96091 2/9/2007 18:55 07BUCHAREST144 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL 07BUCHAREST115 VZCZCXRO3646 PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0144/01 0401855 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 091855Z FEB 07 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5994 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BUCHAREST 000144
STATE FOR EUR/NCE AARON JENSEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/08/2016 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, RO SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH PRIME MINISTER TARICEANU
REF: BUCHAREST 0115
Classified By: DCM Mark A. Taplin for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
1. (C) Summary: The Ambassador accompanied by DCM and Acting Polchief met with Prime Minister Tariceanu on February 8, to get his views on the current domestic political turmoil and to remind the PM of continuing US priorities on Iraq, Afghanistan and NATO. While Tariceanu was at times cagey in responding to U.S. concerns, he provided some measure of assurance that he is not planning to himself advocate any change in Romania's foreign policy direction. While he was anything but positive in speaking about President Basescu, he made it clear that the Liberals and the Democrats are still consulting about ways to stave off the opposition censure motion. He cited in particular his concern that the current political turmoil could have a negative effect on this year's economic picture. Some of the PM's comments about what ails Romania, including critical comments about the pace of judicial reform and the lack of independence among Romanian "judicial" officials, were worrisomely close to views expressed by opposition foes of reformist Minister of Justice Monica Macovei. In a surprise development, the PM raised as a "huge problem" the performance of Bechtel in the Transylvanian highway construction project, threatening to cancel the contract and reopen the road project for bidding if something was not done to improve the situation. The Ambassador pledged to get the Minister of Transportation together with Bechtel senior representatives to establish the facts and to find a solution. End Summary. . Energy/Nabucco . 2. (C) The Ambassador opened discussions with Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu with good news: the International Energy Agency said Romania was welcome to participate in the upcoming Southern Corridor Energy Conference. Tariceanu said he was glad to hear the news. The Ambassador underscored the importance of the IEA's welcome, in view of the progress on the Nabucco pipeline. Tariceanu said the problem with Nabucco was that Turkey wants to "have a hand on the valve." Ambassador noted that EUR DAS Bryza had worked hard to address the issue. The PM stressed the importance for Romania of having both a diversification of energy supplies and a broader distribution. For these reasons the PM has formed a energy security consultation group within the government that will look at energy from a strategic and geopolitical perspective. The Ambassador updated Tariceanu on the status of his request to have a U.S. energy advisor consult with the Minister of Economy and other GOR officials on regional energy issues. . Dismissal of Foreign Minister . 3. (C) The Ambassador said he was sorry to see FM Ungureanu leave (reftel) although he understood the PM's perspective. He was glad to see Ungureanu had decided to stay with the National Liberal Party (PNL) since he was young and had talent. Tariceanu said that Ungureanu had made a mistake but that he appreciated his efforts and accomplishments; Ungureanu would continue to play a role in the party, heading the PNL list for the European Parliamentary elections planned for May. The Ambassador said that it would be important that the next foreign minister have an appreciation of the important role that Romania plays in areas that are of special significance to the U.S., namely Iraq, Afghanistan and NATO. He added that the US was aware that there were some concerns within the PNL over Iraq and Afghanistan. Romania continued to play a strong, important role in some of the toughest regions, the Ambassador went on, and the US fully appreciated Romania's contributions. The Ambassador also thanked the PM for helping keep these issues in the GOR on "an even keel" over the last several months. The PM noted that these were delicate issues, and that there were some clear differences with the US inside his party on these two points. Tariceanu underscored that the differences were not a reflection on how Romanians feel about the U.S., but rather "natural reactions" to Romania's "European profile."
4. (C) The Ambassador assured the PM that the Embassy would continue to represent the US "blind to personalities," and said that the US and Romania have done good things together. It is because of that mutual effort that, from the President on down, the U.S. wholeheartedly supported Romania's bid to host the 2008 NATO Summit. He added that the US was still working hard for the Summit to be in Bucharest, and though there is still work to do, things appeared to moving in the right direction. Tariceanu said that the NATO Summit would send a very important and strong signal, and he appreciated the US efforts. The Ambassador asked the PM if he was considering any names in particular for his next foreign
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minister. Tariceanu said he would be looking first within the PNL, but that the Ambassador could disregard the names that had initially been raised in the media. There were some in the party who sought to use the media to do their lobbying, but he had not had a single meeting to discuss possible candidates among his Liberal colleagues. The PM added that he was in no hurry to name someone, and that he would look for the best candidate for the job, even if it meant looking outside the PNL. . Current Political Situation . 5. (C) While acknowledging the current political situation in Romania was an internal domestic issue, the Ambassador commented that he thought the PM's appeal for all parties to exercise restraint in effort to suspend the President had been helpful. It was important to focus on what was best for Romania, the Ambassador observed. The US wanted Romania to be recognized as the strongest democracy in the region because we recognized that Romania that a strong, democratic Romania would always be our friend. We recognized also that there were areas that still needed support: rule of law, independent judiciary, and a strong executive and parliament that had the respect of the voters. He asked the PM where he felt the political situation was headed? .
6. (C) Tariceanu began by saying he thought the question was best addressed to President Basescu. The PM said that for two years he had tried to avoid a political conflict at the level of institutions and personalities, but had not succeeded. The PM pointed out that "the one with the strongest voice is not always right." The PNL got Romania into the EU because of Romania's "strong institutions"; things might not be perfect but they were moving forward. The judiciary, for example, needed strengthening, and he was disappointed that it had not moved far enough. Tariceanu placed the blame on "ex-communists" who have taken positions in the judiciary and not performed well, and those who retained "old communist mentalities" and who did not respect "the rights of citizens." As long as these ex-communists made citizens out to be guilty before they were judged in a court, then Romania could not say its judiciary was performing well. Tariceanu criticized judges for being swayed by political influences, saying there were too many people who had been in positions for the last 17 years who had "no political culture" and lacked "the experience to be statesmen." "They behave like they would in their private lives," he lamented. If Romania's leaders were not on the right track, then the EU would reject them. He added that Romania, however, was not the only country in the EU with these problems. There were those that preferred to have things in permanent turmoil, preventing the country from moving forward, spending energies on political debate that appeared as nonsense to the average citizen. Tariceanu's real fear, he said, was that Romania's 2007 economic performance would suffer because of the political turmoil, which was why he proposed delaying the impeachment procedures against Basescu. He could not say that President Basescu had anything to do with the current situation, but if people wanted to concentrate on real priorities, it would depend "on the reaction and counter-reaction by each side." Tariceanu noted that the PSD opposition had made such a strong point that it risked losing face if it were to drop the issue. The Ambassador said there had to be a way for reasonable people to sit at the table and talk things over. US business had an interest in Romania, and while he liked to tell Americans that Romanians would solve their political problems, there were some days it was harder to say than others. The PM replied that the GOR's institutions were strong enough to solve the current political issues "within the constitutional framework." . Craiova . 7. (C) The PM asked his economic and privatization advisor Razvan Oresanu to update the Ambassador on the latest state of play on the Craiova privatization effort. The PM and the Ambassador agreed that the Commission had to present "well-defined criteria, a specific calendar and an action plan," at the latest in June, in order to move forward on the privatization process. The PM emphasized he had included Oresanu on the commission in order to ensure that decisions were made quickly and to keep things on track. He added that time is crucial for the two US companies interested in the plant. The Ambassador agreed, noting that after June, there was a serious risk that Romania could lose the interest of one or both of the major US car companies planning to bid on the plant. . Bechtel Transylvanian Highway .
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8. (C) Tariceanu described Bechtel's performance in the highway construction project as "a huge problem." He said that he had expected Bechtel would have the capacity to do the job and, after discussion with Transportation Minister Berceanu, had agreed to the scope of work under the revised highway contract. Tariceanu complained that he now believed Bechtel was unable to keep pace to get the project completed under the agreed terms. PM Tariceanu said that at the current pace and expense, he would need to talk directly with the Bechtel chairman about having a more realistic framework, or else he will have to cancel the contract and open up the highway construction project for rebidding. "It does not look like Bechtel has the capacity to do the job," he insisted. The Ambassador expressed surprise, noting that he had spoken with the Bechtel project director recently, and been assured that Bechtel was "at 105 percent of where it wants to be right now." The PM said that he has a political interest in seeing the work is completed within the specified framework and that Romania has the money to pay, but the performance was simply not there. He warned that Bechtel's image would be affected by delays. The Ambassador pledged that he would put the project director together with himself and Minister Berceanu in order to find out what was the real situation. He would then provide his assessment to Tariceanu. The PM said he would let Transportation Minister Berceanu know to expect the Ambassador's call. . TAUBMAN TAUBMAN