Despite pressure, Romanian president won’t fire prosecutor

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania’s president on Friday refused a request from the justice minister to dismiss the county’s top prosecutor, who has clashed with the government over its commitment to fight corruption.

President Klaus Iohannis said he wouldn’t fire Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar, a critic of a judicial overhaul that he and others say will make it harder to prosecute senior officials for corruption.

Last month, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader asked Iohannis to remove Lazar from his post based on a 63-page report that alleged mismanagement. But Iohannis said Lazar was “doing a very good job … this so-called evaluation by the justice minister doesn’t adhere to legal” principles.

Iohannis on Friday also rejected Toader’s repeated request to appoint regional prosecutor Adina Florea to the post of chief prosecutor at the National Anti-Corruption Directorate. Iohannis said it was “rather odd” that Tudorel would resubmit her name after Iohannis said last month she was not legally qualified for the position.

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The Superior Council of Magistrates also ruled Florea was unsuited for the high-profile position because it said she handled stress badly and had problems with “honesty and impartiality.”

The European Union says it’s concerned about corruption and the erosion of the rule of law in Romania, which as of Jan. 1 now holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.

But the government claims the EU is discriminating against Romania, and insists prosecutors have too much power. It says the country should be free to decide upon its own laws.

Last year, Tudorel engineered the dismissal of the former chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, alleging that she mismanaged the office and overstepped her authority.

The U.S. and the EU, however, praised Kovesi, the driving force behind the corruption convictions of hundreds of officials in recent years.

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