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Romania: Local politicians play down WikiLeaks cables revelations

29. March 2011. | 08:10

Source: Nine O'Clock

A series of US diplomatic cables obtained from WikiLeaks by parts of the Romanian media risk triggering quite a commotion on the local political stage, speaking of sensitive issues ranging from President Traian Basescu’s impeachment in 2007 to foreign affairs matters such as ties with the US and Russia and allegations of secret money laundering deals with Arab groups.

The American embassy refuses to make any comment on the leaked cables that unveil political schemes between main party leaders, businessmen and journalists and the extent of the US influence in Romania.

A series of US diplomatic cables obtained from WikiLeaks by parts of the Romanian media risk triggering quite a commotion on the local political stage, speaking of sensitive issues ranging from President Traian Basescu’s impeachment in 2007 to foreign affairs matters such as ties with the US and Russia and allegations of secret money laundering deals with Arab groups.

HotNews and ‘Kamikaze’ magazine started publishing the cables on their websites on Sunday evening, with dailies ‘Jurnalul National’ and ‘Adevarul’ set to start publication as of tomorrow. Most of the cables were released by HotNews, which however did not make available the original documents.


Two 2007 classified cables released by HotNews said that then Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoana met with US officials in Bucharest on several occasions and discussed President Traian Basescu’s impeachment but also his “secret plan” with the head of state to take over the PM post.

Geoana reportedly told then US Ambassador Nicholas Taubman, in an April 20, 2007 meeting, that he did his best to find an amicable solution that would prevent Basescu’s impeachment. Geoana told US officials that he had two secret meetings with Basescu and that his party colleagues would “kill” him if they found out about it. The cable also quoted Geoana as saying that “I am number one in Romania today” and that he should no longer be treated like a “bad boy,” but instead be given the possibility to use his powers.

Another cable, detailing a June 5 meeting with Geoana, also in 2007, said the PSD leader had made a deal with Basescu, under which the president agreed to name him prime minister.

According to the document, although he had some doubts, Geoana was rather confident he would be given the position and he was voicing hope that he would be able to seal a six-year joint programme with Basescu. But Taubman notes in the document that he also had a meeting with Basescu and that the head of state was determined not to accept Geoana for PM.

Also in relation to the president’s impeachment, ‘Kamikaze’ published a cable detailing a meeting between PSD chief strategist Viorel Hrebenciuc and Basescu’s former chief of staff, Elena Udrea. Hrebenciuc reportedly told US officials that he had doubts about the impeachment and tried to avoid it and that is why he met with Udrea, but his offer for help was refused. The PSD MP added that Liberals were keener on removing Basescu from office than the Social Democrats. Similar information came from journalist Bogdan Chireac, who reportedly told US officials that businessman Dinu Patriciu, a Liberal and close friend to then PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu, was really keen on “kneeling” the head of state. In the same cable, Chireac talked about the opposition and media joining forces to discredit Basescu during the 30-day campaign until the May 19 impeachment referendum.


In another cable, published by HotNews, Taubman voiced concern about the absence of pro-European Basescu from the Supreme Defence Council pending his impeachment. More specifically, the US diplomat referred to Tariceanu’s push to withdraw Romanian troops from Iraq, which he promoted while the president was suspended from his duties.

Taubman also suggested that Tariceanu and opposition leader Geoana were taking actions that risked affecting US interests. In the context, the former American ambassador voiced concern about the raising influence of ‘pro-Russian oligarchs’ under Tariceanu’s rule.


Other US cables detail PDL Secretary General and ex Interior Minister Vasile Blaga’s opinions on the president’s actions, but also on prominent opposition members. Blaga was reportedly against Basescu’s option to have a PDL-PSD government after 2009 elections and instead favoured an alliance with the Liberals. Moreover, Blaga complained to US officials about PSD Bucharest leader Marian Vanghelie, whom he described as the tool of a “shadow clique” consisting of Interior Ministry officials. As for how Blaga was perceived by US officials, a cable reveals that the prominent PDL member was appreciated for his frankness. American embassy officials opined that this frankness was probably the reason why Basescu chose Emil Boc as prime minister and not Blaga.


In another cable about anti-corruption efforts in Romania, US officials quote National Integrity Agency chief Catalin Macovei as saying that Basescu threatened the publication of ex PM Adrian Nastase’s corruption files. The threat was made during a so-called ‘Justice summit’ attended by the heads of various institutions. During the talks, Geoana complained that Nastase’s cases were political in nature. Basescu angrily replied that he will release the files, in order to show to the public that the investigations were based on complaints from PSD members.

The Nastase case was also brought up by Blaga, who said all parties in Parliament, except PDL, were determined not to have the former PM sent to court. On the other hand, PSD MP Georgian Pop was quoted in one of the cables as saying that the younger generation of party members was sick and tired of this problem and wanted the case deferred to court as soon as possible.


A US embassy report done in 2007 made a top of oligarchs and local barons in Romania, under the headline, “Money and politics: who really owns Romania?” The top five oligarchs mentioned by the report includes Dinu Patriciu, Dan Voiculescu, Sorin Ovidiu Vintu, Ioan Niculae and Gigi Becali and each of the names is accompanied by a brief description of their business dealings and of any controversies they were involved in.


A cable released by ‘Kamikaze’ discusses the conclusions of European Atomic Energy experts who checked Romanian nuclear installations and the Cernavoda plant in 2009. The experts found that in case of a nuclear crisis, authorities’ response would be seriously put to the test.

One of the main issues mentioned by the cable is the fact Cernavoda had only a seven-man intervention team with obsolete equipment. As a conclusion, the document reads that an actual incident involving the release of radioactive material would severely test the government’s crisis management capabilities.


EU adviser Onno Simmons was quoted by another cable as voicing concern over reports that the Romanian government had made agreements with various ‘Arab groups’ to allow them to launder their money in the country. In exchange, the groups promised not to attack Romanian targets.

Simmons also expressed his opinion that the mafia was playing a secret and dangerous role in Romania. Noting that the press was scarce in reports about gang violence, the EU adviser suggested that organised crime in Romania could be so well organised that they don’t even have to “shoot each other.”


Other cables include detailed reports about conversations between US officials and Basescu, which reveal the president’s stern pro-American stance. Moreover, in a meeting with Ex British PM Tony Blair, the president voiced conviction that the US and UK governments were the ones Romania could rely on the most, among western administrations.

Amid concerns that the country might give up plans to purchase American military jets, the president gave assurances that as long as he is in office, this will not happen, a cable reveals. Another one details a meeting between Basescu and FBI director Robert Muller in 2006, when the president said he would like to see an FBI presence in Romania as “robust” as the CIA’s. Another cable, from 2005, details Basescu’s visit to Moscow. On the occasion, Russian leader Vladimir Putin proposed the creation of a joint naval unit to fight organised crime in the Black Sea. Basescu made no commitment on the spot and raised the possibility of having a permanent US base in Romania, underlining that this would not be an act of hostility to Russia.


A 2005 cable discussed US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty’s visit to Romania and her meetings with top officials, with inter-country adoptions ranking high on the agenda. Harty reportedly told officials then that Romania’s possible inclusion in the Visa Waiver programme would depend on progress in solving adoption cases. The issue was again brought up during Biden’s visit, the US vice president telling Basescu that the matter was a cause of major irritation in bilateral ties.


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