Romania begins preparations for the European elections in May, but institutional hurdles and political tensions herald a difficult process and even more difficult times for political parties, according to Wednesday newspapers.

They’re also interested in the locally inconceivable idea that the transhumance of sheep, an ancient tradition, will be banned in line with EU rules on the movement of livestock. And one paper speaks of two Romanian workers turned prisoners of war in Iraq.

Cotidianul reports that the May 13 elections hit Romania at a time when the country’s Permanent Electoral Authority seems incapable to organize the poll.

Because of a conflict between its president and his deputies, the Authority has not updated any voter list for years, has yet to establish a department to check the funding of political parties and just stands there wasting money.

But that is not the only problem affecting the electoral process. The political tensions in Bucharest have been rising, as shown in an Evenimentul Zilei interview with Mircea Geoana, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party.

He says the interests of the party is to challenge both the Democratic President and the Liberal prime minister - who’ve enganged in an open conflict with each other for a month. But Geoana says the Social Democrats’ main focus will be to bring down the President for alleged abuses in office.

Basescu, for his part, seems not to care less about Geoana and his Social Democrats. In an intervention on the public television last night, quoted by the same Evenimentul Zilei, he warned that he may launch a new attack against his nemesis PM Tariceanu during a speech before the European Parliament today.

In these circumstances, Cotidianul writes, Tariceanu was forced to stand up and warned his Liberal Party did not need Basescu’s Democratic Party to remain in power as it has several options for other alliances if the latter chooses to leave the government.

No matter how hard Romanian politicians are struggling against their kin, the EU seems unimpressed by the political crisis in Bucharest. Gandul quotes European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso who after talks with President Basescu yesterday said Romania was not the only country to have “democratic” political debates.

Meanwhile, the same Gandul raises another issue - authorities in Bucharest have just introduced a series of EU norms on issues such as the movement of livestock, completely banning the centuries old of transhumance.

Shepherds who do not comply with the new regulation and opt to continue moving sheep from the mountains to the plains and back as seasons pass will face considerable fines.

According to Gandul, it’s just another blow to Romanian shepherds after the complete ban on the sale of milk, cheese and meat outside their home villages.

According to Jurnalul National, there is a problem with people who’ve been living on transhumance for generations to understand the EU rules. And the newspaper writes that the new rules may bankrupt cheese producers in many areas where incomes are provided almost entirely by shepherds.

Last but not least, Evenimentul Zilei reports that two Romanian workers - carpenter and an electrician - have become prisoners of war in Iraq for three months. They were arrested for filming a US base without authorization and have been held by the US Army for “collection of intelligence”.

The problem is, the Foreign Ministry in Bucharest has not informed their families about the condition of the two, forcing them to launch their own investigations to see how the workers have been doing.