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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 60,358 44,428 38,700 52
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,310 1,850 1,720 100
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 126 - (30/11/07)

Relations with Italy very tense
There is a big issue for Romania, which is causing headaches elsewhere. Its main problems have been crime and corruption, as with Bulgaria.

The level of crime has dipped in Bucharest and elsewhere since Romania joined the EU. But that is simply because Romanian crooks have decamped to other EU states on their new EU passports. Many have gone to Italy. Italian and Romanian languages share common Latin roots.

Romanians congregate in shanty towns outside the capital, but travel to it to make a 'living.' There is now in Italy a popular outcry and a demand for convicted crooks from abroad to be deported back. This is definitely directed at Romanians first and foremost.

After a spate of violent crimes committed by Romanian citizens, the Italian government is eager to look like it is doing something. Criminals deserve to be punished. But politicians' overly tough talk about deporting tens of thousands of fellow EU citizens is a regrettable attempt to ride a tide of anti-immigrant sentiment that's rising across Europe.

More than half a million Romanians have moved to Italy to seek work, roughly 1% of the population. Rome's mayor says three in four arrests made in his city so far this year were of Romanians. The rape and murder in October of a high-ranking navy officer's wife near an immigrant neighbourhood in the capital, for which a Romanian national has been charged, sent Italians into a frenzy. There have been media reports of vigilante mobs attacking innocent Romanians in retaliation. Officials in Milan have already shipped out four Romanian citizens and plan to deport a dozen more.

Demos in protest in Bucharest
Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Bucharest as tensions rise over Italy's plans to deport Romanian nationals. Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu discussed the situation with his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, when they met in Rome in mid-November. Bucharest is also sending 30 police officers to help deal with the Romanian cases.

The spate of felonies and atrocities has prompted Italy to bring in new laws aimed at tackling crime. "These measures specifically target those individuals about whom police have specific information which shows clearly that they are dangerous. It's not about mass expulsion," said Interior Minister Giuliano Amato.

Romania joined the EU in January this year and more than half a million of its citizens now live in Italy, many in makeshift camps like one near Rome. Around 20 individuals have been sent home so far under the new crackdown. EU officials say Italy is within its rights to deport individuals provided it respects the bloc's criteria for expulsion.

Appeal to reason by intellectuals
Romanian and Italian intellectuals signed an open letter appealing to reason and responsibility as, they say, relations among the two countries have been getting more and more tense for weeks, while the Italian media instilled a negative sentiment against Romanians and also gypsies coming from Romania.

They warn that crimes committed by Romanians in Italy may be dramatic cases indeed, but should be considered on an individual basis according to Italian law and the state of law.

The letter indicates that politicians use the issue for political gains which only contributes substantially to over-emphasize the tensions and ethnic prejudices.

Intellectuals write that after several Romanians were randomly "punished" in several Italian cities the issue can get out of control. They plead for more responsibility from the mass media in reflecting the immigrants' deeds.

The open letter is signed by some 200 Romanian intellectuals. 

Second referendum in 2007
Referenda are normally associated with dictatorships. They are sometimes used by democracies too. The second in Romania this year has just taken place. They must have become a preferred mechanism on double-checking political prowess in Romania, now that other tools to that effect have lost their sharpness. 

It was something of a non-event. President Basescu acknowledged that he saw the low turnout in the uninominal voting referendum, which he strongly supported, as a lesson to be learned even for himself. The low turn-out disqualifies the result. 

But he said the result - some 89% of those who did vote supporting the introduction of uninominal voting - was proof of the inequity proven by the electoral laws used so far. He said he would not cease to believe that Romanians want a thorough reform of the political class.

President Basescu said that in the 12 new member states that have joined the EU since 2004, turnout was low in the first European elections. And he said Romania was falling right behind Hungary in terms of turnout because European issues have not been debated enough.

Democrats win EU poll
The referendum coincided with European Parliament elections. Romania's centrist opposition Democrat party won the country's first election to the European Parliament on November 25, underscoring its hopes of returning to power in next year's parliamentary polls. 

The Democrat Party of President Traian Basescu won 31.7 percent of ballots. The vote for 35 deputies to the European assembly is seen as a litmus test of the popularity of leading political parties ahead of the general election, due to be held in late 2008. "We are the most important political force in Romania," said Democrat Party president Emil Boc.

Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu's ruling Liberal Party trailed the Democrats with 15.2 percent of the ballots. But their score was a touch above expectations (for some 13 percent), showing stable backing over the last year.

Observers had expected the Liberals' standing to be eroded by disappointment over Bucharest's reform record which has lost momentum since Romania joined the European Union in January. "It is a wonderful evening for the Liberal Party because we managed to overcome expectations," the prime minister said.

Bucharest's centrists, who came to power in 2004 on an anti-graft ticket, were praised initially for introducing broad justice and institutional reforms that won Romania EU entry after botched attempts by other post-communist governments.

Battle-lines drawn up
The president and prime minister, with the parliament, were at odds on the constitutionality of holding two separate votes at a time. The Romanian president insisted that the referendum be held on the same date as EP elections as this would save in costs and time to the people.

Suffice to say, the president survived the parliament-called impeachment vote earlier this year. His uncompromising stance on fighting corruption and establishing an independent judiciary, which he carried out together with Ms Macovei, his corruption-fighting ministerial weapon, ushered Romania into the European Union (EU). This is an achievement that a largely pro-EU population are unlikely to forget. Especially given that EU entry took place not so long ago. 

At present, the president feels the pressure from parliament and government. Tariceanu's Liberals currently have the upper edge owing to the coalition with the party of the ethnic Hungarians, which traditionally serve as a fixture for governmental coalitions.

With the political infighting ongoing and Tariceanu's Liberals unrelenting in their attempts to oust a public-supported foe from the political arena, Basescu continues the counter-strategy for a more Basescu-friendly parliament from these general elections onwards.

At the same time, Tariceanu's government has been losing out on public and expert support. Poverty levels in the country are still high, a couple of ministers have lost their seats after corruption scandals. Within a year, the country's budget has suffered a downslide from surplus to deficit and is set to reach 3.1 per cent of GDP in an overshoot of the Maastricht threshold for entry to the Eurozone, a critical governmental promise. Things look bleak for the incumbent government. 

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