Laura Codruța Kövesi was known for her involvement in ensuring transparency worldwide through her work as the former head of the anti-corruption office of Romania, the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA). The country had difficulty with establishing a thorough justice system and thus Kövesi was among the few outspoken individuals fighting for transparency.
In 2018, she was forced out of the office by the justice minister, Tudorel Toader and is currently the subject of a campaign to discredit her as she faces criminal charges of her own. This came about when the Social Democratic Party (PSD) leader Liviu Dragnea was charged with fraud during the campaign. Even when Dragnea was prevented from holding any government position, his party was the majority in the Romanian government. As such, the party had made use of a watchdog agency to revive corruption charges against her, citing abuse of authority. This was an outage to many Romanians who called for her to return to her position. Because of her absence, the country’s corruption situation has worsened to an alarming degree as lawmakers support a measure to protect officials from facing corruption allegations.
One recommendation to improve Romanian transparency is to support Kövesi’s run to lead the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). This way, the European Commission can pressure the Romanian government to be more transparent and accountable to its people. It has been shown that the European Union is in need of better means to scrutinize institutions. As such, both the European Union and Parliament must work towards stopping governments that undermine rule of law and press freedom. With the chaos of Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States and rising populism, the Union must be able to maintain its strong adherence to due process so that corrupt politicians would not easily get in the way. One way to help with that is to suspend subsidies given to European governments that contradict the standards of the Union.
Liberal democracy has the opportunity to rise from the ashes of corruption and act fast. Many politicians remain “illiberal” in the sense that they disagree with stronger measures for accountability among their ranks. Citizens must also be more informed of social issues to speak out their grievances against questionable government actions. New instruments and new means of combatting corruption are needed in an age where the power of populism can propel the most illiberal spirits against the common good. Kövesi can act as one of those instruments towards effective accountability. She can ensure that the EPPO is an office that champions social justice and efficient systems of looking into the activities of government.
It is high time for the European Union to step out of its shadow. Ever since Brexit, many have lost their faith in the ability of the Union to maintain cohesion, much less ensure accountability among its member-governments. Kövesi has what it takes to bring Romania from the brink. After all, the fight against corruption in one country, within Romania especially, is also a battle for the soul of Europe.