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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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)

Books on Romania


Update No: 155 - (28/04/10)

President re-elected – but only just
The presidency in Romania is a very important office. The president is a real head of state – above the fray.

It is modelled on the French presidency. The Romanians are intensely Francophile and nearly all are Francophone. Actually, many are also Italophile and Italophone. Adhesion to the Treaty of Rome in January 2007 was an immensely popular move.

At the end of last year President Trajan Basescu was re-elected by a margin of 50% to 49%. This of course gave rise to immediate suspicion that the whole thing had been rigged.

Maybe it was – but one thing is for sure. None of us will ever know the truth.

A denial syndrome
The global crisis is impinging on Romania as on virtually everyone else. The Romanians want to believe it must be for the best. Having endured the most grim anti-capitalist regime imaginable under Ceausescu, they simply think that any Western alternative must be preferable.

Well, maybe they will prove right – in time. But things are certainly grim at the moment. Officially GDP is contracting by only 3% or so; it is certainly doing so by far more. The authorities have not yet lost the old communist habit of talking things up.

Policy makers in Romania, and indeed generally elsewhere in the region, have been in denial as to how seriously the global crisis would impact on their economies. They have been arguing that their cheap skilled labour base/low tax regimes would still stand them in good stead, and would continue to attract net Foreign Direct Investment (some have argued that net FDI into the region would accelerate which is clearly a ridiculous assertion - the total pool of trade/capital/FDI is contracting as a de-globalisation process works through the globe).

Corruption targeted?
Everybody knows that Romania, like Bulgaria, is best by rampant corruption. It is a public ill that it is hard to contest. Still it can be done. England in the eighteenth century was run by a regime notorious for being called 'Old Corruption.' But by the late Victorian era the country was remarkably, indeed sanctimoniously, free of the scourge.

There is perhaps the rub. It was still a deeply religious country. Romania is no longer that. It is consequently deprived of a main support for a new campaign altruism and right conduct in public life such as the Victorians successfully launched.

Romania has made a concerted effort to deal with the problem by setting up a Natiional Agency for Integrity (ANI). It has had the temerity to investigate the sources of income of seven of the nine judges of the country's constitutional court. This has provoked a predictably sour reaction.

The Romanian Constitutional Court has ruled that ANI, responsible for investigating high corruption, has been working on an unconstitutional basis. It is not for dignitaries under suspicion to justify their fortune, the court argued, but for ANI to prove that it had been illegally acquired.

EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso met Romanian President Traian Basescu in mid-April and urged him to continue with the anti-corruption campaign. EU funds will be in short supply until the matter has been better addressed.

Alas, the EU has lost its prime leverage over both Bulgaria and Romania by admitting them in 2007 before the issue had been seriously tackled, albeit the setting up of the agency had been a precondition of EU membership. It might have been better if its successful implementation had been. There is no doubt that the ruling of the court is a major setback for the campaign against corruption for the while.