102668 3/30/2007 15:57 07BUCHAREST373 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN VZCZCXRO0405 OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0373/01 0891557 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 301557Z MAR 07 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 1200 RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6363 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BUCHAREST 000373
STATE FOR EUR/FO, EUR/NCE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/30/2017 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, RO SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR TO TARICEANU, BASESCU, AND GEOANA: PUT A FIREWALL AROUND THE EURO-ATLANTIC AGENDA
Classified By: Ambassador Nicholas Taubman for 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary: In separate meetings with the Prime Minister, President, and the head of the opposition PSD, the Ambassador expressed concern about the current political turmoil spilling over into governance, investment, and Romania's trans-atlantic equities. He also warned that questions were being raised as to whether Bucharest was still the right venue for the next NATO summit, and asked that they signal their support for NATO and the Euro-Atlantic agenda at an early opportunity. All three agreed, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Tariceanu also used the meeting to revisit his grievances against President Basescu, and defend his recent call for Romanian forces to withdraw from Iraq by Christmas. Basescu predicted that the political standoff was reaching a decisive point, and remarked that in the event of unfavorable constitutional court decisions, he might be left with "zero power". Geoana used his session with the Ambassador to highlight his past atlanticist credentials, insisting that the summit was be a "consecration" of the efforts of the entire post-1989 generation. He warned, however, that it might take 1-2 more months to create a "new balance" in Romanian politics. End Summary.
2. (C) The Ambassador told all three interlocutors in successive meetings on March 29 and 30 that the U.S. was concerned about the current political crisis spilling over into other areas. It was affecting governance, investment and even the outlook of Romanians towards their future. It was making it harder for Romania's friends in the U.S., in Europe and beyond to support Romania's agenda as a NATO and EU member. The Ambassador underlined that Romania risked losing out on important opportunities at a critical time. The Euro-Atlantic agenda was worth protecting, he stressed, and should not be a "political plaything." If in fact we shared the same views and values concerning the North Atlantic alliance and Romania's role in NATO, it was time to draw a line and wall off our common agenda from the day-to-day political infighting in Bucharest. Washington sought reassurance, the Ambassador went on, that Bucharest was in fact the right venue for the next NATO summit in 2008 in advance of the upcoming Oslo ministerial. The Ambassador emphasized that the U.S. did not want to proceed forward under a shadow of doubt and uncertainty over Bucharest's readiness to carry out -- enthusiastically and energetically -- its responsibilities as the host country. He explained that he had made the same request of all the leading actors -- namely, that they signal their support for NATO and the Euro-Atlantic agenda at an early opportunity, perhaps on the occasion of the upcoming NATO anniversary on April 4. A strong public message would underscore that Romania's political actors could carry out a vigorous political debate at home while keeping solidarity with the Alliance intact.
3. (C) PM Tariceanu replied that Romania was facing a political situation that had "hugely deteriorated" because President Basescu had failed to observe the Constitution. The President was in conflict with all of the other major actors: the government, the Parliament, the media, the magistrates' council and so on. Tariceanu stated that he had avoided any clash with Basescu until the beginning of this year "for the sake of Romania joining the EU in 2007." Otherwise, he insisted, his attitude would have been "completely different," and he would have pushed back strongly in order to "clearly delineate constitutional authorities." Basescu, the PM insisted, had destroyed the majority in the government, had fostered a split within the Liberal Party by backing the breakaway Stolojan Liberal Democratic group, and had otherwise created political havoc. "Now he is paying the price for what he has done," Tariceanu commented. Until now, the PM went on, he had held back from endorsing the impeachment motion. However, if the President continued to create political problems, "I will be in a position to support the impeachment," Tariceanu concluded.
4. (C) Recalling that Basescu had refused to ratify the PM's nomination of Adrian Ciorianu as the new Foreign Minister, Tariceanu complained that Basescu "gets involved in everything." "His role as President is as a mediator, not a 'player,'" the Prime Minister went on. "The problem is that he hasn't even taken the time to read the Constitution." Tariceanu stated that he had conducted "thorough consultations with all the political parties," and had "found a recipe for political stability." For the past three months, he continued, he could not work on the government's business because he was involved every day in "nonsense
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political fights." Next week, he claimed, he would go to Parliament with a new government line-up that he would submit to a confidence vote.
5. (C) Switching gears, Tariceanu observed that the Ambassador had been "very delicate" in not stating explicitly what he thought was the main issue -- namely, the Prime Minister's speech advocating an Iraq withdrawal. He reminded the Ambassador that he had made the same call last year. Today, all the Europeans had announced they would leave Iraq, just as had the U.S. Senate. "The time has come for us to do the same," the PM insisted, adding however that Romania would do so only "based on consultations with you to establish a calendar before the end of the year." Romanian public opinion, he claimed, was strongly in favor of a withdrawal. President Basescu, the PM observed, had a "different opinion" about the Romanian deployment in Iraq. He suggested, however, that even the President was "rethinking" the issue because he realized a withdrawal needed to be carried out. Tariceanu said he advocated accomplishing the withdrawal calmly and smoothly, but that if the President opposed a withdrawal "loudly, in public," there would be a "huge risk" of open confrontation.
6. (C) The Ambassador told the PM that while the political situation was something for Romanians to resolve, it also affected the climate of our relationship. The U.S. did not want to move forward with a NATO summit in Bucharest if there were not a stable government situation or a strong commitment to make the event a success. The Ambassador reiterated that a strong declaration of support for NATO and the transatlantic agenda would help address these doubts. Tariceanu said that he would "without a doubt" make a favorable statement, to help make it clear that Romania was "highly interested" in hosting the summit. On Iraq, the Ambassador reminded the PM of our position, stressing that the U.S. valued Romania's contribution to the coalition and that it was "more than a question of numbers, and the boots on the ground," it was a political affirmation of our close partnership. The Romanian deployment to Afghanistan, under NATO auspices, was different, he observed; the Prime Minister immediately agreed. The Ambassador acknowledged that "the disagreement on Iraq continues."
7. (C) President Basescu, too, had his mind on the internal political dynamic. He began the session by commenting that the decisive moment in the stand-off was close, was potentially "explosive," but would also serve "to clarify the relations between the branches of power." He said that the Constitutional Court would resolve two key issues on April 4, namely on the constitutionality of the suspension charges outlined in the Voiculescu Report and on the question of whether the President is "obliged to accept" the PM's appointment of Foreign Minister designate Adrian Ciorianu. On the latter point, Basescu observed, if the Constitutional Court were to rule that he was obliged to sign off on the nomination, Romania would be "automatically" transformed into a "parliamentary republic." It would mean, in practice, that the President would also have to accept any other nomination, for instance for a new Procurator-General or an Army Chief-of-Staff that would come forward from the Prime Minister. Until now, he added, the issue had been left "inconclusive" in the Constitution; an unfavorable decision, he stressed, would mean "a President with zero power." Once the Court had taken its decisions, Basescu stated, he would make a public statement concerning the state of Romanian society and politics, pointing to the fact that the Romanian elite's economic and political interests remain too close, acting together in "an untransparent way." He would clarify his views on what the current situation meant and what needed to be changed, in this address to the Romanian public.
8. (C) In response to our question about the future shape of the Prime Minister's government, Basescu said the Prime Minister was facing "a difficult moment." There were two groups advising him differently, one which wanted to force the Democrat Party (PD) ministers out of the government, another which favored keeping the current Alliance government intact. The Prime Minister's "American" political advisors were recommending that Tariceanu not push the Democrats out because the advisors believed it would make the Liberals too dependent on the opposition, according to the President. This, Basescu said, was why the Prime Minister continued to delay making a decision. The pressure on Tariceanu to remove the Democrats, however, was very strong. Dinu Patriciu and Liberal Party Vice-President Crin Antonescu were determined
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to drive the Liberals towards an alliance with the Social Democrats (PSD). According to the President, the Prime Minister had presided over a stormy but still inconclusive political meeting on the evening of March 29 at Victoria Palace. What was vital, Basescu stressed, was that the Prime Minister make a decision, one way or the other, about the shape of his government. "The dispute between me and the Prime Minister is one thing," Basescu said, but the current political muddle, in which lines between the government and opposition were so blurred, was particularly damaging. Basescu claimed that he had not put pressure on the PD to leave the government; it had been the dispute over delaying the date of the Euro-parliamentary elections, from spring to fall 2007, that had led to the falling-out between the two parties.
9. (C) Once the Ambassador had made his remarks, Basescu immediately committed to speaking out in favor of NATO and the Euro-Atlantic relationship on the NATO anniversary date of April 4, exclaiming that the timing was "perfect." He said he would immediately task his advisors to prepare a statement and asked for the Embassy's input on content. Basescu expressed pride at having kept the question of Romania's Iraq deployment out of the Supreme Defense Council (CSAT) meeting on March 29. At the same time, he told the Ambassador that retaining the Romanian company in Basrah in Iraq longer was not viable. He explained that he had purposely held back in publicly announcing the withdrawal of the Basrah contingent "in order not to create confusion" in the wake of the PM's call for a complete withdrawal. He did not want Romania's overall commitment as an Iraq coalition partner to be questioned. He indicated he would address the Basrah situation directly during his April 4 address to the Romanian people.
10. (C) In response to the Ambassador's comments, Geoana response was that he "got it", adding that all of Romania wanted the 2008 NATO summit. He said he hoped the next generation understood and shared the same appreciation of the importance that NATO and the strategic partnership with the USA had with him. His desire not to jeopardize the relationship was a matter of personal conviction - he had worked the past 15 years to achieve this and it was the work of an entire generation. He had come to the United States in 1996 when Romania was in the same league as North Korea, and had seen Romania progress since then. The summit was a "consecration" of Romania's progress and a strong signal for the entire region.
11. (C) Geoana also pledged to "immerse" himself in making the NATO summit in Bucharest a reality, including inserting comments favoring the summit and the transatlantic link in his upcoming speech in Parliament. He added that "if you want this to be the policy position of the party, consider it done." When the Ambassador asked Geoana to "wall off" the transatlantic relationship from politics and not to use as a "football", Geoana replied, "We'll stabilize the situation somehow, even if the relationship with President Basescu is not cordial." Geoana said, however, that it might take 1-2 months to "find a new balance" in Romanian politics, but added that "we'll play by democratic rules."
12. (C) Comment: This was a timely intervention, following on the heels of the Ambassador's strong Chamber of Commerce speech two days ago, which was widely reported in the domestic press as well as in the International Herald Tribune. Our message to Romania's warring parties has been that they must be able to prosecute a vigorous--even unruly--political debate while keeping their solidarity with the Alliance and the bilateral relationship still intact. We have also continued to tell our interlocutors that we are attentive to any backsliding in the rule of law and the fight against corruption. Our message was heard to varying degrees by our three interlocutors. Tariceanu was clearly the least enthusiastic about reiterating publicly his commitment to the transatlantic agenda. Basescu still seems determined to keep Romania's security commitments (including the Iraqi troop deployment) from becoming a political football. While Geoana also clearly "gets" the importance of the Euro-Atlantic link, he has also bet his political future on this challenge to Basescu and the PNL-PD alliance, and it will be awkward for him to back down now. Still, after a week of expectation that the political terms of reference in Bucharest were about to change dramatically -- including the Prime Minister's declaration on Monday that the alliance was "dead," it is clear that things remain in play still. Basescu, however
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bloodied politically, still seems to have plenty of fight in him. "I'm convinced in the end I will succeed in convincing the Romanian people that we can't go on like this," he said. As the Ambassador got up to leave, Basescu added: "And I will complete my term as President, for sure." End Comment. TAUBMAN