64273 5/16/2006 18:43 06BUCHAREST813 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL 05BUCHAREST2240|06BUCHAREST724 VZCZCXRO7972 OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0813/01 1361843 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 161843Z MAY 06 ZDK FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4423 INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHRC/USDA WASHDC PRIORITY RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BUCHAREST 000813
STATE DEPT EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/16/2016 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, ECON, ETRD, EFIN, PHUM, SOCI, CASC, KDEM, KJUS, KCOR, RO SUBJECT: ROMANIA RECEIVES CONDITIONAL GREEN LIGHT FOR ACCESSION ON JANUARY 1, 2007
REF: A) 2005 BUCHAREST 2240 B) BUCHAREST 724
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Classified By: DCM MARK TAPLIN FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)
1. (C) Summary: The European Commission (EC) gave a conditional green light May 16 for Romania's accession to the EU on schedule on January 1, 2007. Although the EC did not specifically recommend a date in its monitoring report on Romania, local EU contacts and media observers note that the overall positive tone -- as well as the specific omission of a recommendation to delay entry -- represents a significant step toward timely accession. The report specified only four areas of concern, down from 14 in the last monitoring report released in October, and all are related to technical aspects of accession, primarily in agriculture. Local analysts assess that none of the four would be significant to the degree that they would delay entry. Language in the report on the issue of international adoptions indicated no change in the EC's overly sanguine assessment of Romania's child welfare situation. By deferring a definitive announcement of the accession date until October, EU contacts tell us the commission seeks to maximize leverage to encourage further reform. The immediate GOR response has been to portray the report in a distinctly positive light. Nonetheless, EU contacts tell us Romania will have to remain firmly on track in implementing reform between now and year's end, and still risks potential EU sanctions in several sectors even after accession. End Comment.
2. (SBU) EC President Jose Manuel Barosso and EC Commissioner for Enlargement Ollie Rehn released the long-awaited EC monitoring reports on Romania and Bulgaria the afternoon of May 16, following a meeting of Commissioners to discuss the final draft of the report. Romanian television stations covered live remarks by Barosso and Rehn from Strasbourg, where the two delivered the reports to the European Parliament. Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu expressed optimism after the release of the report but noted that Romania "still has a few points to work on" to meet fully the criteria for accession. Perhaps seeking to deflect attention from negative aspects of the report, Foreign Minster Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu asserted that the more important event is the June European Council meeting, when member heads of state and government are expected to discuss the report and provide further indication of the mood in Europe towards Romanian and Bulgarian accession.
3. (C) The report failed to make a definitive recommendation for a January 1, 2007 accession for either Romania or Bulgaria. It asserts that the two should be ready for accession by that date, but postpones final determination until the next monitoring report in mid-October. Theoretically, the EC could invoke their safeguard clause that would delay entry until 2008. Few analysts or local contacts foresee such a negative outcome. According to the local EC mission and many media reports, the omission reflected a strong desire by many EU member states and commissioners, particularly Rehn, to keep pressure on Romania and Bulgaria to continue implementing reform and attacking high-level corruption. The EC Mission DCM Onno Simons told PolChief May 15 that the Commission also needed to show member states that it was sensitive to concerns about the continued pace of expansion, following the French and Dutch "No" votes on the European constitution in 2005.
4. (C) Although there is no intention to de-link accession for the two EU aspirants, early media reports have placed Romania in a slightly better position than Bulgaria. According to local EU contacts the EC is particularly concerned about the latter's poor record in combating violent organized crime, while on Romania they sought to support activist Justice Minister Monica Macovei's efforts to clean up the judiciary. The EC DCM Simons told PolChief that, broadly speaking, the EC wanted to convey in its report on Romania a strong message that the country is largely on track with regard to accession, but could still run into trouble if it fails to continue aggressively pursuing high-level corruption cases or enters a period of political instability during the remainder of the year. The same official asserted that the EC sought to deliver almost the opposite message to Bulgaria, notably that Romania's southern neighbor would "not be able to enter the EU on time unless it addressed
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outstanding strong concerns."
What's in the Report?
5. (U) In general, the report documented substantial progress by Romania in meeting EU requirements since the last monitoring report released in October 2005. Indeed, Romania moved from 14 areas of strong concern (commonly called "red flags") to only four, which all apply to specific technical aspects of accession. The first three "red flags" relate to agriculture, specifically to a control system for ensuring sanitary standards; food safety; and the mechanisms for distributing EU funds to farmers (Ref B). The fourth relates to taxation, specifically to Romania's computerized collection of the VAT. None of these four would necessitate delaying accession in the event that Romania failed to complete them by year's end, although they could result in negative consequences. Failure to complete the agricultural requirements could trigger an internal market safeguard clause that would delay access to the much-needed EU funds under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). It could also result in a ban in exports of some Romania animal products to other EU members. Failure to complete reforms to VAT collection could result in a continued customs presence between Romania and other EU states until the issue is resolved.
6. (C) Far more numerous were so called "yellow flags," areas requiring further progress before accession but not receiving the same level of concern as the "red flags." Most notably in this category is the reform of the justice system and the fight against corruption. The report spares few words in praising progress in the judiciary, which remained one of the most persistent "red flags" in previous reports. It commends the GOR for increasing impartiality in the courts through random case assignments; increasing resources and improving working conditions throughout the judicial system; and abolishing the internal intelligence service within the Justice Ministry, which had remained as a relic of communism and served no practical purpose. EC mission DCM Simons told PolChief that the EC sought to send a strong message that it was extremely pleased with the extensive efforts of Justice Minister Monica Macovei, a political independent who has "done more for Romanian justice than any other justice minister since 1989." Simons confided that many in Brussels would like Macovei to be appointed as Romania's first commissioner, although they saw that as unlikely given her lack of political support in Bucharest.
7. (SBU) With regard to corruption, the report notes the increased number of investigations of high level cases being pursued by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), including against 14 members of parliament and past or present cabinet members. Simons stated that the EC is happy with the DNA, but views "with great suspicion" the intentions of the Romanian parliament, which initially voted against a key anti-corruption measure in February. Indeed, the report lists the parliament as its first and primary concern with regard to corruption, calling on legislators to stop delaying the implementation of legislation and to establish an independent agency for monitoring wealth declarations of politicians and senior bureaucrats.
8. (U) Yellow lights also went to Romania in many other areas such as care for the mentally disabled; prison conditions; the rights of Roma and other minorities; and human trafficking.
EC Digs in Heels on Adoptions: No Change in Tone
9. (C) Despite recent revelations about pervasive problems in Romania's system for protecting orphaned and abandoned children -- and repeated approaches from prospective adoptive parents, the USG, and several EU member governments -- the EC did not change its strongly supportive tone of Romania's current system for child welfare and protection. As in previous reports, it reiterates that Romania's law and de facto ban on international adoptions implemented in 2005 is "in line with EU norms." It also notes that the Romanian Adoption Agency (ROA) had screened all the pending adoption cases filed before the ban and declared them in eligible in an ROA report according to schedule. The report also
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inaccurately asserts that the number of prospective adoptive Romanian parents exceeds the number of children available for adoption. The only criticism in this area relates to the provision of social services for pregnant mothers and ensuring access to maternity hospitals. According to the EC, the overall situation with regard to child welfare had "substantially improved."
10. (SBU) Earlier in the day, Romanian broadcast media covered extensively a press conference by international adoption foe and MEP Baroness Nicholson, with former Social Democratic Party (PSD) cabinet member Alin Teodorescu. Nicholson claimed that a recent condemning report released by NGO Mental Disabilities Rights International had been "full of inaccuracies" with regard to the state of Romania's orphanages and other institutions. She applauded Romanian efforts on child welfare and claimed that the Braila County Council would sue MDRI over revelations about abysmal conditions in a Braila psychiatric facility.
GMO - EU Ramps up the Pressure
11. (C) While the EC did not cite genetically modified organisms (GMO) as a "serious concern," Commission officials ramped up the pressure on Romania by highlighting in the report GMO traceability and control as an area requiring "increased effort" and "decisive action" in the main report and all of its summaries. In the "Key Findings" summary, for instance, GMO is one of only two examples under "increased effort." Romanian farmers, who are strong supporters of GMO seeds and their higher yields, have expressed a willingness to buck regulations and continue planting. The Commission is concerned that Romania will not strongly enforce new EU-compliant rules on GMO cultivation. Romania could be a strong partner for us within the EU on biotechnology, but will be hard-pressed to deflect EU pressure with the date of accession still up in the air.
Next steps toward Ratification
12. (SBU) In coming months, and concurrent with deliberations within the EC and European Council, Romania will also require ratification of its EU accession treaty by all EU member states. Since the signature of the treaty in April 2005, 17 out of 25 EU member parliaments have ratified the agreement, to include all the ten new members that joined the EU in 2004. Countries that have not ratified the treaty to date include France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Ireland. EU member diplomats in Bucharest have told post they anticipate no problems with ratification by their parliaments, although several have noted that their governments are awaiting more definitive news from Brussels before moving forward in this regard.
13. (C) Comment. Romania is clearly headed towards EU accession on January 1, 2007. In any case, most of the impetus in Brussels for holding back from a formal commitment, according to a German diplomat and others based here, was concern over Bulgaria rather than Romania. An EC official summed it up tonight by saying: "It is 2007, provided that.... with a final decision in October." The only foreseeable impediment now to accession in 2007 would be a major political crisis precipitated by the ongoing conflict between Prime Minister Tariceanu and President Basescu. However, even this appears unlikely given the high stakes. Both palaces tell us the two leading parties in the ruling coalition are prepared to ride out the next seven months together despite their mutual animosity and incessant plotting against each other. With timely accession now all but certain, many in Bucharest are now focused on likely post-accession developments. This includes anticipated difficulty in absorbing the roughly 30 billion Euros in structural funds that will be made available -- current estimates are that due to inefficiency and poor preparation Romania will only benefit from some 20 percent of the funds, if that. Many observers are also concerned that Romania will slow down -- or even reverse -- reforms that have strengthened democratic institutions and provided hope that the country will ultimately truly make progress in the fight against corruption. In the words of one civil society
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leader, Romanians "won't know what to do after the EU stops watching." The lack of precision in the May monitoring report, however, ensures the EC will continue watching and exercising its remaining leverage, at least for a few more months. End Comment.