Romania country brief
Romania is a south-eastern European country located on the Black Sea. It has 2,508 km of land boundaries with Bulgaria to the south, Serbia to the southwest, Hungary to the west, Ukraine to its north, Moldova to the north-east, and 225 km of coastline on the Black Sea in the east. The capital of Romania is Bucharest.
Romania is a republic with a bicameral parliament. It claimed independence from the Ottoman Empire in May 1877 and became a republic in December 1947. The country’s national day, known as Unification Day, occurs on 1 December and marks the 1918 union of Romania and Transylvania.
According to the 2011 census, the population of Romania is 19 million. Although 90 per cent of the population are ethnic Romanians, the country also has a sizable Hungarian minority (6.5 per cent) and smaller groups of Roma, Ukrainians, Germans, Russians and Turks.
Diplomatic relations between Australia and Romania were established in 1968. Australia is represented by an Honorary Consulate in Bucharest and a non-resident Ambassador to Romania based in Budapest. Romania has an Embassy in Canberra, a Consulate-General in Sydney and an Honorary Consulate in Melbourne.
Australia and Romania share a relationship based on community ties and growing engagement in international forums. Romania is working with Australia as part of the UN Missions in East Timor (UNMIT) and Southern Sudan (UNMISS).
Community and Educational links
According to the 2011 census, there were 14,051 Romanian-born people living in Australia, with 20,998 claiming Romanian ancestry. Informal community estimates claim a further 16,000 people live in Australia who are of Romanian descent.
Trade and Investment
Australia's two-way merchandise trade with Romania was A$77 million in 2011. Year-on-year growth of two-way merchandise trade with Romania in 2011 was 25.1 per cent. The main exports to Romania in 2011 were telecommunications equipment and parts and medicaments. Key imports from Romania were clothing; medicaments; rubber tyres, treads and tubes; and sound and video recorders. Australia's trade in services with Romania is negligible. Bilateral investment favours Romania with A$9 million invested in Romania in 2011, compared to A$1 million invested in Australia. A promising upturn in the trading relationship in the earlier part of the decade was cut short by the onset of the global financial crisis.
Romania and Australia have concluded an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, a Trade and Economic Agreement and an Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion. In April 2012, Australia’s Department of Infrastructure signed an inaugural air services MOU for code share with the aeronautical authorities of Romania.
High level visits (positions indicated were held at the time of the visits)
- July 2012: Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Mr Richard Marles visited Romania.
- January 2012: Mr Mircea Lubanovici, member of the Romanian Parliament – Chamber of Deputies in the Diaspora College, made an official visit to Australia.
- April 2011: a delegation from the Department for the Romanians Abroad paid a visit to the Romanian communities in Sydney and Melbourne.
- April 2008: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd attended the NATO Summit in Bucharest.
- March 2007: Mr Zamfir Dumitrescu, Chair of the Romania – Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group, visited Tasmania.
As set out in the 1991 Constitution (revised in 2003), Romania has a presidential political system. Under this system, an executive president is elected directly for a maximum of two five-year terms and acts as the Head of State. While in office, the president must renounce all party positions and affiliations. The president is the Commander of the Armed Forces represents the state in foreign relations and may take part in government meetings to discuss issues of national interest.
The legislature comprises two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies (332 seats) and the Senate (137 seats). The Constitution gives parliament a central place in the system of state authorities. It has power in exceptional circumstances to dismiss or suspend the president.
The president appoints the prime minister based on parliamentary elections. A mixed single constituency/party list voting system was used for the first time during the November 2008 elections. The system replaced the use of party lists, where citizens voted for a list of party-nominated candidates, rather than a single candidate. However, parties are still required to cross the threshold of 5 per cent of the total vote to obtain representation in parliament.
The 2009 presidential election went to a runoff, with incumbent President Traian Băsescu claiming a narrow victory. Băsescu was sworn in for a second term on 16 December 2009.
The coalition formed following the 2008 election by the Democratic Liberal Party (DLP) and the Social Democratic Party-Conservative Party collapsed in September 2009. The subsequent government formed by the DLP and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania resigned in February 2012, following a series of demonstrations in Bucharest and other cities protesting the country’s economic austerity measures.
Romania is now on its third government since February 2012. President Băsescu appointed Prime Minster Victor-Viorel Ponta to form a new government on 7 May; the previous government of Dr Mihai Razvan Ungureanu lasted just 72 days. Ponta heads a broadly centre-left coalition known as the ‘Social-Liberal Union’ (USL), comprising the Social Democratic Party, Conservative Party and National Liberal Party. The USL is forecast to win the next parliamentary elections scheduled for 9 December 2012.
Since coming to power, the USL has amended the electoral law to a “first past the post system” benefiting larger parties; restricted the oversight powers of the constitutional court; and replaced the management of key public institutions. In July 2012, its attempts to impeach the President for alleged abuse of office narrowly failed, the referendum turnout falling just short of the required 50 per cent of registered voters.
The Government’s actions drew sharp criticism from EU leaders and the European Commission. The EU stressed that the rule of law is still deficient in Romania and urged the government to invest in wide-reaching reforms and restructures. Romania faces challenges from corruption in many different areas of public administration and the justice system is slow.
Romania’s foreign policy is predominantly focused on relations with its neighbours and within the EU, which it joined in 2007. Joining the EU’s visa-free Schengen arrangement is a particular priority. Continuing concerns over the Romanian legal system have been cited as the main obstacle to Romania’s integration into the Schengen zone. The EU decision on Romania’s accession to Schengen will take place in October 2012.
The country’s NATO membership (joined 2004) and relationship with the United States (including the December 2011 Agreement on hosting of a US ballistic missile defence system) are of strategic importance to Romania. There is strong public support for Romania's NATO membership, which is seen by Romanians as an important guarantor of stability in its immediate region. Romania hosted the Bucharest NATO Summit in April 2008. It is also hoped that closer integration with regional and international organisations such as NATO will attract further foreign investment.
Romania has 1,843 troops in ISAF in Afghanistan at Regional Command Capital and Regional Command South in Zabul. It contributes four troops to an Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT). Romania also contributes to UN Peacekeeping Operations: it currently has 38 police and 40 military experts on Mission to MINUSTAH (Haiti), MONUSCO (Democratic Republic of the Congo), UNMIK (Kosovo), UNMIL (Liberia), UNAMA (Afghanistan), UNMISS (South Sudan), UNMIT (East Timor), UNOCI (Cote d’Ivoire) and UNSMIS (Syria).
Romania suffered a large economic contraction in 2009, as a consequence of the global financial crisis; GDP growth went from 7.3 per cent in 2008 to -6.6 per cent in 2009. Romania agreed to raise taxes and implement budget cuts, including cutting public-sector wages by one-fourth, in return for a 2009 IMF/European Union/World Bank bailout totalling US$26 billion. In 2010, real GDP growth increased to -1.6 per cent. In 2011, the Romanian government signed a two-year standby agreement with the IMF to safeguard against further instability. GDP grew by 2.5 per cent in 2011, but a high budget deficit of 4.2 per cent is indicative of Romania’s continuing problems.
Romania expects to record modest economic growth of above 1.5 per cent in 2012, with a more reassuring budget deficit of around 2.2 per cent (in the first half of 2012 the budget deficit stood at 1.12 per cent) and a drop in inflation from 5.8 per cent to 2.9 – 3.3 per cent. Hoping to adopt the euro by 2015, the government is currently focused on further strengthening the economy so that Romania is more competitive once inside the eurozone.
Romania's current foreign trade policy aims at the country's integration into Western markets. However, with GDP per capita at US$8,863 (US$12,600 PPP)(2011), Romania is the second poorest member of the EU; along with Bulgaria, it is the only EU country to have a GDP per capita (just) below 50 per cent of the EU27 member average.
Romania's economy is largely based on services, which accounted for 59.2 per cent of GDP in 2011. Industry constituted the second-largest sector at around 32.9 per cent of GDP, followed by agriculture with 7.9 per cent of GDP. Despite the small proportion of GDP that agriculture represents, some 43% of Romania’s population lives in non-urban areas. The main agricultural products are: wheat, corn, barley, sugar beets, sunflower seed, potatoes, grapes; eggs, sheep. Romania’s industrial sectors growth rate in 2011 was 5.6 per cent. Industries include electric machinery and equipment, textiles and footwear, light machinery and auto assembly, mining, timber, construction materials, metallurgy, chemicals, food processing, petroleum refining. Romania’s principal export destinations for 2011 were Germany (18.6 per cent), Italy (12.6 per cent) and France (7.5 per cent), and import sources were Germany (17.1 per cent), Italy (11.2 per cent) and Hungary (8.7 per cent). Further information can be found in the Romania Country Fact Sheet [PDF 29 KB].
Updated September 2012