Monday, October 09, 2006

Country profile: Romania...

Map of Romania
The largest of the Balkan countries, Romania has dramatic mountain scenery and a coastline on the Black Sea.

It has seen numerous empires come and go from the Roman, to the Ottoman, to the Austro-Hungarian.

After World War II the country was under communist rule although the leadership pursued a foreign policy independent of that of the Soviet Union.

Romania, a slower developer than other former communist countries of eastern Europe, took a major step away from its past when it was one of seven countries to join Nato in late March 2004. Its strategic location and Black Sea air and naval bases make it attractive to the alliance.

Castle Bran, Transylvania - the stuff of legend

There have been several complex exchanges of territory over the years, not least when the area formerly known as Bessarabia went to the USSR following a pact between Hitler and Stalin. That region now forms a large part of the Republic of Moldova. Romanian, a Romance language, is essentially the same as Moldovan although the latter has undergone more influence from Russian.

The legacy of communist-era leader Nicolae Ceausescu, who was feared and loathed in approximately equal measure, lingered long after the uprising which brought his execution on Christmas Day 1989.

Former communists dominated politics until 1996 when a centrist government came to power. It became involved in prolonged political feuding which did little or nothing to promote economic reform. The left returned in 2000 when Ion Iliescu was re-elected president.

Failure to push ahead sufficiently with reforms meant that the country was not on the list of new EU members four years later. However, in April 2005 Bucharest signed the EU accession treaty and Romania is set to join the union in January 2007. It will do so under tough conditions.

* Full name: Romania
* Population: 22.2 million (UN, 2005)
* Capital: Bucharest
* Area: 238,391 sq km (92,043 sq miles)
* Major language: Romanian
* Major religion: Christianity
* Life expectancy: 67 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
* Monetary unit: 1 new leu = 100 bani
* Main exports: Textiles and footwear, metal products, machinery, minerals
* GNI per capita: US $3,830 (World Bank, 2006)
* Internet domain: .ro
* International dialling code: +40

President: Traian Basescu

Traian Basescu, the popular centrist mayor of Bucharest, topped the poll in the second round of Romania's presidential election in mid-December 2004, defeating incumbent Prime Minister Adrian Nastase of the leftist Social Democratic party. The result came as a surprise to many.

Traian Basescu: Reform-focused president

The veteran former president, Ion Iliescu, also of the Social Democrats, had dominated Romanian politics since the fall of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989. He was barred by the constitution from running for a further term.

Although Mr Iliescu and the Social Democrats had overseen Romania's entry into Nato and brought the country within sight of EU membership, they were regarded by critics as having dragged their feet on reform and as not tough enough against corruption.

Mr Basescu, a former sea captain, has promised to take a harder line against poverty and graft.

Mr Basescu was 53 at the time of his election. He was transport minister between 1996 and 2000.

Prime minister: Calin Tariceanu
Calin Tariceanu
Businessman-turned-politician Calin Tariceanu

Calin Tariceanu became prime minister following parliamentary elections in November 2004. His government is an alliance of Liberals and Democrats and has members from four reformist parties.

He said his main aim was to achieve EU membership in 2007 and identified the fight against corruption as one of the key challenges.

His government has won praise from EU officials for its efforts to tackle the problem. Numerous criminal investigations have been launched into the activities of senior officials and members of the judiciary.

Mr Tariceanu had a successful business career before entering politics. He was 53 when he became prime minister.

# Foreign minister: Razvan Ungureanu
# Economy, trade minister: Codrut Seres

Romania has one of the most dynamic media markets in southeastern Europe. State-owned Romania 1 and the private commercial stations Pro TV and Antena 1 command the lion's share of viewing.

There is a large number of smaller, private TV stations, some of them part of local networks. The state broadcaster, TVR, operates a second national network, TVR 2, and a pan-European satellite channel. Pay TV channels have a smaller but significant audience.

The first private radio stations appeared in 1990; there are now more than 100 of them. State-run Radio Romania operates four national networks and regional and local stations. BBC World Service is available on 88 FM in the capital.

Most households in Bucharest have cable TV. There are hundreds of cable distributors offering access to Romanian, European and other stations.

Romania's newspaper market thrived after the 1989 revolution, but many newspapers subsequently closed because of rising costs.

The 1991 constitution upholds freedom of expression, but prohibits "defamation of the country".

In 2004 the media rights body Reporters Without Borders said physical attacks on journalists investigating corruption had increased. It added that self-censorship among journalists was prompted by defamation laws.

The press
# Adevarul - daily
# Libertatea - daily
# Evenimentul Zillei - daily
# Jurnalul National - daily, English-language pages
# Romania Libera -daily
# Capital - business weekly
# Nine O' Clock - English-language daily

# TVR - state-owned, operates Romania 1 and TVR 2 networks
# Antena 1 - commercial
# Pro TV - commercial
# Prima TV - commercial
# Acasa TV - commercial
# Realitatea TV - commercial

# Radio Romania - state-owned, operates national and regional networks and Radio Romania International
# Europa FM - commercial
# Kiss FM - commercial
# Pro FM - commercial
# Radio 21 - commercial

News agencies
# Rompres - state-run
# Mediafax - private, English-language pages

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