Monica Macovei

Monica Macovei
Monica Luisa Macovei
Monica Macovei
Minister of Justice
In office
December 2004 – April 2007
Preceded by Cristian Diaconescu
Succeeded by Tudor Chiuariu
Personal details
Born 4 February 1959 (1959-02-04) (age 52)
Political party Democratic Liberal Party[1][2]

Monica Luisa Macovei (Romanian pronunciation: [moˈnika luˈiza] or [luˈisa] [makoˈvej]; born 4 February 1959 ) is a Romanian politician, lawyer and former prosecutor, currently a Member of the European Parliament from the Democratic Liberal Party.[1][2] She was the Minister of Justice of Romania in the first cabinet of Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu. In this position she was credited with implementing justice reforms that helped Romania enter the European Union (EU) on January 1, 2007.[3][4][5]


Early career

Monica Macovei graduated in 1982 with honors from the Law Faculty of the University of Bucharest; in 1994 she received a master's of law in comparative constitutional law from the University of the State of New York/Central European University. She has served as a lecturer in law at the University of Bucharest. She has also authored a number of books and articles on legal and human rights themes.[6]

Macovei was a prosecutor between 1983 and 1997, during the Communist and in the post-Communist Romania,[7] resigning after an investigation by the Prosecutor's Office accused her of "repeated negligence in dealing with cases and repeated delays in resolving some cases".[8] From 1997 to 2004 she was a lawyer with the Bucharest Bar.

Civic activist

Prior to her appointment as Justice Minister, Macovei was an civil society activist for political reform, democratization, and human rights in post-1989 Romania. She served from 2001-2004 as president of the Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania - The Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH).

Macovei has served as an expert/advisor to the Council of Europe, the European Roma Rights Center, the UN Development Program, the Open Society Institute, and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. She was a founding member of Transparency International-Romania. She conducted research on gender in Romanian law and on violence against women, among many other issues.[9] During this period, she spoke out for the need to reform Romanian justice and remove institutional protections for officials involved in corruption.[10] She also called attention to police brutality and impunity, continued political influence over the judiciary, and the lack of strong legal culture in Romania, among other issues.[11][12]

In 2002, along with other Romanian human rights activists, she stood against the indictment of a former aide to previous President Emil Constantinescu after he accused then Prime Minister Nastase of corruption. Romanian news commentators agreed with her, noting what they called a serious attack on the freedom of expression. Macovei, herself, characterized the arrest as "one of the worst attempts to muzzle the press in Romania" since communism collapsed.[13] The arrest received widespread attention in Europe as an example of alleged abuses against the press at the time.[14]

While an activist, Macovei assisted Romanian gay rights groups in overturning Article 200, one of the last sodomy laws in Europe.[15] While Minister of Justice, Macovei intervened in May 2005 to help ensure that the Romanian LGBT rights group ACCEPT could hold the country's first pride parade, the Bucharest GayFest, after the Bucharest City Hall had denied the group a parade permit.[16]

In 1997, Macovei was an Eisenhower Exchange Fellow, an honor awarded to "men and women of outstanding achievement in mid-career, who are expected to assume positions of influence and make a difference" in their home regions, countries, or globally.

Justice Minister

Macovei was appointed Justice Minister in December 2004, following the surprise victory of then Democratic Party (PD) leader Băsescu in the second round of presidential elections against Social Democratic Party (PSD) candidate Adrian Năstase. Băsescu's victory was characterized in the media as Romania's "Orange Revolution," comparing the victory of perceived reformists in Romania to events in neighboring Ukraine during the same period. It was also a reference to the orange color used by the winning Justice and Truth Alliance, which comprised the PD and the National Liberal Party (PNL) led by Calin Popescu-Tăriceanu.[17] Independent civil society organizations played an important role in securing the victory of the Justice and Truth Alliance, and Macovei's appointment was seen as acknowledgement of this contribution. As an activist who had spent much of her career advocating for judicial reform in Romania, she also appeared to be well-situated to implement extensive reforms as well as increased efforts against high profile corruption, both of which were requirements for EU accession. Anti-corruption was also a prominent theme in the parliamentary and presidential elections of that year.

Shortly after her appointment, Macovei stated that "fighting corruption" would be one of the top priorities of the Ministry of Justice under her leadership.[18]

Many of Macovei's actions as minister were aimed at eliminating vestiges of communism from the Romanian justice system. She disbanded the Justice Ministry's secret service, called the General Directorate for Protection and Anti-Corruption, which had continued operating after the fall of communism. The organization had been wiretapping judges and gathering other information, which, Macovei stated, "we do not really know ended up where or with whom."[19] She also implemented new procedures to check the backgrounds of judges and prosecutors to determine if they had worked with the former Securitate internal intelligence service and to remove those who had collaborated.[20][21] Macovei secured passage of legislation to eliminate immunities accorded to former government ministers and other government notables and to make tax evasion a criminal offense.[22][23] She increased the salaries of judges and prosecutors to make them less susceptible to bribes.[24]

Macovei was also credited with invigorating the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), which had been set up several years before to investigate and prosecute large scale corruption cases and those involving Members of Parliament and other high level officials. Macovei appointed a new head of the Directorate, prosecutor Dan Morar, under whose leadership the DNA issued an indictment against Chamber of Deputies president and former prime minister Adrian Năstase, the highest level official to face prosecution in a corruption case in the history of post-communist Romania.[25][26] The DNA also indicted eight Members of Parliament, two serving government ministers, nine judges and prosecutors, and 70-80 police and customs officers.[27]

Prime Minister Popescu-Tăriceanu dismissed Macovei on April 2, 2007, when he reshuffled his cabinet primarily to exclude the Democratic Party (PD) of President Traian Băsescu, with whom he remained engaged in a prolonged and heated public feud.[28]

International media characterized the cabinet change and Macovei's dismissal as an end to the reform efforts Romania had enacted in the previous two years to enter the EU.[29][verification needed]

Conflicts with Parliament

Over the same period, Macovei often fought with the Romanian Parliament over her anti-corruption initiatives. Opposition MPs accused her of abuse of power, while Macovei stated that MPs sought to stop judicial reform and anti-corruption efforts to protect their own interests. In 2006, the Parliament initially voted against a measure by Macovei to keep the DNA operating as an independent office. Opposition MPs stated the negative vote was partially due to Macovei's failure to appear in the Parliament to defend the measure.[30] They also questioned the DNA's independence from political influence. President Băsescu vetoed the Parliament's action, and, after international pressure and political negotiations, the Parliament ultimately voted on a revised measure to retain the DNA's authorities and independence.[31] Independent political commentator Cristian Pârvulescu suggested the Parliament's initial negative vote was influenced by the large number of anti-corruption investigations initiated by the DNA under Macovei.[30]

Macovei encountered similar resistance in efforts to create a new National Integrity Agency (ANI) to check the source of MPs and ministers' assets and investigate possible conflicts of interest. The draft law remained under consideration in the Parliament, where MPs reportedly altered and watered down the measures.[32][33]

In October 2006, Macovei appointed 33 year-old lawyer Laura Kövesi as Prosecutor General[34] In February 2007, the Romanian Senate Judicial Commission, however, voted to remove the authority of the Minister of Justice to nominate the Prosecutor General. The commission instead proposed assigning full authority over the nomination to the Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM). Macovei said that the Senate's measure, if approved by the full Parliament, would greatly impede the government's ability to combat corruption as the Prosecutor General is a central figure in that effort.[35]

In its 2007 annual report on Romania, Reporters without Borders characterized as "encouraging" reform of the Romanian penal code initiated by Macovei that would decriminalize defamation and libel.[36] Macovei said the proposed reformed code, which included many other changes and had been posted on the Justice Ministry's website for public debate, was necessary for modernizing Romania's legal system and to comply with EU norms. It would replace a draft penal code passed into law in 2004, but never enacted, under former Justice Minister and current Conservative Party Senator Rodica Stănoiu. The Romanian Senate disagreed and, in February 2007, passed a measure to enact the so-called "Stănoiu Code," instead of Macovei's penal code. Macovei said the "Stănoiu Code," if passed by the full Parliament, would bring Romanian penal justice to a halt.[37][38]

Member of the European Parliament

A poster in the 2009 European Parliament election campaign reads Corruption brings poverty. I want Romania [to be] without corruption!

In 2009, Macovei joined the Democratic Liberal Party (successor of the PD), and won a MEP seat on the party's list in that years European Parliament Elections.

In May of 2011 she was elected as one of the 15 vice presidents for the National Coordinating Council of the ruling Democratic Liberal Party (PDL). The 15 vice presidents are: Gheorghe Scripcaru, Elena Udrea, Mircea Hava, Traian Igas, Gheorghe Stefan, Anca Boagiu, Dorin Florea, Sever Voinescu, Mihai Stanisoara, Monica Macovei, Mihaela Popa, Florin Popescu, Victor Tarhon, Teodor Paleologu and Romeo Raicu.[39]

International and domestic recognition

Macovei received much praise internationally from politicians and the media for the reforms she implemented. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn stated that as a result of Macovei's efforts "For the first time in the history of the country, nobody is above the law."

European Commissioner for Justice Franco Frattini said that a "big part of the success of Romania's EU accession was achieved as a result of Macovei's work."[40]

The Economist described Macovei as:

an effective administrator who has shaken up the structure and accountability of the judiciary and the prosecutor’s office.[41]

Macovei was nominated for the Campaigner of the Year 2006 award, as part of the European Voice Europeans of the Year Awards, for "driving through tough laws tackling corruption and reforming the judiciary, improving her country’s readiness to join the EU."[42]

Noted Romanian academic and former Foreign Minister Andrei Pleşu (who also briefly served as an advisor to President Băsescu) described Macovei, in her fight against corruption, as :

a fragile samurai, a translucent fighter..."[43]


Macovei was involved in a number of controversies in Romania while Justice Minister, sometimes indirectly.[44] Media and groups in support of Macovei noted that domestic criticism against her by the local media and Romanian parliament increased markedly after Romania's accession to the EU when politicians no longer worried about implications in Brussels. They also said such attacks stemmed from a broader and very public conflict between Prime Minister Popescu-Tăriceanu and President Traian Băsescu, which divided the ruling coalition and to the break-up of the "Justice and Truth Alliance."[45][46] The center-right coalition government came to power as a result of Băsescu's 2004 presidential victory. As president, he has the authority to appoint the prime minister, but not to dismiss him. As a result, when conflict erupted between the two, Popescu-Tăriceanu could remain and power and push out from government Băsescu's Democratic Party, with which Macovei was associated.

Macovei consistently stated that the attacks lodged against her by politicians were "proof that reform was on the right track" under her leadership.[47][48]

Intervention by the Prime Minister for a businessman under investigation

In June 2005, Prime Minister Popescu-Tăriceanu sought Macovei's intervention in a corruption case against Rompetrol chairman and important PNL member, Dinu Patriciu. According to multiple media sources, Popescu-Tăriceanu called Macovei to his office for a meeting with Patriciu, who complained about alleged procedural problems and other aspects of his case. Macovei fully acknowledged the meeting in the media, as well as her surprise that the Prime Minister had organized the meeting. There was no indication that Macovei allowed the meeting to affect Patriciu's case, which remained under investigation.[49][50][51][52]

Anti-Macovei motion

On February 13, 2007 the Romanian Senate passed a simple motion against Macovei, laying out what it called complaints against her and requesting her resignation. The motion was titled "Lying - Macovei's Way of Justice".[53] It was supported by 81 senators out of 137.[54] This was the first time the Romanian Parliament had passed such a motion against an individual cabinet member. The motion accused Macovei of delaying justice reform (and in particular the application of the 2004 Penal Code), intervention in the judicial process (which is forbidden by Romanian law), facilitating through incompetence and negligence the release of several criminals, and committing repeated attacks on the activity of the Parliament. It called for her resignation and for urgent measures guaranteeing the independence of judges and prosecutors from political influence. The vote was tabled by the Conservative Party, with support from the other parties in opposition, primarily the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the nationalist Greater Romania Party. The number of votes against her indicated that many Senators from her own center-right governing bloc did not support her. The vote was taken by secret ballot.

The Constitutional Court, however, ruled that the vote of no confidence did not force her to resign and she remained in office, with the public support of the Prime Minister.

A number of MPs from several parties called on Macovei to step down regardless of the Constitutional Court's decision in her favor, stating they would block any new legislative initiatives from her. Several said they based their vote on her failure to communicate with the Parliament. Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor called Macovei a "grovelling tool of Cotroceni Palace," which is the official office of President Basescu. Opposition MPs in the Chamber of Deputies said they planned to file a similar motion against her in the lower house.[55][56]

European Commissioner for Justice Frattini came out quickly in support of Macovei following the motion, stating publicly that he "held Macovei in high regard." [57][58][59] Other European officials also stated their support for her. The Social Democratic Party Deputy Speaker of the German Bundestag warned that Macovei's dismissal as a result of the parliamentary motion could lead the EU to invoke the safe guard clauses the EU introduced to prevent Romania from leaving the path of reform in the Justice sector and other fields after it joined the EU.[60] The European Commission (EC) however, officially took a neutral position, with the EC spokesman stating "this vote is a domestic issue for Romania and cannot be commented upon.”[55]

In addition, there was a protest in her support by a number of civil society organizations, including Freedom House, the Romanian Academic Society and APADOR-CH, with organizers stating that MPs passed the motion against Macovei because they were worried by her push for more transparency and stricter controls on conflicts of interest.[61][62] Transparency International condemned the anti-Macovei motion, stating that the text voted by the Senate was "written in a superficial manner and motivated by political reasons, ignoring the principle of independence of judiciary."[63] Journalist Traian Ungureanu said "We do not want our country to be stolen by few oligarchs in the Parliament."[64]

International media attributed the vote of no-confidence to legislators' opposition to the National Integrity Agency, which Macovei sought to create to examine MPs' accounts.[65] The Economist described the motion against Macovei as a by-product of the feud between the Prime Minister and the President.[66] The on-line journal Southeast Europe Times noted that Macovei had several public disputes with judges on the Superior Council of Magistrates, most of whom are associated with the opposition Social Democratic Party that supported the motion.[67]

Macovei, herself, expressed the view that the Parliament could only be seeking to get rid of her because of her efforts against corruption, including investigations by her ministry against several members of the Senate.[68] She stated that the investigations were carried out regardless of political party affiliation.[69]

Political affiliation

Monica Macovei always claimed to be independent from any political party and not susceptible to political pressure. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party (PD) of President Traian Băsescu remained her strongest backer within the government. She supported Băsescu and the PD in opposing Popescu-Tăriceanu's decision on March 12, 2007 to postpone Romania's European Parliament elections from May until autumn 2007 due to what he characterized as ongoing domestic disputes. This has been viewed as a key indicator of her sympathies with the PD, although she stated her opposition to the elections delay was for legal reasons.[70] The media reported that Popescu-Tăriceanu and his National Liberal Party (PNL) sought to expel her from the cabinet as a result of this position, which was linked to the broader public conflict between Popescu-Tăriceanu and Băsescu as well as the emergence of a political realignment against the PD.[63]

The media aligned her with the PD and Traian Băsescu on many occasions, with some critics going as far as to call her "Traian Băsescu's pawn" and a "drinking buddy" of the Romanian president. In Adevărul, Macovei's relationship with Traian Băsescu was lampooned with the assertion that the president had transmitted "love letters" to her through the Justice Ministry.[71] The same newspaper accused Macovei of creating tensions within the Justice Ministry.[72] Mircea Badea, a television show moderator, alleged that Băsescu wanted Monica Macovei to remain the Minister of Justice so that she could cover up his illegal affairs, including the so-called "Fleet File" investigation, in which the president was accused of selling out the entire Romanian fleet at a very low cost while he was Minister of Transportation in the 1990s.

Accusation against Secretary General of the Government

Macovei accused Secretary General of the Government Radu Stroe on March 14, 2007, of illegally changing the text of laws between the time they are passed by the Parliament and printed in the official monitor. Stroe denied the allegation, which he said should be grounds for removing Macovei from the government.[73][74] The media separately reported on the same day that Stroe had hired a personal advisor under criminal investigation for tax evasion and links to organized crime.[75] Stroe dismissed the advisor after the report. Popescu-Tăriceanu publicly supported Stroe against Macovei during the roe.[74]

Alleged abuse of power

Monica Macovei was on several occasions accused of abuse of power in her position as Minister of Justice.[76] One such incident involved a comment she made on national television that reporters had no right to criticize her and her ministry and that they should pay attention to their own "problems with Romanian justice." Her comment appeared aimed at the director of the Romanian newspaper Ziua, Sorin Roşca Stănescu, who had been particularly vocal in making allegations against Macovei. Aidan White, president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), criticized Macovei's assertion, saying that "Any journalist should be granted the presumption of innocence especially by the Minister of Justice."[77]

Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM) Judge Florica Bejinaru also accused Macovei of "political police-style" tactics to try to obtain her resignation. Bejinaru had reportedly been found to have worked with the Securitate intelligence service during the communist period, a factor that would generally disqualify her from holding a position on the CSM. Bejinaru admitted having collaborated with the Securitate, but denied ever harming anyone. The agency charged with reviewing the Securitate archives cleared Bejinaru of collaboration; Macovei has appealed the finding.[78]

Ziua editorialist Sorin Roşca Stănescu and his colleague Răzvan Săvăliuc alleged that the NGOs supporting Macovei against the Romanian Parliament had done so because they received funding from the Ministry of Justice or because they supported controversial causes linked to Macovei.[7][79]

Shortly after Macovei became Minister of Justice, some media alleged that a court case concerning the ownership of a house was resolved in an irregular fashion to the advantage of Macovei's mother. Macovei denied any involvement in the case.[80]

Ordinances No. 99 and 131

In late 2006, Macovei recommended and secured passage by the Cabinet of two emergency ordinances (no. 99 and 131) to allow monitoring in some circumstances without warrant of phone calls, electronic mail, and bank accounts by the Department of Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism Offences (DIICOT).[81] In doing so, she found herself very publicly opposed by many of the civil society organizations that had otherwise supported her efforts and with which she had worked as an activist before entering the government. The ordinances were passed without public or parliamentary debate. Emergency ordinances have the effect of law, but do not require an immediate vote by the Parliament. The two ordinances concerned have been loosely compared to the U.S. Patriot Act in terms of the powers they give to authorities investigating certain types of crime.[82]

Critics in the Parliament, media, and civil society, including the Civic Media Association and APADOR-CH, called the ordinance unconstitutional and a violation of privacy as protected by the European Court of Human Rights.[76][83][84][85] Several opposition Senators also referenced these ordinances as a reason they passed the February 2007 motion calling for her resignation. Renate Weber, former advisor to Basescu and president of the Open Society Foundation, said the measures exemplified:

the laziness of democracy in Romania, as well as the general tendency toward authoritaranism of the current administration.[86]

Macovei and General Prosecutor Laura Kövesi sought to clarify the measures by stating that investigators would not have access to the actual content of records or conversations without warrants, but rather the ordinances would allow access to information on telephone and electronic traffic. Ths meant investigators could find out with whom or how an individual communicated, but not what was said. Macovei said that the Romanian government obtained the technology to conduct his type of monitoring with financial support from the U.S.[87] PD President Emil Boc stated on the Romanian talk show Naşul that President Băsescu recommended that Macovei pass the emergency ordinances.

Blank search warrants

Dan Voiculescu, media owner and leader of the Conservative Party (PC), presented to the media in September 2006 what he claimed were several blank search warrants issued by Monica Macovei in 1984 when she was a prosecutor during the communist period. The warrants allegedly bore her signature. The issue of blank warrants is particularly sensitive in Romania because they were used during the communist regime to allow prosecutors or police to conduct searches without due process. PC Deputy Secretary General and former Greater Romania Party member Codrin Stefanescu made a similar claim against Macovei, saying the blank warrant with her signature enabled police during the communist period to search the house of any citizen—even to arrest them—if that appealed to their interests.[88]

Macovei replied that the warrant Voiculescu showed to the press was worthless, as it was neither dated nor registered and therefore never valid. She accused Voiculescu of using Securitate-style tactics in making the accusations against her, a clear reference to Voiculescu's own past as a collaborator with the former communist secret police.[89][90] Voiculescu has been among Macovei's strongest critics in the Parliament.

Allegations of drinking problem and drug abuse

On 19 February 2007 several newspaper articles published accusations that Monica Macovei had a drinking problem, going as far as to accuse her of drug abuse. A newspaper article "Macovei: Sex, Drugs, Alcohol and Vila", alleged that Macovei, because of personal problems was used by alleged financial supporters to fabricate criminal investigation files against their political adversaries. Antonie Iorgovan went so far as calling her a drunk and a thief in the Romanian newspaper Editie Speciala on 20 February 2007 [1].

In 2005, the newspaper Evenimentul Zilei published an apology to Macovei after the newspaper printed a fallacious article accusing Macovei of getting drunk and breaking glasses at the National Lawyers Congress. After condemnation from the Romanian Press Club, the newspaper undertook an investigation and determined that the report included serious errors and should have never been printed.[91]

Possible threat on life

In April 2006, Macovei entered her flat one evening to smell gas fumes filling her home from a nozzle that had apparently been turned or left on. Police found no apparent explanation for the incident, although the possibility remained that it was meant to be an attack on her. The press reported that the government provided no special security for her residence.[92]


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