202452 4/15/2009 14:18 09BUCHAREST255 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL P 151418Z APR 09 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9431 INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L BUCHAREST 000255
STATE FOR EUR/FO, EUR/CE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/15/2019 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, MD, RO SUBJECT: PRESIDENT BASESCU'S MOLDOVA SPEECH: NOBODY SHOULD ERECT A NEW BERLIN WALL
Classified By: CDA JBonner for 1.5 (b) and (d)
1. (SBU) At a special joint parliamentary session April 14, Romanian President Traian Basescu delivered a speech on recent developments in Moldova. Basescu prefaced his remarks by noting that he had deliberately avoided responding to "provocations" over the past week that might provide a pretext for justifying further repression in Moldova, but added that he could not remain silent forever. Key points made by President Basescu included the following:
--While Romania had a "moral duty" not to abandon those who shared a common language and history, he insisted that Romania had no claim over territories lost in the past and did not question Moldova's borders or sovereignty. He also reminded listeners that Romania was the first state to recognize the Republic of Moldova and to establish diplomatic relations with Chisinau.
--As a European state, Romania has a responsibility to let the world know what is happening across the Prut River. Moldovan citizens were the victims of a totalitarian regime and the denial of the Romanian identity was part of this totalitarian legacy. Basescu said that Romania "will not accept that Romanians be made guilty for being Romanians. "We will not accept that Romania be accused of actions aimed to destabilize the Republic of Moldova" he said.
--Basescu characterized human rights violations taking place in Moldova as "alien to the European spirit" and called for a "European investigation" into the "repressive actions" of recent days.
--Basescu reminded listeners that under Article 7 of the Constitution the Romanian state had an obligation to grant support to ethnic Romanians outside its borders. Romania would support individuals in the Republic of Moldova "who consider themselves Romanians and feel Romanian" so that they could regain/retain their identities.
--Romanian law provides for the restoration upon request of Romanian citizenship to former citizens and their descendants. Basescu announced that he had instructed the Cabinet to adopt fast-track amendments to the Citizenship Law to expedite the process of restoring citizenship to allow Romanians in the Republic of Moldova to "regain Romanian citizenship" in an accelerated manner.
--Basescu closed by remarking that Communist totalitarianism was a thing of the past and--twenty years after the fall of the Berlin wall--"nobody had the right to erect a new wall between our countries." Basescu said he reaffirmed the values that inspired the 1989 anti-communist revolutions: that individual freedom was inalienable; nothing justified demeaning human beings in the name of a false reason of state or of party; and that nobody had a monopoly on truth or could deny citizens their rights to express their opinions, move freely, or to organize themselves politically.
3. (C) PSD head Mircea Geoana in press comments after the speech chided Basescu for not engaging in prior consultations with political parties prior to the speech, opined that the speech only "poured gas on the fire" and added that Basescu should have spoken out earlier when protesters in Moldova needed support. (Note: interestingly, PSD Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu quickly came to Basescu's defense by saying that he had "naturally" been consulted.) Geoana also repeated earlier assertions that events in Moldova had shown the inability of Romanian institutions to deal adequately with the "dramatic evolutions" taking place across the border. Geoana also insisted that Romania must "re-launch" relations with the Russian Federation and work harder to bring issues affecting the "EU-NATO border" to the attention of Western decisionmakers. (Note: This tracks closely with Geoana's comments to Embassy the previous day, when he noted to us that Romania was surrounded by a "ring of instability" along its borders and was playing a "lonely card" in the region because of the GOR's unsophisticated foreign policy. Geoana also evinced dismay at the lack of European solidarity in the face of pervasive Russian efforts to make Central Europe a place for "strategic competition" and expressed concern that the Russians could use events in Chisinau to "pre-determine" the Transnistria issue to their advantage.)
4. (SBU) PNL Spokesman Vosganian--who earlier criticized Basescu's silence--remarked afterwards that the speech while late in coming was a welcome defense of Romanian interests, adding that Basescu was correct to speak out against abuses committed against Romanian citizens that were unimaginable for a democratic country. Former PNL Defense Minister Melescanu echoed Vosganian's line, noting that Basescu's concern for the situation in Moldova was generally commendable. Even former Chamber of Deputies head Bogdan Olteanu--usually a vocal Basescu critic--told reporters he was "favorably impressed" with the speech.
5. (C) Comment: President Basescu's obvious reticence in remarking on developments in Moldova over the past week had drawn the attention--and some flak--from the Romanian media, human rights NGOs, and some political enemies as a sign that the President was not adequately protecting Romanian interests. National Security Advisor Iulian Fota and Foreign Policy Advisor Anca Ilinoiu told us prior to the speech that this political pressure was nearing a "boiling point" and needed to be released. They and other Cotroceni contacts assured us prior to the speech that Basescu's remarks would be balanced and moderate, and that he would take a very "European" approach that would move the spotlight from the troubled stage of Romanian-Moldovan bilateral ties towards a larger European context. Basescu's characterization of events in Moldova as "alien to the European spirit" and his call for a "European" investigation of human rights abuses can thus be read as an act of political ju-jitsu intended to transfer any calls for Romanian authorities to "do something" to the Brussels switchboard. Basescu also clearly intended to re-frame the debate as a freedom-vs-communism issue rather than a bilateral matter, an issue where he can claim to hold the commanding heights compared to the (ex-communist) PSD.
6. (C) Comment Con't: President Basescu's offer of fast-track "restoration" of citizenship to Moldovans may also be motivated in no small part by election-year political calculations (e.g., to consolidate support among Moldovan-Romanian voters and--if the process is quick enough--to bring new voters into his camp). As noted, reactions from Basescu's political rivals have largely been muted, and Embassy's full-court-press lobbying of political contacts to avoid making the Moldova issue part of the domestic political battlefield may have had some beneficial impact. One excellent sign that Basescu managed to safely release some of the domestic political pressure on this issue was the fact that while the event got lead coverage in the evening news, most broadcasts quickly moved on to other big stories of the day, including the continuing detention of football magnate (and right-extremist politician) Gigi Becali, reportage on the ongoing "war" between Basescu and media moguls, an ongoing soccer-fixing scandal, and other more pressing matters. In short, silence is golden, but indifference is almost as good. End Comment.