193083 2/20/2009 14:59 09BUCHAREST114 Embassy Bucharest UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY 09STATE14575 VZCZCXRO8117 PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0114 0511459 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 201459Z FEB 09 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9246 INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES PRIORITY RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 0062 RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 2247 UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000114
STATE FOR NEA/IPA ALENTZ, EUR/CE ASCHEIBE
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: EFIN, PHUM, PGOV, KPAL, RO SUBJECT: ROMANIA WILL ATTEND SHARM AL-SHEIKH CONFERENCE BUT SKEPTICAL ABOUT OUTCOME
REF: STATE 014575
1. (SBU) Post's EconCoun on February 19 delivered reftel demarche on the upcoming Sharm Al-Sheikh conference to Mihaela Rutjens, Director for Development Assistance at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Rutjens confirmed that the Government of Romania (GOR) had received an official invitation to the conference from the Egyptians. She noted that the GOR had not decided yet on its level of representation, but would likely send a State Secretary from MFA. MFA is consulting with EU counterparts, and the U.S. intention to send the Secretary could prompt them to raise their own level of participation, she said.
2. (SBU) Rutjens expressed frustration with the scanty details available about the conference agenda only 10 days before the event. Romania is skeptical that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will produce in time the comprehensive statement of its needs as described in reftel, and this would limit the effectiveness of the conference since potential donors would not be able to preview these needs in advance. Rutjens said this skepticism is shared by other EU members. She also explained that most EU members, including Romania, would be focused on short-term humanitarian assistance at this early juncture; serious consideration of longer-term reconstruction assistance could only come in the context of a durable ceasefire and a reliable agreement with Israel to permit necessary access to Gaza. The EU feels "badly burned" by the fact that the recent conflict destroyed substantial infrastructure built in Gaza with prior EU assistance; "we will not rush back in until we are assured that the Israelis won't blow it all up again," she asserted.
3. (SBU) Romanian law has not yet been changed to allow direct bilateral assistance to the PA, so Romania's contribution will need to be channeled through an international mechanism such as the World Bank or UN agencies. Rutjens lamented that the GOR's 2009 budget had slashed ODA funding from 4.7 to just 2 million euros for the entire year, so GOR assistance to Gaza will be extremely modest. She also noted that her office, formerly a directorate within the MFA, had been downgraded to a division and lost some staff positions in recent MFA reshuffling due to budget constraints, indicating that with the declining economic situation at home, ODA has been moved much lower on the GOR's list of foreign policy priorities. GUTHRIE-CORN