In their second issue this year, Romanian newspapers on Thursday cool down already about the country’s accession to the EU and open their front pages with reports on weather troubles and how state officials boosted their fortunes over the past year.

Still, Europe is everywhere in today’s reports, especially in the economy, which started promisingly but may deliver lots of surprises in the near future.

Just days after the country joined the EU, Evenimentul Zilei already sees the first signs that some things are hard to change in Romania no matter what.

The first days of true winter took the country by surprise and paralyzed whole regions as authorities did little to prevent the closure of national roads, traffic chaos and power cuts due to snow storms. Good thing Romania is used to this as the current situation brings nothing new compared to the years before accession.

The second big story for Evenimentul Zilei relates to the wealth statements submitted by politicians and published these days.

According to the newspaper, most dignitaries reported bigger bank accounts and more properties than the year before, while many Senators failed to meet the December 31 deadline to submit their statements, which would normally lead to default controls of their wealth.

According to Cotidianul, the sale of cars and real estate properties as well as the participation to various privatization commissions were some of the main ways for politicians to improve their wealth last year.

And it digs the documents submitted by President Basescu, which show his fortune improved little this year, thanks to the sale of two cars. The head of state, however, failed to explain how most of his bank accounts turned considerably thinner last year.

Gandul calls House speaker Bogdan Olteanu and Labor minister Gheorghe Barbu “state billionaires” as the two earned 2.5 billion ROL (250,000 RON - about 100,000 USD) together last year just for participating to the privatization of the Romanian Commercial Bank - BCR and the failed attempt to privatize the Romanian Savings House - CEC.

Meanwhile, Cotidianul reports that two out of three Romanian MPs, including some future MEPs delivered wrong answers to at least one of five questions related to the EU that newspaper reporters asked yesterday - such as what country holds the EU presidency in the first half of 2007.

Two MPs said EC President Barroso was the head of the European Parliament, while another could only catch the first letter of the country now holding the EU Presidency… Greece instead of Germany. And one of the new members of the European Parliament, Cristian Stanescu, could not say how many member states the EU has.

Another newspaper, another poll: Gandul reports that according to its own investigation President Traian Basescu would have little success with pushing for early elections this year as most members of the Parliament would not risk losing their seats by agreeing with such a poll.

Only MPs belonging to the newly formed Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), which supports the Presidents, would bet on early elections, the newspaper claims.

Elsewhere in the papers, Evenimentul Zilei investigates the drama of Romanian women who manage to escape sexual slavery in the Balkans and return home after long periods of dread and abuse. Many are reintegrating well in the society, others less so, as the newspaper describes.

On the EU front, Gandul reports that Romania paid its first contribution to the European budget on Wednesday - some 76 million euro in the account for January.

Adevarul writes that the EU accession does not overcome old habits as throngs of Romanians formed long queues at fiscal authorities to pay their taxes on the first working day of the year, although under normal circumstances they can pay the contribution before March.

The same newspaper reports the Romanian Orthodox Church supports a “Christian” European Constitution, as Romania is a major contributor to the Orthodox nucleus of the European Union along with Greece and Cyprus.

And it also notes how the enthusiasm of EU accession has boosted quotes for most companies listed at the Bucharest Stock Exchange, with five financial investment societies reporting an average of 9% growth in the first day of transactions.

Investors expect a 20% growth of the Bucharest Stock Exchange this year, the same Adevarul writes.