"54836","3/1/2006 15:40","06BUCHAREST359","Embassy Bucharest","UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY","","VZCZCXYZ0000
DE RUEHBM #0359/01 0601540
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011540Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3823
INFO RUEHSF/AMEMBASSY SOFIA 4705
RUEHUP/AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST 1023
RUEHCH/AMEMBASSY CHISINAU 1102
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC","UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000359
STATE DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PHUM, ECON, EINV, SOCI, RO
SUBJECT: TRANSYLVANIA REGIONAL GOVERNMENT, FOURTH QUARTER
1. (U) Summary: This cable summarizes recent newsworthy regional and local controversies in the last quarter of 2005. Common themes during this period included local government corruption and stormy relations between members of the governing alliance at the local level, sometimes counterbalanced by instances of good cooperation and progressive management. End summary.
SKIRMISH IN BIHOR COUNTY
2. (SBU) Bihor County Prefect Ilie Bolojan, a National Liberal Party (PNL) activist, has twice blocked contracts undertaken by the city of Oradea - to the chagrin of Oradea\'s Democratic Party (PD) Mayor Petru Filip. If this happens a third time, the current Oradea city government will be automatically dissolved, provoking new city elections. Bolojan has opposed the actions of Filip and the city council in two key development areas: the renovation of the city transportation system (specifically the purchase of second-hand trams from Berlin) and the development of an ecologic city waste disposal and treatment center, on the grounds that the vendors selected were too expensive. Bolojan\'s actions, which many analysts characterize as anti- modernization and contrary to the public interest, inspired one newspaper to nickname him the \"the Funar of Bihor\" (a reference to Cluj\'s former extreme nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar). Tensions in Bihor have become so high that Vasile Blaga, Minister for Administration and the Interior, stepped in at the end of November to rebuke the prefect for overstepping his authority, and, possibly, to urge the mayor to reconsider his policies. (Note: Bolojan was a surprise dark horse selection for Prefect, with one news story alleging that he owed his appointment to the support of Ioan and Viorel Micula, the owners of powerful Bihor-based bottler European Drinks.)
3. (SBU) Bihor\'s city vs. county conflicts are not limited to Bolojan and Filip but include a struggle between Bihor County Council and local municipalities for military land and buildings available for local use as a result of Defense Ministry (MOD) restructuring. County Council President Kiss Alexandru is determined to use the land for low-cost housing, having promised to construct 4,000 houses (for which 8,500 residents of Oradea applied). Kiss had promised to construct 24-story skyscrapers, -- which would be the tallest buildings in Romania -- on former MOD land near the airport. This project came to naught following the \"discovery\" that the buildings would have obstructed flight paths near the airport!
SIBIU\'S MAYOR SCUFFLES WITH PSD - AND WINS
4. (U) Widely popular ethnic German Sibiu Mayor Claus Johannes recently successfully insisted on the resignation of a Social Democratic Party (PSD) vice mayor, who, despite PSD protest, stepped down and was replaced by a PD mayor. Johannes was reportedly furious that PSD President Mircea Geoana did not call on City Hall during a visit last year to Sibiu. Johannes ranks among Romania\'s most popular mayors: he won a second term in 2004 with 88.7 percent of the vote, despite the fact that Germans account for only 1.6 percent of Sibiu\'s population. Indeed, national daily \"Evenimentul Zilei\" dubbed him Romania\'s best mayor in September 2005. His recent accomplishments include winning Sibiu the title of \"Cultural Capital of Europe\" for 2007 (a major old town facelift is underway) and in attracting major European investments, such as 138 million Euro bio-diesel project.
CLUJ MAYOR\'S GODSON BECOMES CLUJ PREFECT
5. (SBU) The surprise selection of Cluj Prefect Mihail Hardau as Minister of Education in early November 2005 opened the position of Prefect of Cluj County. Local speculation focused on two rising PD members: MP Daniel Buda, PD President and Cluj Mayor Emil Boc\'s selection for president of the local PD party organization in October; and Alin Tise, member of the local city council and Boc\'s godson -- the mayor served as Tise\'s \"godfather\" at his wedding in 2004. The \"winner,\" Alin Tise, made his mark in the city council as head of the commission to sell city-owned commercial property, where he managed to garner market rates for property, reversing the trend under Funar. A lawyer by profession, Tise is 31 and listed over one million dollars in property, stocks and other assets on his financial declaration.
6. (SBU) Tise has hit the ground running. In his first weeks in office he promised faster passport services, reform of the office that issues driver\'s licenses, asked for reports from all departments, and then criticized the quality of their response. Despite this blitz of activity, Tise told the OIC at the city National Day reception he did not enjoy the job, and might quit.
THE SICK STATE OF ZALAU\'S HOSPITAL
7. (SBU) The revelation last November of sweetheart contracts with suppliers who charged the government-run hospital in Zalau far above market rates for food and basic supplies, such as soap and toilet paper, resulted in the resignation of the hospital\'s chief accountant and administrative director. Within a few days Gheorghe Stanciu, a PD member of the county council, was removed from the council by order of the Prefect for fulfilling functions incompatible with council membership. Apparently, he was not only sitting on the administrative board of the county hospital, but held hospital service contracts in his capacity as administrator of a local refrigeration company. Meanwhile a nurse employed by the hospital informed the OIC that medical personnel have not been paid for the past month. Local residents point to the scandal at Zalau hospital as emblematic of Romania\'s wider health care crisis.
MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY FOR NORTHERN COUNTIES
8. (U) Faced with the fact that no internal highway development plan touches their northern counties, the authorities in Maramures and Satu Mare Counties have come up with a novel plan: an expressway through Satu Mare to Baia Mare that will connect with the M3 highway in Hungary. Thanks to good cooperation with neighboring counties in Hungary, the local authorities managed to get the proposal on the agenda of the joint Hungarian-Romanian meeting in Bucharest this fall, and have the support of both prime ministers. Funding will come from the European Regional Development Fund, to which Romania will have access after joining the European Union. Construction is currently planned between 2007 and 2010. The total length of the expressway is estimated at 135 kilometers, 60 in Hungary, 40 in Satu Mare and 35 in Maramures. The estimated cost of the project is 580 million euros. The director general of the Agency for North-West Development sees the first benefits of the new route coming in the form of increased tourism, but it will also benefit commercial traffic in the area.