105511 4/24/2007 12:50 07BUCHAREST463 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL VZCZCXRO4990 PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0463/01 1141250 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 241250Z APR 07 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6506 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000463
STATE FOR EUR/NCE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/23/2017 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, RO SUBJECT: PM TARICEANU: DON'T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET
Classified By: Ambassador Nicholas Taubman for 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary: Prime Minister Tariceanu told Ambasssador that he was personally disappointed with the ongoing domestic turmoil in Romania, but also claimed he had received a vote of confidence from European Commission President Barroso. Tariceanu was concerned about reports that the USG was being "more than cautious" in its contacts with the GOR during the suspension period. He also provided assurances that all parties were supporting Romania's 2008 NATO Summit bid. Tariceanu insisted that no single side was to blame for the turmoil, and expressed the hope for a "balanced" posture from the USG. Tariceanu provided assurances that the referendum to remove President Basescu would be carried out under the current law and that Romania would not "discredit itself" in the process by engaging in manipulations. He acknowledged, ironically enough, that the anti-Basescu referendum was a "waste of time, energy, and money" because it was improbable that the Romanian President would be defeated, and as a result, "nothing will change in the end." On the Craiova auto plant, Tariceanu confirmed that a deadline was set for company tenders, and evinced confidence that the minority shareholder problem had been resolved. The PM also evinced doubts about Bechtel's ability to fulfill its road-building contract. End Summary.
2. (C) Ambassador (with DCM and Polcouns) met with Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu April 23, at the Prime Minister's request. Tariceanu said that he had two messages for the USG: he said that he wanted first to convey his "personal disappointment" with the internal political turmoil. The country had strong institutions, but they were not functionally normally right now, and citizens were beginning to get worried. He added, however, that he had recently spoken to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Barroso had assured him that such problems were not unusual even in other EU countries; he also reportedly expressed a personal vote of confidence that Romania would overcome its internal conflicts.
3. (C) Tariceanu said his second message was about the NATO Summit and bilateral relations: he had heard from the Romanian NATO Ambassador and the Romanian Embassy in Washington that there were "serious concern" in the USG about the political conflict in Romania, and that there was a USG decision to be "more than cautious" about contacts with Romanian authorities right now. Tariceanu said that he considered these reports to be "very strange" and that he was "unpleasantly surprised" by the news. Tariceanu laughed sardonically and quipped, "we can consider this to be a confidential meeting if you prefer." He also said he hoped
SIPDIS the Ambassador would send back the message to Washington that this was not the "proper attitude" to adopt towards Romania.
4. (C) Tariceanu also complained that he had been kept in the dark by President Basescu and then-Foreign Minister Ungureanu regarding the NATO Summit. Despite this, he was "more than supportive" of the summit, and was confident that the PSD would support the summit as well. Tariceanu also deflected responsibility for the political turmoil on the PSD, remarking that "the current situation did not arise because of the government, but because of the PSD." He said President Basescu was in a "difficult position" and his situation might worsen if a "valid" referendum took place. He added that his "impression" was that the Americans had "put all of their eggs in one basket." Tariceanu also evinced the hope that the relationship could be more "balanced" in the future as "not just one side is the guilty one."
5. (C) Ambassador inquired whether discussions with the European Commission had included mention of any safeguard clauses. Tariceanu replied that he had assured Barroso that Romania would meet all benchmarks imposed by the Commission; for example, the Romanian Senate would begin deliberations soon to adopt a new law on the National Integrity Agency (ANI); similarly, the new Justice Minister had met with EC Vice President Frattini and had reportedly received high marks from his EU counterparts. Tariceanu added that Barroso's primary concern appeared not to be Romanian political stability but rather the hope of breaking the impasse within the EU for a new constitutional treaty.
6. (C) Ambassador also assured Tariceanu that USG backing for Romania's 2008 NATO Summit ambitions remained firm. He added however that Tariceanu needed to put himself in the shoes of US policymakers who might be loath to send a President to a place where governance was in turmoil. He said that the bilateral relationship transcended personalities and hoped that we could continue to build on the relationship, especially in terms of our common strategic
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agenda in such areas as security and intelligence cooperation.
7. (C) Ambassador also remarked on recent press reports regarding the upcoming referendum, noting that while politics might be played as a tough sport, he hoped all sides would play by the rules. Tariceanu assured the Ambassador that the government would not "discredit itself" in the referendum and that the process would be straightforward. Regarding press reports that lawsuits and other legal actions were being prepared against the suspended President, Tariceanu replied that "the government can't do such things." He added that he would "go crazy" if he had to respond to all press speculation, but that he had already answered "no" to press reports that he might remove the Prosecutor General or the ANI head. Asked if Romania might accept foreign monitoring of the referendum, Tariceanu bristled that "Romanian is not a third world country" but added that "if somebody wants to come, he's welcome."
8. (C) Tariceanu also said that it was unlikely that a "valid referendum result" could be obtained under the current referendum law, which specified that over 50 percent of all registered voters needed to vote "yes" in order to remove a president. In response to a query from the Ambassador, he confirmed that the GOR would be operating under "existing legislation" in holding the referendum. He added with some exasperation that, for him personally, the referendum was a "waste of time, energy, and money" and that nothing will be changed in the end.
9. (C) On the Craiova auto plant, Tariceanu confirmed that the final date had been set for company tenders. He said that his two primary concerns included dealing with the minority shareholder issue and how to "sell the deal" with the general public. He added that Economy and Finance Ministry State Secretary Sebastian Vladescu seems to have "found a solution" for the minority shareholder problem--they were interested less in the industrial assets but in the real estate assets, and hopefully the GOR would be able to satisfy them. Asked whether he would like to see Vladescu directly, Ambassador responded that Ford (and GM) would be doing that.
10. (C) On Bechtel, the Prime Minister noted he was a civil engineer by training. What he saw last year at the Bechtel construction sites last year had left some doubts about its ability to fulfill the Transylvanian Highway contract. While he had "an open mind" and would be "happy" to see if they were working better now than last year, he was under "continuous media pressure" regarding lack of progress on the highway. Ambassador replied that it was best to let Bechtel work the issue out directly with Transportation Minister Orban; Bechtel knew how to build roads, they would finish on time if they were provided the money and the land right-of-ways that were required, and it was best to let them get on with the job.
11. (C) Comment: Tariceanu is somewhat disingenuous in claiming that he was kept in the dark regarding the NATO Summit, as we have heard from MFA sources that he was asked as early as last fall to help lobby for Romania and had refused to get involved. His concern about the fate of the summit appears to be driven in part by a desire to avoid being seen as losing the summit during his watch. His remarks about the referendum being carried out in a "straightforward" manner under current legislation is reassuring, but his reference to a possible "invalid" referendum result gives some pause, since some PSD leaders are already insisting that if a referendum is invalidated because of insufficient voter turnout, the process should be repeated. Press reports today indicate that the PSD met yesterday with the PC, UDMR, and PNL leaders to discuss proposals to change the current referendum law by emergency ordinance, after having two attempts to amend the current law rejected by the Constitutional Court as being unconstitutional. We need to make it clear to all parties here that we expect the referendum game to be played in a fully democratic manner, and that if an effort emerges to change the rules now, we will speak out. End Comment. TAUBMAN