"52608","2/11/2006 10:03","06BUCHAREST239","Embassy Bucharest","CONFIDENTIAL","06BUCHAREST111","VZCZCXRO3570
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHBM #0239 0421003
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 111003Z FEB 06
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3658
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE","C O N F I D E N T I A L BUCHAREST 000239
STATE DEPT FOR EUR/NCE BILL SILKWORTH
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/20/2016
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, KJUS, KCRM, SOCI, ECON, SIPDIS, RO
SUBJECT: ROMANIAN SENATE DEALS SETBACK TO ANTI-CORRUPTION
REF: BUCHAREST 0111
Classified By: CHARGE MARK TAPLIN FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) & (D).
1. (C) Summary: A controversial vote by the Romanian Senate February 9 to strip the National Anticorruption Department (DNA) of its authority to prosecute MPs has created a potential roadblock to GOR efforts against high-profile corruption cases, at the very time the EU is scrutinizing those efforts. It has also heightened the level of conflict between and within the two major political blocs, with each side accusing the other of protecting its own members. President Traian Basescu is expected to use procedural measures to keep the legislation in play and seek its eventual passage. However, the issue has led to new questions surrounding the ruling coalition\'s commitment to submitting MPs to the same scrutiny as others in corruption cases. If the DNA loses its mandate, Romania\'s ability to combat high-level corruption will suffer a severe setback and EU accession in 2007 could be in jeopardy. End Summary.
2. (C) The Romanian Senate, in a surprise move on January 9, voted to strip the National Anticorruption Department (DNA) of its authority to prosecute corruption cases against members of parliament. The vote was expected to be pro forma in favor of preserving the DNA\'s role. However, the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD), along with dissidents from the governing center-right ruling coalition, took advantage of low attendance in the Senate to effectively revoke the DNA\'s authority over most high-level cases. The extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) also voted against the measure. Suspiciously missing from the floor of the Senate, were many members from the ruling National Liberal (PNL) and Democratic (PD) parties. Although a number of them claimed they did not know the sensitivity of the vote, the media and some Embassy contacts have speculated that they were absent intentionally.
3. (C) The vote was initially met with relative calm on the floor of the Senate. However, within minutes, Minister of Justice Monica Macovei called a live press conference to express \"deep concern\" about the Senate\'s decision, which she said would be \"catastrophic\" to efforts to fight corruption. Her staff also contacted the U.S., EU, and other local embassies to request public statements of concern. PNL Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu predicted that President Basescu would reject the measure and send it back to the Senate for reconsideration. Under the constitution, the president has the power to do this within 30 days of the initial Senate vote on a law. However, the Senate again could vote against the measure or it could adopt the measure as proposed by the president.
4. (C) PSD politicians provided a range of reasons for the party\'s opposition to the legislation. PSD leader Mircea Geoana asserted to the Ambassador February 10 that the party \"remained committed\" to combating corruption but nonetheless objected to what it perceived as \"politically motivated prosecutions\" by the DNA \"orchestrated\" by Basescu and Macovei. Geoana said that -- since the vote -- he had been called by Basescu to consult on the law and the PSD was considering submitting \"its own\" anti-corruption legislation in the parliament. He added that the party had \"no choice\" but to react to high-profile investigations against PSD Chamber of Deputies president and former PM Adrian Nastase by rejecting the measure (ref). PSD Senate Vice President Doru Taricila reportedly asserted immediately after the vote that the DNA had gone \"too far, too fast\" against Nastase and others. Another PSD contact, Deputy Dan Mihalache, opined to poloff that Basescu has used the DNA as a tool to target his political foes.
5. (C) Comment: After expressing initial shock with the vote against the DNA, most Embassy contacts now predict that the legislation will eventually pass. In the words of one Ministry of Justice official, heightened media attention to the issue has \"shamed\" Romanian legislators such that they will \"have no choice\" but to preserve the DNA or risk a negative backlash from the public and potentially the EU. Indeed, the local EU Mission Charge d\'Affaires told polchief that the European Commission is \"monitoring the situation closely\" and will \"react strongly\" if Romania does not \"make the right choices.\" The dug-in opposition in the parliament to the DNA seems to suggest that politicians fear this institution, unlike its predecessor, could have teeth. Clearly, Romania still faces an uphill battle against high-level corrupt officials who, until recently, went about their business with impunity. End comment.