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Cablegate: Deadlock Resolved: President and Pm Agree On New

VZCZCXRO8053
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBM #0220 0781318
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181318Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8073
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000220

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/NCE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL RO
SUBJECT: DEADLOCK RESOLVED: PRESIDENT AND PM AGREE ON NEW
JUSTICE MINISTER

1. (SBU) In an announcement that caught even his party
colleagues by surprise, Prime Minister Calin
Popescu-Tariceanu February 29 nominated Catalin Marian
Predoiu as the next Justice Minister. Less than three hours
later, President Basescu hosted a ceremony to swear in the
new Justice Minister. During the ceremony, Basescu praised
the new minister's qualifications and was
uncharacteristically cordial in his interactions with the
Prime Minister.

2. (SBU) Comment: The fast-track nomination and swearing-in
of a minister to fill a position vacant for months suggests
some sort of behind-the-scenes accommodation between the
rival palaces took place. President Basescu had been in open
conflict with Prime Minister Tariceanu over finding a
candidate to replace the controversial Tudor Chiuariu, who
resigned in mid-December last year. Basescu rejected
Tariceanu's initial nominee for the post PNL Senator Norica
Nicolai - asserting that Nicolai's oligarch connections and
past indiscretions made her unfit for the position. The
Constitutional Court subsequently affirmed the President's
right to reject a nominee for a cabinet position. Tariceanu
then asked incumbent Defense Minister Theodor Melescanu to
serve as interim minister on a part-time basis. However,
when Tariceanu subsequently proposed that Melescanu take over
the Justice portfolio permanently, Basescu opposed the
transfer on the grounds that switching Defense Ministers in
the run-up to the NATO summit was too disruptive. In the
end, Tariceanu appears to have found a candidate who met
Basescu's initial criteria for the position*-e.g., a
highly-regarded legal professional with few overt links to
any political party. Tariceanu did not consult with top
party leaders and confronted his colleagues with a fait
accompli in the Monday March 3 weekly meeting of the party
leadership. The PM has been criticized by PNL leaders for
his decision. Ambassador has scheduled a meeting with the new
Justice Minister next month after the NATO Summit, and we
will be reporting additional observations septel. End
Comment.

3. (SBU) Biographic Note: Catalin Predoiu, 39, was born on
August 27, 1968 in Buzau. Predoiu has been an associate at
the Zamfirescu Racoti Predoiu law partnership since 2005,
specializing in commercial and corporate governance law. He
has been a member of the Council of the Bucharest Bar
Association since 2003. Until 1995, he worked for the
Romanian office of Burns Schwartz, and subsequently
established a legal practice with Ioana Racoti in 1995 in the
Racoti-Predoiu law house, which later merged with the Calin
Andrei Zamfirescu and Partners law firm to form Zamfirescu
Racoti Predoiu. (Note: The Embassy is familiar with Predoiu
from his time as legal counsel for the U.S. investor
Crosslander, which took over Romanian SUV manufacturer Aro
only to see the company end in bankruptcy following a dispute
with the privatization authority.)

4. (SBU) Predoiu graduated the Faculty of Law at the
University of Bucharest in 1991. In 1994 he completed
training in commercial law at the Caen Bar in France and in
2004 received a Ph.D. in the subject. Between 1994 and 2007
Predoiu taught commercial law as a lecturer at University of
Bucharest. He has published several articles and books about
commercial law. In 2006, Predoiu won a World Bank contract
for Consulting Services for Reforming the section of the
Civil Code of Romania dealing with Special Contracts.

5. (SBU) Predoiu claims that he has no current party
affiliation, although he acknowledged that he was briefly a
member in the early 1990s in a splinter group of the National
Liberal Party called the Youth Wing. (Note: the "Youth Wing"
was a group of younger Liberals who broke with PNL seniors
who dominated the party in the 1990s. They were led by
now-Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and
multimillionaire businessman Dinu Patriciu.) Although
Predoiu's firm has worked for one of Patriciu's companies,
Rompetrol, on commercial matters, President Basescu in
comments made during the swearing-in ceremony made light of
Predoiu's ties to Rompetrol, remarking only that this
underscored his qualifications as a high-powered corporate
lawyer. End Biographic Note.

TAUBMAN

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