- Associated Press - Monday, September 10, 2018

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - A Romanian official said Monday that the U.S. needs to have a strong presence in Eastern Europe before a summit on boosting development in the region.

Romania’s presidency hosts the 12-member Three Seas Initiative on Sept. 17-18 where officials will discuss about 40 regional government-approved projects that aim to boost interconnectivity in transportation, energy and the digital fields.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will join regional leaders including Polish President Andrzej Duda and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

Presidential foreign policy adviser Bogdan Aurescu told The Associated Press that the underlying goal is to reduce the economic gap between EU members in the West and East, saying the entire bloc and the U.S. “need to be more present in the region.”

Aurescu, an adviser to pro-U.S. President Klaus Iohannis, said that while Eastern European nations looked to join the EU and NATO in the 1990s, they had since moved on.

“The participating states know they need to do more about interconnectivity,” Aurescu, a former foreign minister, said in the interview with the AP.

He revealed one Romanian project proposes creating a rail link between the Black Sea port of Constanta and the Polish port of Gdansk for goods and military mobility. Another addresses a regional gas pipeline between Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria.

A business summit will also be held in Bucharest at the same time, gathering officials and bankers from the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and the World Bank.

The initiative is a cooperation of European Union members located between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas. Austria is the only member that wasn’t formerly communist. The first summit was held in 2016. U.S. President Donald Trump attended the second summit in 2017 in Warsaw, Poland.

Government officials from Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, will also attend meetings.

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