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Romania prosecutor backed for new EU job amid govt criticism

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FILE -- In this Jan. 31, 2017 file photo, Romanian chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Bucharest, Romania. A European Parliament committee on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, has picked Kovesi to head a new prosecutor’s office fighting fraud, despite fierce opposition from her own government. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A Romanian prosecutor has won backing from two European Union committees to head a new prosecutor's office fighting fraud, despite fierce opposition from her own government.

The European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday gave the most votes to Laura Codruta Kovesi, placing her above a French candidate and a German one. On Tuesday, the parliament's Budgetary Control Committee also selected Kovesi as the top candidate.

The European Public Prosecutor's Office is due to become operational at the end of 2020 and will investigate fraud involving EU funds, and money laundering. The final appointment will be made after negotiations between the European Parliament and the European Council.

Kovesi successfully prosecuted hundreds of officials including ministers, mayors and state company directors during her five-year tenure as chief prosecutor of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate. But she drew the ire of the Romanian government, which is itself under criticism for a judicial overhaul critics say will make it harder to prosecute top officials for graft.

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader recently wrote to EU justice ministers accusing her of signing "anti-democratic pacts" with Romania's intelligence agency in corruption and national security probes.

But political commentator Cristian Tudor Popescu said the government campaign to stop her backfired as it was perceived as "attacks against European" institutions and values.

Popescu said Kovesi was considered suitable for the post because "she has the experience of fighting under pressure, in very difficult conditions, at a high level."

She was removed from her post last year by the justice minister, who cited mismanagement and asserted she overstepped her authority.

Her dismissal came as the government embarked on a contentious judicial overhaul that critics say was designed to protect top officials from corruption probes. The legal changes have sparked huge protests and drawn criticism from the U.S. and the EU amid concerns about backsliding on the rule of law in the East European nation.

FILE -- In this Jan. 31, 2017 file photo, Romanian chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Bucharest, Romania. A European Parliament committee on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, has picked Kovesi to head a new prosecutor’s office fighting fraud, despite fierce opposition from her own government. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)
FILE -- In this Jan. 31, 2017 file photo, Romanian chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Bucharest, Romania. A European Parliament committee on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, has picked Kovesi to head a new prosecutor’s office fighting fraud, despite fierce opposition from her own government. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)