05BUCHAREST1126 / 2005-05-13 09:38:00
Embassy Bucharest
                C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BUCHAREST 001126 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/13/2015 
TAGS: PTER, PGOV, PREL, KDEM, KCRM, ECON, SOCI, RO, corruption 
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION PARTY STALLS ON KEY ANTI-CORRUPTION 
LAW, ALLEGES U.S. MEDDLING 
 
 
Classified By: ROBERT GILCHRIST FOR REASONS 1.4 B AND D 
 
1. (C) Summary: Deputies from the opposition Social 
Democratic Party (PSD) stormed out of the Romanian Parliament 
May 10 to avoid a vote on strengthened financial disclosure 
legislation, a key component in the new government's 
anti-corruption program.  The PSD, which lost the 2004 
presidential vote amid allegations of corruption, attempted 
to shift the debate from the disclosure law to alleged "U.S. 
meddling," referring to a letter from the Charge to Chamber 
President and former PM Adrian Nastase.  The governing 
Liberal-Democratic (PNL-PD) Alliance plans to pass final 
legislation in coming days with the help of strict coalition 
discipline.  End Summary. 
 
A Silly Response to a Sensible Law 
----------------------------------- 
2. (C) The Romanian media has focused heavily on a dramatic 
walkout May 10 by the entire PSD opposition from Romania's 
Chamber of Deputies.  Although such dramatic posturing has 
been relatively common in the past, it is the first walkout 
since the new PNL-PD government assumed power in January. 
Surprisingly, it is also over the issue on which the PSD is 
most vulnerable -- high-level corruption.  The specific 
legislation relates to the disclosure of assets and income by 
government and elected officials to close loopholes in the 
current law.  The law currently in force, crafted by the 
former PSD government, allowed officials to claim 
artificially low net worth figures by transferring assets to 
spouses and children or by investing in categories not 
covered by the current law, such as art or stocks and bonds. 
The new bill -- issued by the government as an emergency 
ordinance -- closes those loopholes. Officials would be 
officially required to publish asset declarations on the 
websites of their institutions.  Investigations of false 
statements would be carried out by a panel of two judges and 
a prosecutor attached to the Court of Appeals.  This degree 
of specificity has obviously touched a raw nerve within the 
opposition PSD. 
 
3.  (C) The first blow against the bill came on April 20, 
when the Senate gutted key measures, passing a revised draft 
that widened the loopholes found in the original law. Justice 
Minister Monica Macovei called the changes "opaque" and 
expressed hope that the Chamber of Deputies -- which has 
final say on the proposed legislation -- would change the 
proposal to its original state.  Charge d'Affaires wrote a 
letter to Chamber President Nastase appealing to him to take 
a leadership role when the bill reached the lower house. 
Shortly after the letter was sent, PSD Senator and former 
Defense Minister Ion Pascu told Charge that the letter caused 
somewhat of a stir among more "energetic" PSD members, 
notably outspoken Deputy Victor Ponta.  However, he said that 
the party recognized it as a continuation of the Embassy's 
long-term efforts against corruption. 
 
Throwing down the Gauntlet 
-------------------------- 
4. (C) The PSD subsequently shared the letter with the other 
parliamentary parties.  The day before the bill in its 
original state was due to be voted on in the Chamber, the 
entire text of the letter was printed in "Tricolorul," a 
daily newspaper owned by extreme nationalist leader Corneliu 
Vadim Tudor.  In the newspaper, Tudor also alleged American 
interventionism, calling Charge "worse than former Soviet 
Commisar Visinski in 1945." Tudor's vitriol thereby sparked a 
public debate over the letter, thereby detracting from the 
actual content of the legislation.  On May 10, the PSD cited 
the allegations against the U.S. as a pretext to walk out of 
the Chamber just as the vote on the bill was beginning.  Even 
Chamber President Nastase departed, leaving the PNL-PD-led 
coalition to pass the bill article by article, as required by 
parliamentary procedure. Tudor's extreme nationalist Greater 
Romania Popular Party (PPRM) remained in the Chamber, but 
voted against the measure and spoke out against it. 
 
5.  (C) The final Chamber vote on the legislation, which must 
now be voted on in its entirety, is now slated for May 17. 
The PNL-PD led coalition is calling for strict voting 
discipline by its membership, which holds a thin majority in 
the lower house. The PSD, which will meet to discuss its 
strategy against the bill on May 16, may choose a second walk 
out if as expected the governing coalition turns out in force 
to support the measure.  Minister Delegate for Relations with 
the Parliament and PNL deputy Bogdan Olteanu told PolChief 
that the measure will absolutely pass.  He also noted that, 
as the bill was introduced as an emergency ordinance, it is 
already in effect and that officials in Parliament and 
throughout the country are already obliged to post their 
assets on the internet.  He opined that the government's 
biggest problem is not the Parliament, but rather with the 
many local officials who are having difficulty completing the 
forms or who are clearly falsifying their claims. 
 
Text of the Letter 
------------------ 
6. (SBU) The complete text of Charge's letter to Nastase is 
as follows: 
 
Begin text: 
Dear President Nastase: 
 
I am writing you in your capacity as President of the Chamber 
of Deputies and in anticipation of a vote in that body in the 
near future on a draft law changing requirements for wealth 
and interest declarations for government officials. 
 
As you know, the Plenum of the Senate recently voted to make 
major amendments to the bill proposed by the government.  To 
be precise, I understand that the Senate voted against 
inclusion of an estimated value for securities, jewelry and 
art from statements.  Another change eliminated a requirement 
that statements be complete, accurate and public.  A third 
change struck out the need to declare the incomes of children 
of those making declarations. 
 
We were profoundly disappointed by the actions of the Senate 
in this matter. I am sure that comes as no surprise, given 
the long history of discussions between the U.S. Embassy and 
the Romanian government on the subject of fighting corruption 
in government, as well as personal conversations between you 
and Ambassadors Crouch and Guest on that subject. 
 
I strongly encourage you to take a leadership role in this 
matter in order to secure passage of strong conflict of 
interest and wealth declaration legislation in the Chamber. 
Passage of such legislation should aim at fulfillment of 
conditions requested by the EU to bring Romania into 
conformity with the Aquis chapter on Justice and Home 
Affairs.  However, it is just as important that the Romanian 
people be assured that their elected and non-elected 
officials are neither profiting from their positions, nor 
taking decisions based on their personal interests.  I can 
also assure you that the foreign investor community, 
including U.S. firms now looking at Romania for possible 
sites for their operations, would welcome such legislation as 
a sign of Romania,s seriousness in creating a hospitable 
business climate. 
 
Sincerely, 
Thomas L. Delare 
Charge d,Affaires 
End text 
 
7. (C) Comment: PSD accusations of U.S. meddling were clearly 
a ploy to divert attention from the party's opposition to 
legislation that PSD members believe will disclose too much 
about personal finances, at least some of which has no doubt 
been gained from dubious business practices.  The Embassy has 
sent many letters to the Parliamentary leadership in the past 
on issues of adoptions, tax issues, language content in 
advertising, etc.  This is the first instance that there have 
been charges made of "meddling".  One PNL-PD politician joked 
to PolChief that he is eager to see the value of Nastase's 
famed art collection, although he harbored little hope that 
true figures would be reflected in any of the opposition's 
disclosure statements.  He asserted "they will still be able 
to hide everything, even under the new law."  Editorial 
positions on the issue have been widely in favor of stricter 
legislations, with the U.S. role in this dustup being 
generally praised and that of the PSD negatively caricatured. 
 Perhaps realizing his mistake press reports on May 13 report 
Nastase's new desire to engage in a constructive debate on 
the bill when it comes up for a second vote. 
 
8. (C)  Post's informal poll of average Romanians finds that 
few believe the PSD had any other motive for opposing the 
revised assets disclosure legislation than to protect the 
interests of individual wealthy politicians.  For a party 
that lost the December 12 presidential elections largely over 
the issue of corruption, the PSD's decision to engage in 
melodramatic behavior over this particular anti-corruption 
legislation shows a disappointing resistance to learning from 
past mistakes. 
 
8. (U) AmEmbassy Bucharest,s Reporting telegrams, as well as 
daily press summaries, are available on the Bucharest SIPRNet 
website: www.state.sgov/p/eur/bucharest 
DELARE 

            
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