Romania energy minister says to lose post in Sunday reshuffle

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2014 7:43 AM

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's Energy Minister Razvan Nicolescu said he would lose his post on Sunday in a reshuffle that is expected to strengthen the governing center coalition's hold on power by giving it another political ally in the cabinet.

Razvan Nicolescu, a widely respected technocrat who has no political affiliations and whose team drafted Romania's investment-heavy energy strategy for 2015-2035, took office in March.

He told private television station Antena 3 on Sunday he was leaving the cabinet and that Prime Minister Victor Ponta planned to merge the energy and economy ministries.

Ponta's coalition was weakened by the departure of the ethnic Hungarian UDMR party after he unexpectedly lost a presidential election on Nov. 16.

That prompted a long-term Ponta ally, the Liberal Reformists, to lobby for cabinet posts, and the centrist party is expected to be awarded the combined energy-economy portfolio.

Ponta had previously flagged that senior officials of his leftist Social Democrat party would meet later on Sunday to discuss a reshuffle. Contacted by Reuters, his spokesman did not comment on Nicolescu's remarks.

Nicolescu also urged the government to continue market-oriented reforms, finalize its long-term energy strategy and further depoliticize state-controlled companies.

European Union member state Romania is one of the most energy-independent countries on the continent and a net exporter of power, although it must import oil and some of its gas.

Foreign firms have complained about sudden shifts in government policy in Romania, which has been gradually deregulating its power and gas tariffs.

Nicolescu, who is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), said he would run for a leadership position at the International Energy Agency.

His team also engineered this year's first initial public offering, in power utility Electrica, after the divestment in 2013 of minority stakes in gas producer Romgaz and power firm Nuclearelectrica.

Ponta, whose alliance has the support of 58 percent of lawmakers in the two-chamber parliament, would need to put any cabinet reshuffle to a vote of confidence, which he is expected to seek on Monday.

(Reporting by Radu Marinas, editing by John Stonestreet)