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Cablegate: Romanian Parliament Approves New Cabinet, Ending

DE RUEHBM #0863/01 3580617
P 240617Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


BUCHAREST 00000863 001.2 OF 003

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On December 23 the Romanian Parliament
approved the new Cabinet assembled by Prime Minister
designate Emil Boc with an unexpectedly large majority. The
new Cabinet includes members of the Democratic Liberal Party
(PDL), the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania
(UDMR) and non-affiliated politicians. This vote effectively
ends a three month-long political crisis triggered by the
collapse of the former governing coalition (PDL and Social
Democrats, or PSD) in late September (reftel B). The
governing program presented by the new Cabinet continues the
austerity programs supported by the previous Boc Cabinet,
maintains current taxation levels, and suggests new public
sector lay-offs in the coming months in order to comply with
the IMF requirements. END SUMMARY.

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2. (SBU) On December 23, the joint chambers of the Romanian
Parliament voted 276 to 135 to approve a new Boc Cabinet. As
PDL and UDMR together control only 42 percent of the
parliamentary seats (198 out of 470), the extra support came
from ethnic minority representatives (18 votes) and from a
newly-constituted group of "independents" (24 votes). The
vote count indicates that approximately three dozen PSD and
National Liberal Party (PNL) legislators also voted for the
government, likely out of fear that a protracted battle could
lead to early parliamentary elections.

3. (SBU) President Basescu's re-election has triggered a
reconfiguration of the political spectrum. The UDMR, which
had aligned itself with PSD and PNL before the presidential
vote but was desperate to re-enter government, switched camps
on December 19 and join the President's PDL as the junior
governing partner. After brief negotiations, UDMR was given
control over three Cabinet portfolios: culture, health, and
environment and forests. The UDMR chair, Marko Bela, will
serve as the deputy PM. The caucus of "independent"
legislators also joined PDL in exchange for an important
ministerial portfolio--defense--for their leader, Gabriel


4. (SBU) The new PDL-UDMR Cabinet includes the prime
minister, a deputy prime minister and 15 ministers (down from
19 in September). The new Cabinet reflects not only the new
parliamentary majority but also President Basescu's pledge to
include the opposition and non-affiliated experts. Basescu,
in a move meant to illustrate his new conciliatory line,
openly invited former PSD Labor Minister, Mirian Sarbu, to
join the new Boc government but was turned down by PSD. PM
designate Boc tendered a similar offer to a former member of
a PNL-led cabinet, and now independent, Sebastian Vladescu,
who accepted the post of Finance Minister without his party's
endorsement. The new Boc Cabinet welcomes two new
politicians with no party affiliation, alongside independent
Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu who served in the previous
Boc government. The full list of ministers is included below:

- Prime Minister: Emil Boc (PDL)
- Deputy Prime Minister: Marko Bela (UDMR)
- Minister of Administration and Interior: Vasile Blaga
- Minister of Public Finance: Sebastian Vladescu
- Minister of Economy, Trade and Business
- Environment: Adriean Videanu (PDL)
- Minister of Foreign Affairs: Theodor Baconschi
- Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure: Radu
Berceanu (PDL)
- Minister of Environment and Forests: Laszlo Borbely
- Minister of Regional Development and Tourism: Elena
Udrea (PDL)
- Minister of National Defense: Gabriel Oprea
- Minister of Culture and Patrimony: Kelemen Hunor (UDMR)
- Minister of Justice: Catalin Predoiu (independent)
- Minister of Communications and Informational Society:
Gabriel Sandu (PDL)
- Minister of Labor, Family and Social Protection: Mihai
Seitan (PDL)

BUCHAREST 00000863 002.2 OF 003

- Minister of Education, Research, Youth and Sports:
Daniel Funeriu (PDL)
- Minister of Health: Cseke Attila (UDMR)
- Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development: Mihail
Dumitru (independent)

5. (SBU) PDL is the senior governing partner, with the prime
minister and seven other ministers. These are the old guard:
six of the eight served in the first PDL-controlled cabinet.
Prime Minister Boc, Transportation Minister Berceanu, and
Communications Minister Sandu will occupy positions held
since December 2008. Two other PDL ministers, Adriean
Videanu and Elena Udrea, will now oversee enlarged
portfolios: Videanu's Economy was combined with Trade and the
Business Environment while Udrea's Tourism was combined with
Regional Development. The former Minister of Regional
Development, Vasile Blaga, will head Administration and
Interior, a portfolio he oversaw between 2005 and 2007 and
held temporarily after the PSD left the cabinet in early
October. Catalin Predoiu, the independent, formerly PNL,
Justice Minister will continue the mandate he assumed in 2008
(see ref A for biographies on these ministers).

6. (U) Mihai Seitan, 63, the new Minister of Labor, is a
long-standing member of the PDL (and its PD predecessor) but
has never held high party positions and is considered more of
a technocrat than a politician. He served for several months
as state secretary in the Labor Ministry before his
ministerial nomination, and also formerly worked for the
World Bank. Between 2005 and 2007, he was the head of the
National Authority for Pensions and Social Security and was
one of the architects of Romania's partially privatized
pension system, expertise which will be valuable as the
Government takes up additional pension reforms under the IMF
program. In early 2009 Seitan became one of Boc's closest
advisors. Daniel Funeriu, 38, comes to the Ministry of
Education, Youth and Sport after serving in the European
Parliament in November 2007 and as a vice-chair of the
special presidential committee for education and research.
Neither Seitan nor Funeriu hold leadership positions in PDL.

7. (SBU) The ethnic-Hungarian UDMR brings Marko Bela and
Laszlo Borbely, two long-standing legislators and former
senior cabinet members. Bela, 58, is UDMR chair and served
as Deputy Prime Minister in the PNL-led cabinets of PM Calin
Popescu-Tariceanu between 2005 and 2007. Borbely, 54, a UDMR
executive vice-chair, was a Development Minister in the same
PNL-led cabinets between 2005 and 2008. Minister of Culture
Kelemen Hunor, 42, the UDMR's first-round presidential
candidate, held a state secretary position in the same
ministry from 1997 to 2002. Hunor is seen by some as Marko
Bela's heir apparent.

8. (SBU) Cseke Attila, 32, the surprising UDMR nomination
for the health portfolio, was a junior official in the
General Secretariat (the administrative body of the Cabinet)
between 2005 and 2008. In 2008, he was elected to the
Senate, where he served on the legal committee. As the
youngest and least-experienced new cabinet member, Attila is
an odd choice for the Ministry of Health, with no medical
background and scant administrative experience. The
Ministry, and Romania's health system generally, are beset by
serious problems and are in desperate need of reform, but
this young UDMR official from Oradea seems poorly positioned
to take on the many entrenched interests in the health sector.

9. (U) The Ministers of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Defense,
Justice, Finance, and Agriculture have no party affiliation.
Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi, a career diplomat, has
served as the Romanian Ambassador to the Vatican, Lisbon,
and, since September 2008, to Paris. In January 2005 he was
appointed as MFA's state secretary for global affairs, a
position he held until September 2006, when he was dismissed
following a reduction of the number of state secretaries. In
October 2007, President Basescu brought Baconschi into the
presidential staff as advisor for domestic policies and civil
society, before sending him to Paris as Ambassador one year
later. Baconschi is widely credited with convincing Pope
John Paul II to visit Romania in 1999, the late Pope's first
visit to an Orthodox Christian country. Under Baconschi's
ambassadorship, Romania also signed a strategic partnership
with France. Baconschi, 46, has a degree in theology and a
Ph.D. in religious anthropology and comparative history of
religions from Sorbonne, Paris.

10. (U) Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea, 48, is a retired
Army general who oversaw administrative, economic and
national security issues. He was the PSD's nominee for
Interior Minister in December 2008, when the ill-fated

BUCHAREST 00000863 003.2 OF 003

PDL-PSD coalition was formed. Oprea's ministerial mandate
was short-lived; the PSD viewed him as more loyal to Basescu
than to his own party. PSD stripped him of political support
and Oprea resigned from the party in January 2009. Soon
after, Basescu promoted Oprea to the rank of a four-star
General, his second promotion after retiring from the
military in 2000. In November, he and like-minded
legislators formed a now-sizable caucus of "independents" who
proved critical in shaping the new parliamentary majority.

11. (U) Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu, 51, previously
of the PNL but now an independent, served as Finance Minister
in the PNL-led cabinet of 2005-2007 and subsequently as a
state secretary in the same ministry. His first nomination
was based on personal ties to then-PM Tariceanu and was not
fully endorsed by the PNL. Moreover, during the battles
between PNL and President Basescu's PDL, Vladescu often sided
with Basescu, most notably on the issue of keeping Romanian
troops in Iraq. Vladescu is generally viewed favorably by
the foreign investor community, having served as the
Tariceanu Government's chief negotiator with Ford for
privatization of the Craiova auto plant and later as chairman
of the selection committee which awarded management of
Romania's Property Fund to Franklin Templeton. Agriculture
Minister Mihail Dumitru is probably the least well-known of
the new ministers because, unlike most of his other
colleagues, he has never held a public office. For more than
a decade (1995-2006), Dumitru was the chief of the
agricultural department at the European Commission Delegation
in Bucharest. After Romania joined the EU in January 2007,
Dumitru moved to Brussels as negotiator-coordinator of the
Program for Romania's rural development. Dumitru is said to
have a close relationship with former minister Dacian Ciolos,
who was recently named European Agriculture Commissioner by
EC President Barroso ) perhaps auguring well for
coordination between Brussels and Bucharest on assistance,
especially through better absorption of EU funds, for
Romania's backward agricultural sector.

11. (SBU) COMMENT. The Parliamentary approval of this new
Boc Cabinet ends a three-month political crisis that began
when the previous PDL-PSD coalition collapsed in late
September (ref B). The demise of the former coalition and
the inability to find parliamentary support for a new cabinet
slowed necessary reforms, limited the government's ability to
respond to the economic crisis, and delayed the disbursement
of crucial IMF loan installments. The two-to-one margin of
approval indicates that some PNL and PSD members voted to
confirm the cabinet despite their parties' public stance in
opposition. In contrast to the October 13 no-confidence vote
which brought down the prior Boc Cabinet, this time around
neither PSD nor PNL leaders threatened their members with
expulsion as punishment for breaking party discipline. That
fact reflects a new reality: as Romania thaws after an
exhausting election season and two brutal snowstorms, Traian
Basescu has emerged as the indisputable winner and driving
force of Romanian politics. END COMMENT.

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