05BUCHAREST353 / 2005-02-09 14:32:00
Embassy Bucharest
                UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BUCHAREST 000353 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH 
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO USAID and DOJ OPDAT 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KJUS, KDEM, ECON, EAID, RO, anti-corruption 
SUBJECT: ROMANIAN CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS EXPRESS CAUTIOUS 
OPTIMISM FOR PROGRESS AGAINST CORRUPTION 
 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED.  PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY. 
 
1. (SBU) Summary.  Leading Romanian civil society 
representatives expressed cautious optimism about anti- 
corruption efforts under newly elected President Traian 
Basescu during a February 2 Embassy sponsored roundtable 
discussion. Corruption remains a top concern for most 
Romanians according to opinion polls.  While acknowledging 
the many challenges to stamping out corruption in Romania, 
participants offered a variety of ideas to fight corruption, 
but highlighted Basescu's apparent "political will" and EU 
pressure as positive forces pushing anti-corruption efforts 
forward.  Civil society representatives cited public 
administration reform and greater public participation in 
the political process as key ingredients for long-term 
success.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (SBU) Leading Romanian civil society organizations, 
along with representatives from the OECD and UK and U.S. 
embassies discussed Romania's ongoing anti-corruption 
efforts during a February 2 roundtable sponsored by U.S. 
Embassy Bucharest's Resident Legal Advisor.  Participating 
organizations included those at the forefront of Romanian 
civil society's efforts to educate the public on the impact 
of corruption and to press the GOR to take needed action. 
They included Transparency International, the Open Society 
Foundation, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Council of 
Foreign Investors and the American Bar Association Central 
European and Eurasian Law Initiative (ABA-CEELI). 
Influential Romanian think tanks included the Romanian 
Academic Society and the Institute for Public Policy. 
Leading local grassroots democracy organizations present 
included Pro Democracy, the Romanian Association for 
Democracy Implementation, and the Romanian Center for 
Independent Journalism. 
 
A Question of Political Will? 
----------------------------- 
3. (SBU) Overall, participants agreed that the new Liberal- 
Democratic (PNL-PD) led government, coupled with President 
Basescu's outspoken public stance against corruption, 
provides a catalyst for renewing Romania's battle against 
corruption.  While many remarked that the previous 
government demonstrated little "political will" to fight 
corruption, most participants agreed that Basescu and his 
team -- at least at the beginning of their administration -- 
appear committed to taking serious, actionable measures to 
counter corruption. Some of the Government's initial steps 
include Basescu's designation of anti-corruption efforts as 
a "national security priority," plans to more strictly 
review dignitaries' declarations of wealth through 
establishment of a National Integrity Council, and the 
January 27 decision to scrap immunity privileges for former 
ministers (see paragraph 10). Participants noted that a 
major challenge for the new government will be to sustain 
this energy and focus over time and to resist the temptation 
to focus anti-corruption efforts solely against the 
opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD).  Basescu has 
expressed a commitment to "political neutrality" in the anti- 
corruption battle.  Civil Society representatives at the 
roundtable expressed an intention to hold Basescu, Prime 
Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and others now in 
government accountable for keeping that promise. 
 
4. (SBU) Transparency International and Pro Democracy also 
highlighted EU criticism against Romania on corruption as a 
powerful motivating force to spur GOR action.  One UK 
Embassy representative noted that external pressure from the 
EU is now coupled with internal pressure driven by President 
Basescu's designation of anti-corruption efforts as a 
"national security priority."  He opined that Basescu's 
government needs several "quick wins" to set the tone and 
improve public perception, while acknowledging that the real 
battle against entrenched corruption in Romania is a long- 
term process. 
 
GOR Anti-Corruption Strategy:  More than Good Intentions? 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
5.  (SBU) Romania's 2005-2007 National Anti-Corruption 
Strategy, slated for release in March, emerged as a focal 
point for the discussion.  This strategy, which follows up 
on the largely unimplemented 2001-2004 Anti-Corruption 
program, is designed to serve as both a framework and action 
plan for the government's anti-corruption policies.  ABA- 
CELI Madeleine Crohn noted that the strategy also ties in 
closely with the EU accession "safeguard clause," which 
calls for an independent audit of the current anti- 
corruption strategy no later than March 2005, along with a 
multi-year strategy, including clearly defined benchmarks 
and goals.  Failure to meet these requirements ostensibly 
could delay Romania's EU entry by one year.  Critics of the 
National Anti-Corruption Strategy, such as the local 
Transparency International representative, pointed out that 
rolling out a new 2005-2007 strategy may create a false 
impression of progress, given the lack of implementation and 
follow through found in many of the 2001-2004 goals. 
 
6.  (SBU) Many roundtable participants viewed the strategy 
development process, led by the Ministry of Justice, as 
inadequate, given that many stakeholders were not included 
in the initial consultations process.  A representative from 
the OECD Anti-corruption Office expressed concern over the 
MOJ's basic lack of internal capacity to develop such a wide- 
reaching strategy, noting that only five employees work in 
the department charged with developing and drafting the 
National Anti-Corruption Strategy.  She opined that the 
concept of consulting with various civil society, business 
and government leaders to develop an effective program is a 
relatively new concept in Romania, complicated by the fact 
that communication between government agencies is often less 
than ideal. 
 
7.  (SBU) Other participants raised fundamental concerns 
about developing a National Anti-Corruption strategy, 
questioning its "value added."  They also noted two key 
elements lacking in the 2001-2004 National Anti-Corruption 
Strategy: clear performance indicators and accountability, 
although many believed steps to correct these deficiencies 
were underway in the 2005-2007 Strategy.  Participants 
across the board agreed that stakeholders, including 
government agencies, civil society and the business 
community, need a strong political signal from the 
government to push them to implement.  A national anti- 
corruption publicity campaign also could advance these 
efforts, according to participants. 
 
Proposed Steps against Corruption 
---------------------------------- 
8.  (SBU) Civil society representatives highlighted the 
critical need for increased public participation in the 
political process to improve public officials' 
accountability and crack down on corruption.  Streamlining 
and increasing accountability in Romania's public 
administration system also emerged as a top priority. 
According to the Transparency International representative, 
weakness in the Romanian public administration system is a 
catalyst for corruption.  The overly bureaucratic system 
presents numerous opportunities for bribery, while providing 
few checks or sanctions on official misconduct.  Building on 
this perception, ABA-CEELI noted that a step as simple as a 
paper reduction act could significantly increase 
accountability and efficiency in the public administration 
system.  Several participants advocated consolidating the 
twenty-six agencies charged with investigating compliance 
with government regulations into a more streamlined entity 
as a means to stamp out excessive bureaucracy. 
 
9.  (SBU) On the legislative front, the UK Customs advisor 
recommended reforming customs legislation to reduce 
ambiguities in penalties and fines, which open the door for 
negotiated payments and bribery, and establishing a code of 
conduct for tax officers.  Several participants advocated 
creating a broad anti-corruption working group, comprised of 
government and non-government officials, to monitor 
implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy.  Others, 
including the UK Advisor to the Ministry of Interior 
supported the idea of a strategic committee to monitor and 
report on National Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (PNA) 
activity as means to improve effectiveness in developing and 
implementing Romania's anti-corruption strategy. 
 
National Integrity Council:  A Step Forward? 
-------------------------------------------- 
10.  (SBU) Transparency International and other civil 
society organizations applauded the government's recent 
decision to create a National Integrity Council charged with 
verifying dignitaries' property and wealth declarations, as 
well as the January 27 decision scrapping immunity 
privileges protecting former cabinet members from 
prosecution.  Participants agreed that these measures pave 
the way for stepped-up action against high-level corruption. 
The Romanian Center for Independent Journalism cited recent 
MOJ pledges to remove libel from the criminal code as an 
encouraging sign, noting that fear of prosecution often 
hindered journalists' ability to publish articles concerning 
corruption. 
 
Anti Corruption Prosecutor's Office: An Absence of Oversight 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
11.  (SBU) Roundtable participants agreed that the National 
Anti- Corruption Prosecutor's Office (PNA) could become a 
powerful engine for combating high-level corruption. 
However, several fundamental changes, including in the 
willingness of individual prosecutors to pursue politically 
sensitive cases, are needed for the PNA to meet its true 
potential. Civil society representatives were divided over 
the benefits of amending legislation to provide 
parliamentary oversight of the PNA.  Nevertheless, a general 
consensus emerged that current oversight of the PNA was 
inadequate, and contributed to public skepticism about the 
PNA's commitment to impartial investigations.  One 
participant suggested creating a review board that 
periodically assessed PNA actions and reported to 
parliament.  The assessment would focus on individual cases 
rather than PNA efficiency generally.  In conjunction with 
concerns about oversight, participants expressed a 
corresponding concern with the impact of the management 
procedures used in Romanian prosecutors offices generally. 
This concern includes two components:  First, as 
magistrates, Romanian prosecutors are subject to the 
separate judicial body (the Superior Council of Magistrates 
or SCM) for many issues related to the evaluation and 
promotion of their staff; second, there is an overemphasis 
on jurisdictional boundaries to control what are essentially 
managerial decisions effecting prosecutorial policies and 
priorities.  In short, although the management of 
prosecutorial institutions like the PNA can be criticized, 
there is a need to recognize the limitations placed on 
managers through legislation and governing bodies such as 
the SCM. 
 
12. (SBU) The civil society representatives present summed 
up by stating that they would continue monitoring 
implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy. 
They also urged U.S. and UK representatives to continue 
advocating tough anti-corruption measures with Romanian 
government. 
 
Comment 
------- 
13.  (SBU) Corruption remains a top issue for the Romanian 
public.  Indeed, a November 2004 opinion poll showed it 
topped the list of voter concerns, with 52 percent of 
respondents stating that corruption plays a role in their 
daily lives.  The issue was one of the key contributors to 
Basescu's December electoral victory, as his party alliance 
was perceived as more committed to combating corruption and 
much less tainted by corruption allegations than the then 
ruling PSD.  Post agrees with the roundtable's assessment 
that Basescu and the Tariceanu government have started out 
strong on corruption, at least in terms of expressed 
intentions.  It is now incumbent on the new leadership to 
follow through by implementing key reforms, changing 
attitudes in an entrenched bureaucracy, and removing the 
battle on corruption from the sphere of partisan politics. 
Civil society organizations and the U.S. Embassy have played 
essential roles in elevating the issue of corruption as a 
national concern.  We will continue to engage the Government 
and cooperate with NGOs and other interested parties on this 
issue. 
 
14. (U) AmEmbassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are 
available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest. 
 
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