Romania is situated in Southeastern Europe (Eastern European time zone, i.e. GMT+2 hours), at the northern end of the Balkan Peninsula. It is bounded to the east by the Black Sea, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, to the north by Ukraine, to the west by Hungary and Serbia and to the south by Bulgaria. Romania covers a total of 238,391 km2, a little less than half the size of France, or around five times the size of Switzerland. Romania has a beautiful and diverse landscape, with mountains (the Carpathians rise to a maximum height of 2,543 meters), forested hills, fertile planes, the Black Sea Coast and the Danube Delta. The three main historical regions are Wallachia in the South, Moldova in the East, and Transylvania in the Central-Western part of the country.
Romania has a typical continental climate, with cold winters and hot summers. Average temperatures in the capital, Bucharest, are +23° C in July and -3° C in January. These can fluctuate greatly. Further north in the country, winters are usually much colder and summers somewhat cooler.
POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE OUTLOOK
The new Romanian Constitution
was adopted in 1991 and amended in 2003. Romania is a semi-presidential democratic republic where executive functions are shared between the President
and the Prime Minister
. The President is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The GOR is headed by Prime Minister, who is nominated by the President. The Prime Minister appoints the members of his/her Cabinet. The legislative branch, the Parliament
, consists of two chambers, the Senate (137 seats) and the Chamber of Deputies (332 seats). The members of both chambers are elected for a four-year term under a system of party-list proportional representation, from multi-member constituencies (41 counties and the Municipality of Bucharest.)
Currently, the following parties
are represented in the Parliament: Social Democratic Party (PSD), Democratic Party (PD), National Liberal Party (PNL), Great Romania Party (PRM), Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), Conservative Party (PC), and Independents.
The number of seats in the Parliament by party is as follows:
: Social-Democrats (149 seats out of the 469, 32.1%)
: Liberals (75 seats, 16.2%)
: Democrats (74 seats, 15.9%)
: Great Romania Party (46 seats, 9.9%)
: Democratic Union of Hungarians (32 seats, 6.9%)
: Conservatives (28 seats, 6%)
Membership in international organizations
After the fall of communism in 1989, Romania’s primary foreign policy goal was the cooperation and accession to international organizations such as NATO or the EU. On 29 March 2004 Romania became part of the Euro-Atlantic family thus starting a fruitful collaboration. As an active partner to the allied forces during the Gulf war Romanian troops have also taken part to missions in Bosnia, Albania, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. During 2-4 April 2008, Romania will host the 20th NATO Summit.
Accession to the European Union was another top priority objective for Romania, which became a member on 1st January 2007.
Romania is divided into forty-one administrative districts ("judet") and the Municipality of Bucharest. Each "judet" is administered by a Prefect (appointed by the Government) and a Judet Council. Mayors and local councils are elected in all towns and communes. The new Government took significant measures aimed at strengthening the role and effectiveness of local government throughout Romania, as part of a general decentralization drive.
Bucharest is the capital of Romania, and the administrative and commercial center of the country, with a population over 2 million. The most important regional towns, each with a population of between 300,000 and 400,000, are Constanta (Romania's Black Sea port), Timisoara (a cultural and commercial centre in the extreme West of the country), Brasov (an industrial city in the middle of the country), Cluj-Napoca (the cultural "capital" of Transylvania), Iasi (the "capital" of the region of Moldova), Galati (an industrial city on the lower Danube) and Craiova (the "capital" of the region of Oltenia, in the Southwest.
In full post-EU accession transition, Romania’s robust macro-economic performance accompanied by public administration and justice reforms are starting to show significant results.
During the recent years, severe poverty decreased by more than 60%, from 10.9% in 2002 to 4.1% in 2006. Rural-urban and regional discrepancies are significant: the severe poverty rate is over four times higher in rural areas (7.1%, as opposed to 1.7%, in the year 2006) and almost three times higher in the North-East and South-East Regions (5.8% and 5.7% respectively) compared to the West Region, where it was of 2.0% in the same year. The unemployed, farmers and housewives are the social categories most affected by severe poverty.
At the same time, the average unemployment rate fell to a 14-year low of 5.4% in 2006, and to a 15-year low of 4% in June 2007. By social categories of relevance to the MDG framework, women’s employment rate
increased from 52% in 2002 to 53% in 2006, whereas unemployment in women
decreased by 1.6%, over twice more rapidly than the unemployment in men (which decreased by just 0.7% during the same period). A report by Eurostat (the statistics body of the EU) revealed that the unemployment rate among young people
under the age of 25 was of 20.7% in October 2007 in Romania, only outpaced by Greece.
Domestic violence, a poverty related indicator, continued to produce a high number of victims (103 deaths in the first 9 months of 2007), but the overall yearly no. of cases is expected to decline slightly. Decreasing poverty levels were also accompanied by significant changes in some MDG health indicators. For instance, child mortality went down from 13.9‰ in 2006, to 12‰ in 2007.
Experts anticipate that policy will focus on the remaining large privatization, restructuring of the energy sector, and investment in health, education and infrastructure. However, with EU membership secured, policy slippages are not unlikely.
According to the Ministry of Public Finance (MPF), GDP growth
is expected to fluctuate between 4.9% and 5.9% per year during the period 2007-2011, against the background of improved internal and external economic competitiveness. This will result in a higher export pace, in production better responding to demand, and in a decrease of the current account deficit. A slowdown is highly probable in 2010-11, as GOR tries to bring down inflation in order to meet the criteria for Euro adoption, although Romania is not likely to enter the Euro zone until 2013-14.
Regarding the current account deficit
, MPF forecast indicates stagnation over 2007 to 2009. Fiscal consolidation will become more important after 2008, once the parliamentary election is out of the way (June 2008), as the authorities seek to contain external deficits.
GOR expects a gradual decrease in the inflation rate
from 4.5% in 2007 to 2.5% in 2010. This estimate is based on the trend of investments and the consolidation of the disinflation process that had started in 2006. The inflation target for 2008 was set by National Bank of Romania at around research
will also post a controlled increase over the next years, but its share in GDP is expected to decline considering a high economic growth. The medium-term objective of the fiscal/budgetary policy is to secure funds for development programmes without exceeding the public debt reference value of 3% of GDP. The revenues to the general consolidated budget
are expected to also rise to 37.7% of GDP in 2010.
PEOPLE, LANGUAGE, RELIGION, EDUCATION
The total population is 21,538 million pers.
(in 2007), of which approximately 55.2% is urban. 89.5% of the population is ethnic Romanian, while the most important minorities are Hungarian, Gyps (Roma), German, Ukrainian, Turkish, Tatar, Serb, Russian and Jewish. (more…)
The official language of Romania is Romanian, a Latin-based language resembling the Italian language. During the course of Romania's history, the language was also influenced by French, as well as by Slavic languages, Turkish and Greek. The most frequently used foreign languages in Romania are English and French, although in some parts of Transylvania German is also spoken.
About 87% of the population is Orthodox Christian, belonging mostly to the Romanian Orthodox Church. The other most important churches are Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist. Romania's Muslim community is concentrated near the Black Sea coast, while synagogues in most large towns serve the country's dwindling Jewish population.
LIVING IN ROMANIA
SPOUSES AND EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Job opportunities for spouses are limited in Romania, given the overall poor employment situation and the still large difference between Romanian and Western European salary scales. However, temporary opportunities may be found in the private sector by spouses with specific professional training and experience, particularly in business and management.
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SHOPPING AND MARKETS
The main shopping streets/areas are Calea Victoriei, Bulevardul Magheru/Balcescu, Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta, Piata Unirii and Calea Dorobantilor. Most of the expensive shops selling luxury goods are located in the center and in the wealthy Dorobanti area. (more…)
Additionally, there are some shops worth investigating on Lipscani Str. in the historic center, a pedestrian street featuring a variety of market stalls and shops.
Most types of food, both domestically produced and imported, are now widely available in Romania. The shops have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in season, although at other times of the year the choice is limited. The main open-air markets in Bucharest are at Piata Obor, Piata Dorobanti, Piata Amzei, and Piata Galati.
Good Romanian wines are also available. The best are Murfatlar (medium white and red), Jidvei (white), Dealu Mare (red), Cotnari (sweet white) and Odobesti (red). A variety of international alcohol and tobacco brands are readily available.
More about Bucharest’s antique shops and art galleries:
FOOD AND RESTAURANTS
In addition to hotel dining rooms, there are many restaurants in Bucharest and other major towns, serving Romanian and international cuisine, from which the best represented are Chinese, Italian, Indian, Arabic (Lebanese), Greek, Spanish, German, and French. While most of the top-class restaurants accept credit cards, cash payment is only permitted in national currency.
Diplomatic pouches arrive weekly from New York, Geneva, Paris and Vienna, and occasionally from Nairobi.
Regarding the Romanian postal service, this is reliable although slow. Air mail to and from Europe and North America can take from 3 days to two weeks. Domestic mail within Romania usually takes several days.
THINGS TO DO Again
Cultural events are frequently organized in Bucharest - music festivals, open-air concerts, exhibitions, fairs. Romanian theatre is also of high quality, although language may prove a problem for non-Romanian speakers. A variety of theatres offer a good mixture of Romanian and other drama. Cinema theatres display mainly American movies, but European (mostly French) films are also shown, always in original version, with subtitles.
Bucharest enjoys a rich musical tradition, with a variety of concert venues and weekly music programmes. During the season, the National Opera for Opera and Ballet also offers an excellent programme. The Operetta offers good performances of Central European favorites. Many provincial cities also have a symphony orchestra and an opera house. Tickets for all performances remain extremely inexpensive, but should be bought in advance.
In Bucharest, information on entertainment and live performances is provided by several magazines, such as Sapte Seri ("Seven Evenings" - weekly) or Bucharest in your pocket (quarterly). For attending theatre, opera, ballet, or classic concerts, suit and tie are advisable.
A large variety of books is published, and some books in foreign languages (mostly English and French) can be found in bookstores downtown Bucharest. The British Council, L'Institut Français, Goethe Institut, American Cultural Center, Casa de America Latina and Instituto Italiano di Cultura also have lending libraries in Bucharest.A limited range of international periodicals and newspapers is available in some shops and hotels. There are two Romanian foreign language daily newspapers: "Nine O'Clock News" and "Bucharest Matin".
Bucharest and most other cities also have a number of museums, with impressive vestiges of Romania's colorful history. The Art Collections Museum and the National History Museum are well worth a visit. Museums are usually open from 1000 to 1800 hours, and charge a nominal entrance fee. Most museums are closed on Mondays.
Bucharest has a vibrant night life, including nightclubs, casinos, live rock and jazz music in clubs and pubs, especially on week-ends. However, this might not be the case outside major cities.
The Carpathian mountains two hours north of Bucharest offer wonderful hiking opportunities with the possibility of overnight stays in local hotels or family accommodation. Busteni is a good base for expeditions, and accommodation can be found easily. In winter, there are several ski resorts, of which Sinaia, Predeal and Poiana Brasov are the best known.
The Danube Delta is unique in Europe for its fauna and flora, and boat trips from Tulcea to Sulina at the mouth of the Delta give the visitor a complete visit. Good bathing can be had along the length of the Black Sea coast, although in summer the resorts can be very crowded. There are many places off the beaten track, however, which attract much fewer people.
A number of thermal and mineral spas around the country offer a variety of treatments and cures. The best known spas are Baile Felix near Oradea, Tusnad near Miercurea Ciuc, Sovata near Targu Mures, and Baile Herculane near Orsova.
Interesting Orthodox monasteries can be found in most parts of the country, but the best known and most beautiful are in northern Moldavia and Bucovina (listed by UNESCO as universal patrimony). The old towns and fortified churches of Transylvania are also well worth a visit. Brasov, Sibiu and Sighisoara, together with the surrounding villages, offer the visitor a different view of Romania and its history. The countryside along both sides of the Carpathian range is splendid, and the Trans-Fagarasean road, open only in high summer, crosses the range from North to South. This drive, in either direction, provides spectacular views.
The most popular sport in Romania is football. There are also strong traditions in handball, gymnastics, boxing, volleyball, athletics, rowing, table tennis, karate, judo, and rugby. Sports facilities for amateurs are however rare, but the Diplomatic Club on the northern outskirts of Bucharest offers tennis courts, a golf course, a swimming pool, restaurants, etc.
Most important provincial cities are served by daily flights from Bucharest's domestic airport (Baneasa).
A good rail network connects most of the country. Trains are inexpensive and rather punctual, although slow and often uncomfortable. Sleepers are available on overnight trains on main routes. It is recommended to buy all tickets in advance.
All towns have local public transport networks, and Bucharest has an underground Metro system. Metered taxis are abundant in all towns (average cost is equivalent of USD 0.42 per 1 km).
The road network in Romania is extensive, although poor conditions mean slow driving. Fuel stations can be found easily on major routes.
SOCIAL DOS AND DONT'S
Romanians are considered to be hospitable people, many of them eager to develop contacts with foreigners. When invited into a family house, it is traditional to bring a gift, even a symbolical one. If you bring flowers, make sure that they are in odd number. Romanian people usually are proud of their history and culture, and jokes on these can be perceived as offensive. Your hosts would be in turn most pleased if you tried to use some words in Romanian, for instance "Buna seara" (Good evening) or "Multumesc" (Thank you).
HINTS ON FOOD
If you wish to eat typical Romanian food, ask for "sarmale" and "mamaliga", which combined constitute the best known typical Romanian dish.
PRE-DEPARTURE TO ROMANIA
TRAVELING TO THIS COUNTRY
A growing number of international air carriers serve Bucharest's international airport (Otopeni). These include Tarom (Romanian Airlines), Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Delta Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Malev, Swissair etc. A number of international flights also touch down in Timisoara, Arad, Constanza (on the Black Sea coast), Suceava etc. UNDP has negotiated special reduced fares on flights for UN System personnel.
Bucharest has daily direct train connections with Berlin, Budapest, Istanbul, Munich, Warsaw and other regional cities.
Romania is also easily accessible by road from most European countries. Current upgrading of most border crossing facilities is reducing the time spent at the border, but serious delays can still be expected, especially during the summer months. Most European driving licenses are accepted, and international car insurance ("the green card") is required.
OTHER VISA REQUIREMENTS
A valid passport and, for most non-EU citizens, a visa is necessary in order to enter the country. Service visas can be obtained from any Romanian Embassy and tourist visas at point of entry into Romania.
The national currency (leu) is not allowed to be taken in or out of the country.
Dogs, cats and other pets are allowed to enter the country on presentation of anti-rabies certificates.
Goods for both official and personal use of international staff are exempt from customs duty both on arrival and departure. Requests for such exemption should be made to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Packing and Forwarding Agencies
DHL, Tel: 222 1777, Fax: 222 1469
FedEx, Tel: 201 4822, Fax: 201 4827
INTERDEAN, Tel: 220 1168, Fax: 220 7043
KUEHNE-NAGEL, Tel: 231 7611, Fax: 231 7617
LACKNER & SCHWARTZ, Tel: 232 5281, 232 5282, Fax: 232 5144
LEVANT MARITIME SERVICES, Tel: 230 5165, Fax: 230 3199
TNT, Tel: 303 4580, Fax: 303 4580
UPS, Tel: 410 0604, Fax: 410 9910
GETTING SETTLED IN ROMANIA
A variety of hotels and short term rental agencies can be found in Bucharest. The better ones are Athenee Palace Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Sofitel, Intercontinental, Bucuresti, Continental, Caro, Helvetia, Minerva. Prices are comparable to those in most European countries.
Reservations can be made by phone or through a specialized web-site such as:
Good houses and apartments are in heavy demand, and rents compare with those in major European or North American cities. A specialized Government agency "Locato" is responsible for helping diplomats and international civil servants find accommodation. All accommodation is provided with basic utilities.
The American school offers classes for foreign children from kindergarten to the 12th grade and the French school for the entire school age range. There are also elementary schools teaching in German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Arabic, organized by different embassies. A recently instituted MBA programme in English at the University of Bucharest is also open to foreign students.
A small number of private teachers and language schools offer Romanian classes to foreigners.
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There are no immunization or vaccination requirements for persons entering Romania.
Clinics and hospitals in Bucharest: http://www.inyourpocket.com/romania/bucharest/directory/category/56684-clinicshospitals.html
Medical and dental services for international personnel are also available at the Polyclinic for the Diplomatic Corps in Bucharest: Polyclinic of Interdepartmental Hospital (for the Diplomatic Corps), tel. (40-21) 211 34 30 (8:00 - 20:00). Tel. 321 66 61 (20:00 to 8:00).
Currently, there is no security phase in effect in Romania. However, house and vehicle break-ins, petty theft and street robberies without violence have been reported in Bucharest, where most of the expatriate community is concentrated.
A list of embassies in Bucharest with all the additional information can be found at the following address: