Monday, January 18th

US State Department official on European tour

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State Victoria Nuland is in Romania for renewed talks with country’s officials in the capital Bucharest. Ms. Nuland is expected to meet Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace on Monday after an informal meeting with Prime Minister Dacian Cioloş at the Victoria Palace on Sunday evening. The event comes one year after Ms. Nuland’s previous visit to the country shortly after the election of Klaus Iohannis as President of Romania. Nuland, a career foreign service officer, is the State Department’s point person on the Ukrainian crisis and the boss of all 50 U.S. embassies in Europe and Eurasia. Victoria Nuland met Russian Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad last Friday. Their talks on Ukraine were „rather substantial, constructive and helpful, a brainstorming on ways to find compromises in the implementation of the Minsk agreements,” Surkov told reporters after the meeting.

High level talks at PSD headquarters

The leader of Romania’s left-wing Social Democratic Party (PSD) met the country’s former PM at the party’s headquarters in the capital Bucarest on Monday. Liviu Dragnea and former PM Victor Ponta were expected to discuss among other things the future involvement of Mr. Ponta in the party’s current policies. It is the first meeting between the two after Mr. Ponta resigned from the job last November following the tragedy at a Bucharest nightclub fire that killed more than 60 people. Mr. Dragnea told reporters that Victor Ponta would seek a new mandate as PSD MP. However, the former prime minister stopped short from making any comment.

Former Romanian mayor on trial under judicial control

Former Bucharest mayor Sorin Oprescu will go on trial under judicial control, according to a ruling of a Romanian Appeal Court on Monday. The court accepted a request by Mr. Oprescu aimed at replacing the former verdict of house arrest. Sorin Oprescu has been arrested last September while serving his second term as Bucharest mayor. He was accused of taking kickbacks from companies awarded contracts with the city. Prosecutors allege he took a 10% cut from deals. He denies any wrongdoing.

Snowstorm wreaks havoc in Romania as ports close

Heavy snowfall and strong winds closed Romania’s Black Sea ports including the main port of Constantza, and shut dozens of roads in some southeastern counties. Blizzards and high winds disrupted trains while forcing authorities to shut down schools in Bucharest and nearby counties on Monday. About 6,000 policemen, gendarmes and firefighters were currently involved in various missions across the country, the Interior Ministry said. Snowfalls are not expected to ease until Monday and forecasters predict temperatures below minus 18 degrees Celsius next week. Dozens of villages in southern Romania were left without electricity after trees and strong winds brought down power lines.

Alexandru Danga