

“There are ways to put those who don’t respect Romania’s sovereignty in their place. But there are things that unfortunately happened in Romania because the authorities allowed these people to interfere in the matters Titus Corlatean refered to,” Tariceanu told a talk show on the television station close to the ruling coalition.

Tariceanu is known to have criticized other Western ambassadors for expressing their support of Kovesi and the DNA.

In October, after US ambassador Hans Klemm expressed support for Romania’a anti-graft efforts, the Senate speaker said he was disappointed at the ambassador’s attitude.

Earlier, in August, when the US Embassy issued a press release expressing concern over a justice reform bill that threatened the independence of the prosecutors, which the government drafted, Tariceanu also criticized the embassy.

In Romania, he said, “judges are scared of the prosecutors, and we live in a country where prosecutors rule ... Is that the political model the US Embassy is promoting?”

Contacted by BIRN, the US Embassy in Bucharest declined to comment on any of the statements.

Kovesi was appointed head of the National Anticorruption Directorate in 2013, having served since 2006 as the first woman chief of the Supreme Court Prosecutor’s Office. 

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