HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
Eastern European state. Geographically Carpathian-Danubian country, but which is frequently included among those in the Balkans for its historical-political vicissitudes. Even in the early 21st century. Romania found herself sharing her fate in some way with that of the states of the Balkan Peninsula: at least as regards the long wait, which was imposed on her to be admitted into the European Union, admission definitively took place, in an official manner, on January 1, 2007.
In 2001, the year in which the last census of the Romanian population was held, 21,680,974 residents were recorded ; the latest available estimate indicates, for 2005, a little less, 21,628,000. The slight decrease is due to the robust emigration flows that have brought large groups of Romanians to various Western European countries, in particular Germany and Italy, subtracting the population numbers in fertile age. The urban network has preserved its characteristics: a clearly dominant metropolis, the capital Bucharest, which, with 2,050,000 residents in its agglomeration as a whole (2006 data), it concentrates just under 10% of the state population as well as the great majority of industrial and service activities; a dozen, or a little less, of medium-large cities (mostly over 300,000 residents), arranged mainly in a peripheral position, not far from the borders, being the central part of the country occupied by the Carpathian mountainous area; for the rest, small towns, with modest urban functions.
In 2005, global GDP reached 82.9 billion US dollars, while that per capita stood above 4500 dollars: figures still low, although the increase in the first years of the new millennium was significant. Significant progress has been made to reach the goal of joining the European Union, in particular as regards the privatization of activities and the modernization of the secondary and tertiary sectors, especially in terms of employment. In fact, a comparison of the data of the last years of the last century with those of the early 2000s shows that in 1999agriculture still absorbed more labor force than industry and the latter more than services, revealing an archaic, proto-industrial structure; in 2005 the situation was reversed, with services in the lead, even if still underpowered. As for the industry, a considerable advantage came from the opening to foreign investors, interested in the search for new locations capable of ensuring savings on labor: emblematic is the case of the Italian clothing and footwear factories, mostly from Veneto. (and in particular in the province of Treviso), who have relocated part of their manufacturing cycle in areas of the western Romania, especially in Timişoara and Oradea, giving rise to an intense flow of people and capital between the two countries.
According to best-medical-schools, agriculture, although still backward, above all due to insufficient mechanization, ensures Romania a non-negligible position for numerous products, such as corn (of which the country is the third European producer), potatoes and vines (the vineyards of the lower Danube valley).
The transition to a market economy initiated after the fall of N. Ceauşescu (1989) did not give the country an effective relaunch of the production system, which at the turn of the century was still substantially stagnant. The lack of a clear strategic orientation and the worsening of social conditions due to high unemployment rates and rising inflation, contributed to making the internal situation particularly precarious, aggravated by widespread corruption of the state apparatus, petty crime and the emergence of increasingly strong nationalistic and xenophobic pressures, which crossed all political alignments.
The contrasts that arose within the moderate coalition, in government since 1996, favored the return to power of the Partidul Democraţiei Sociale din România (PDSR, Party of Social Democracy of Romania), which in the general elections (presidential and legislative) of Nov. dec. 2000 succeeded in having its leader I. Iliescu (already in office in the years 1990-1996) elected president of the Republic and winning a relative majority of seats in Parliament (155 out of 346). Main Opponent of Iliescu in the presidential election competition was CV Tudor, appearing with an openly racist program, anti-Semitic and nationalistic, which promised mass executions of corrupt politicians and Roma persecution. They got to the second round more than 33 % of the votes, and his party, the Partidul România Mare (PRM, Party of Greater Romania), became the second in Parliament (84 seats). In the moderate camp, only the Partidul Democrat (PD, Democratic Party, 31 seats), the Partidul Liberal Na ţ ional (PLN, National Liberal Party, 30 seats) and the Democratic Union signed Hungarian complicated in Romania (UDMR, democratic Ungherese Unione di Romania, 27 Segg).
In December, the PDSR formed a minority government chaired by A. Năstase, one of the party’s most open personalities, also appreciated by the moderate opposition. He placed the economic and financial consolidation and the modernization of the bureaucratic-administrative apparatus among the priorities of his mandate, in order to achieve the standards required for entry into the European Union. On the basis of these objectives he found a programmatic agreement with the opposition forces, which also served to isolate the xenophobic far right politically.
In the following years the executive continued on the path of economic reforms: it relaunched the privatization program, especially in the industrial sector, and maintained the austerity measures, thus adapting itself to the indications of the IMF, which decided, starting from 2001, the disbursement of new loans to stabilize and accelerate the ongoing process. This contributed to improving public finances and lowering inflation, although budget cuts once again fueled harsh public outcry. In an attempt to allay the growing unease, Năstase initiated a dialogue with the trade union forces, and in May 2002it struck an agreement with the main workers’ representatives which envisaged, in exchange for a social truce, the raising of minimum wages and the creation of new jobs. Despite the improvement in the economic situation witnessed by a consistent GDP growth, the policy of sacrifices imposed by the government penalized the PDSR, which was defeated in the new general elections, held in Nov.-Dec. 2004. In the presidential elections T. Băsescu, candidate of the moderate alliance Dreptate şi Adevar (DA, Justice and Truth), made up of PLN and PD, managed to beat Năstase, candidate of the left-wing coalition Uniunea Na ţ ional ă in the second round(UN, National Union), constituted by the Partidul Social Democrat (PSD, Social Democratic Party, new name assumed in 2001 by the PSDR, united with a minor left-wing group) and by the Partidul Umanist din România (PUR, Humanist Party of Romania). The UN nevertheless obtained the highest number of seats in the legislative elections held at the same time (132, of which 113 in the PSD and 19 in the PUR), followed by DA (112 seats, of which 64 in the PLN and 48 in the PD), by the PRM (48 seats) and by the UDMR (22 seats).
The decision of the PUR (which in May 2005 changed its name to Partidul Conservator, Conservative Party) to abandon the ally led to the formation of a coalition government (PLN, PD, PUR) led by C. Popescu-Tăricenau, leader of the PLN. Among the priorities of the new executive were the fight against corruption, the continuation of the rehabilitation policy and entry into the EU (which took place in January 2007). The small majority on which Popescu-Tăricenau could count in Parliament, however, limited the possibility of maneuvering of the new government, further weakened by the exit from the coalition, in December 2006, of the Partidul Conservator.
In foreign policy, the Romania tried in recent years to improve economic and commercial relations with Western countries, and in April 2004 it officially became part of NATO.