Cablegate: Romania: Codel Lugar Scenesetter

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O 200832Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 73058

1. (SBU) Mission warmly welcomes the visit of CODEL Lugar,
and looks forward to making sure you get the most out of your
time in country. Romania is an excellent strategic partner,
ally, and friend of the United States, and continues to be
among the staunchest contributors to NATO missions since the
earliest days of Partnership for Peace, committing troops and
resources in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Romania's accession to the EU is only 20-months old and
though the legacy of its communist past still lingers in some
elements, it is receding increasingly rapidly since the 1989
termination of Nicolae Ceaucescu's erratic dictatorship. No
country embodies more dramatically than Romania our vision of
a reborn Europe working in close partnership with the U.S.
Romania demonstrated its sophisticated level of maturity this
past April when it successfully hosted the largest and most
complex NATO Summit in the Alliance's history. For our
Romanian interlocutors, the summit was not only proof of
their status as a devoted U.S. friend and ally, but also a
validation of their strong transatlantic orientation, their
forward-looking strategic mindset, and steadfast military
contributions alongside U.S., Allied, and coalition forces.

2. (SBU) Your meeting with President Traian Basescu will
highlight a Romania which generally punches above its weight
when it comes to security issues. Romania has 500 troops in
Iraq and plans to expand its current 640 troops committed in
Afghanistan to over 800 in 2009. Romania's contributions
present a positive model for other allies, especially in
southern Afghanistan, where they take on dangerous
engagements against the enemy--and have taken their share of
casualties. Closer to home, Basescu believes greater U.S.
and NATO engagement in the Black Sea region is key to
advancing stability and democratic reform. Besides being
committed to fighting the war on terror, stopping
non-proliferation, and illicit trafficking, Romania is
determined to advance energy security across the Black Sea to
the Caspian Sea. Advocating for extending NATO membership to
Georgia and Ukraine, and building a bridge between the EU and
Moldova, are important parts of Romania's broader national
interest. Romania's orientation towards Serbia, and ensuring
the same NATO and EU opportunities are available to all of
the Western Balkan states, has the same resonance and urgency
for securing the immediate neighborhood. Basescu has
privately underscored his strong commitment to Georgia's
territorial integrity and sovereignty, and has offered to
provide humanitarian assistance to Tblisi, but commentators
have noted that the government has been conspicuously low-key
on this issue, reflecting concerns about spillover to other
nearby frozen conflicts and deep-seated public ambivalence
about provoking the Russian bear. Basescu is planning to
travel to Georgia in the next several days, and we will let
you know if this trip results in any shifts in Romania's

3. (SBU) While the President will likely focus on the
immediate region and security issues, the Foreign Minister
will bring up other areas of international cooperation.
Prior to being appointed Foreign Minister, Lazar Comanescu
served as Romania's chief representative to the EU since 2001
and is intimately familiar with how Brussels thinks and
operates. A career diplomat and internationalist by nature,
Comanescu has characterized his role as that of a caretaker
until the next election. He will likely have insights into
the EU approach to energy security issues and Romania's role
in both the EU and NATO. Comanescu (and perhaps others) will
likely stress Romania's strong desire to participate in the
U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The Department of Homeland
Security has included Romania among the "Roadmap" countries
for potential inclusion in WVP expansion. However, while the
GOR is aware that in order to qualify it needs to overcome
substantial technical impediments as well as concerns
regarding overstays, high visa refusal rates, and other
information/identity verification issues, they will
nevertheless continue to make the push for domestic political

4. (SBU) Another part of the Romanian success story is the
economy, albeit with some caveats. Minister Varujan
Vosganian will no doubt point to Romania's still strong
economic growth, which has been underpinned by accession to
NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. Foreign direct
investment is pouring into Romania, along with initial EU
structural funds. U.S. trade and commercial ties with
Romania are also booming after having lagged in the initial
post-Communist era. Vosganian recognizes that Romania's
challenge is to institutionalize economic reforms and to
develop the infrastructure needed to continue to attract new

BUCHAREST 00000659 002 OF 002

foreign investors. Underinvestment in infrastructure, the
lack of transparency in governmental decision making, and
corruption all continue to have a negative impact on the
overall business environment. Another growing problem is the
outflow of skilled labor and energetic young people to higher
paying jobs elsewhere in the EU. On energy security, views
here tend to be closely aligned with our own, with the
Romanians taking an active role in seeking new energy
supplies, while also encouraging investment in domestic
renewable energy sources. Alarmed by Gazprom's aggressive
strategy in the region, Romania is a member and steadfast
supporter of the Nabucco pipeline consortium, which would
bring Caspian Basin gas through Romania to the European
market. The Romanian government has actively sought to
cultivate close ties with Azerbaijan and the Central Asian
republics to encourage gas exports via Nabucco, complementing
U.S. efforts. (COMMENT: Basescu is also planning to visit
Azerbaijan this week and we will report asap. END COMMENT)
Romania is also considering alternative means of diversifying
supply, including additional nuclear power reactors and a
possible LNG terminal at the port of Constanta.

5. (SBU) Minister of Environment Attila Korodi has been an
opponent of the expanded use of agricultural biotechnology in
Romania, and he recently spearheaded the appointment of a
biosafety commission to assess the risks posed by Monsanto,s
MON 810, a corn variety widely used elsewhere in Europe.
Despite public statements from the Minister questioning the
safety of biotech, the biosafety commission moved at a
deliberate pace, evaluated all of the relevant scientific
data, and plans to inform the Minister that MON 810 is safe
to plant in Romania (COMMENT: This information has not yet
been publicly released. END COMMENT). Despite pressure from
NGOs such as Greenpeace and negative statements from some
parts of the government, farmers are recognizing the benefits
of biotechnology and are increasingly using it to maximize
yields. By way of illustration, in 2007, Romania planted
only 331 hectares of biotech corn, which jumped to an
estimated 7,500 hectares in 2008, a number which is forecast
to almost double to 12-15,000 hectares next year. Recent
Embassy events, such as the agricultural biotechnology
"roadshow" in June, have all been well-attended and show that
Romanian farmers are interested in using the latest
agricultural technology available. Encouraging the Ministry
of Environment to adopt a science-based approach to
evaluating biotechnology could allow Romania, with its large
and underdeveloped agricultural sector, become a leader
within the EU in this field.

6. (SBU) There are some political minefields to navigate in
your meeting with Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu. No one has
ever accused Romania of being a tidy place politically. This
is a rough-and-tumble political environment, as evidenced by
the unruly effort to unseat Basescu in 2007 through a dubious
impeachment effort. While things have settled down somewhat,
Basescu and Tariceanu remain at loggerheads. While a possible
reconciliation between Basescu's Democratic-Liberal Party and
Tariceanu's National Liberal Party cannot be discounted
following Parliamentary elections in November, there will no
doubt be some more political turbulence until the end of the
year when a new government is formed. Yet on most of the
issues we care about, their differences are more illusory
than real, and invariably are about the domestic political
game. Tariceanu recognizes the importance of energy
security, and has worked closely with us to advance our
common interests in securing alternative energy sources, both
for Romania, and the EU. In his meeting with you, Tariceanu
will likely remain focused on domestic issues, and will be
more open to arguments in favor of agricultural biotechnology
than Korodi. On Romania's relationship with the U.S., both
Tariceanu and Basescu will likely reinforce each other in
requesting your help and support for Romania's accession to
the Visa Waiver Program.

© Scoop Media

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