By Dan Cristian Turturică
“EU ambassadors have backed Romania’s Laura Kovesi to head a new pan-bloc prosecutor’s office, in what supporters see as a big step in the fight against authoritarian creep in several central and eastern European states,” wrote the Financial Times on September 19.
To fully understand EU’s intentions that helped Kovesi secure the votes of the majority of the member countries, we have to remember the statement made by Frans Timmermans, the former Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, in Bucharest, in March 2018: “What you have achieved with the judiciary over the last 20 years is extraordinary. It’s almost a miracle!”
Why did Frans Timmermans use such big words? First, because they express an obvious reality, supported by figures and facts. Secondly, because the future of the EU depends on how efficient the judicial systems in the countries of the former Soviet bloc are.
The chances to hold accountable the elites for fraud involving community funds and recover the money depend directly on the willingness of the authorities in these countries to cooperate. For now, they only make promises.
No Central or Eastern European country can compete with Romania as regards cooperation with Brussels on this subject. In the last two years when Laura Codruța Kovesi was the head of DNA the number of trials in such cases has doubled. In 2017, 108 indictments and 22 guilty pleas were finalized, regarding 344 defendants.
And if we add that the list of defendants also includes the most powerful politician in Romania, Liviu Dragnea, we will understand exactly why Romania is seen by the European Commission at the opposite pole, as a positive example, compared to Robert Fico’s Slovakia or Viktor Orban’s Hungary.
While the former PSD chief is charged with setting up an organized criminal group, and his criminal links with the “Teldrum” network have been publicly exposed by DNA and OLAF, no one in Slovakia or Hungary has the slightest hope that prosecutors would dare to do something similar to Fico or Orban. And not because they do not have reasons. The few independent publications in the two countries abound with disclosures about the illegal affairs of the two Premiers. Recently, Radio Deutsche Welle estimated Viktor Orban’s assets at 1 billion euros.
The sensitive element, however, is that no matter how much pressure and threats the Commission mobilizes against the plundering elites, they will not be successful and will not be able to stop massive fraud if they do not find allies in those countries that at some point tilt the balance by starting criminal investigations and by removing the most corrupt people from the levers of power. Allies such as the partner institutions in Romania that enabled the “miracle” of which Frans Timmermans spoke.
The fraud involving European funds enriches not only the mafia, but also increasingly violent anti-European politicians who are closer and closer to Russia. Fico, Orban and alike have maintained power for years and years because they are allowed to lie that they are honest and that whatever they do, they do it for the welfare of the people.
Both Dragnea and Tariceanu would have enjoyed the same trust and popularity if in Romania, as in Slovakia and Hungary, there were no institutions able to put a mirror in front of them and show people (those who want to see) who they really are, with documents, figures and facts.
The support that the European Union gives to Romania so as not to waste the “miracle” of justice is because it can survive only with such miracles, replicated throughout the continent. Only with such miracles can it prevent the transformation of the European project into a cooperative to enrich local or cross-border mafia networks. Only with such miracles can it stop Europe from nourishing, enriching and strengthening the enemies of Europe.
Dan Cristian Turturică has been working as a journalist for 30 years. For the last 19 years, he was the editor-in-chief of ”Evenimentul zilei” and ”Romania libera” daily newspapers, and also of the Digi24.ro website.
Together with Alison Mutler, former Associated Press corespondent to Bucharest, and other reputable journalists he has recently started a new project, Universul.net. Here you can find an English language section, offering reportage, opinion pieces and in-depth analysis, giving explanations and context to the most important news of the day.
The full version of this opinion piece is available on Universul.net