Romania country brief


Romania is a south-eastern European country located on the Black Sea. With a surface area of 238,000 square kilometres, Romania shares land boundaries with Bulgaria to the south, Serbia to the southwest, Hungary to the west, Ukraine to the north and Moldova to the northeast. The capital of Romania is Bucharest. 

The official language is Romanian, a Romance language spoken by around 24 million people as a native language primarily in Romania and Moldova.  It is one of the official languages of the European Union.  The population of Romania is 19.9 million (2014), of which (2011) 83 per cent are Romanian, 6 per cent Hungarian, 3 per cent Roma, with smaller minorities of Ukrainians, Germans and others.  While the religious affiliation of the majority of Romanians is Eastern Orthodox (82 per cent), other faiths include Protestant (6 per cent), Roman Catholic (4 per cent) and other, including Muslim (0.9 per cent).

Romania claimed independence from the Ottoman Empire in May 1877 and became a Republic in December 1947. The country’s national day, known as Unification Day, occurs on 1 December and marks the 1918 union of Romania and Transylvania.

Political overview

System of government

Under Romania’s presidential political system, an executive president is elected directly for a maximum of two five-year terms and is the head of state. While in office, the president must renounce all party positions and affiliations. The president is the commander of the armed forces, represents the state in foreign relations and may take part in government meetings to discuss issues of national interest. 

Romania is a republic with a bicameral parliament which comprises two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies (412 seats) and the Senate (176 seats). The constitution gives parliament a central place in the system of state authorities. It has power in exceptional circumstances to dismiss or suspend the president.  Members serve four year terms. 

The president appoints the prime minister based on parliamentary elections. A mixed single constituency/party list voting system was used for the first time during elections in November 2008. The system replaced the use of party lists, where citizens voted for a list of party-nominated candidates, rather than a single candidate. However, parties are still required to cross the threshold of 5 per cent of the total vote to obtain representation in parliament.

Recent political developments

President Klaus Iohannis is the Head of State.  He was sworn in for a second term in December 2014 after winning 54 per cent of the popular vote and standing as the Christian Liberal candidate. The next presidential election is due to be held by 16 November 2019.

The December 2012 parliamentary elections were won by the ‘Social-Liberal Union’ (USL) with a two-thirds majority. The USL alliance of centre-left and centre-right parties was led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, himself the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD).  Mr Ponta and his cabinet stepped down amid controversy on 4 November 2015.  A new government, led by Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, was appointed on 17 November 2015.  The next general election is due to be held by December 2016.

The current head of state and key ministers can be found on the Romania - Heads of Government Listing.

Foreign policy

Romania’s foreign policy is predominantly focused on relations with its neighbours and within the EU, which it joined in January 2007. Securing membership of the EU’s visa-free Schengen arrangement is a priority. The country’s NATO membership (since 2004) and relationship with the United States (including the December 2011 agreement on hosting a US ballistic missile defence system) are of strategic importance.

Romania has participated in military interventions in Afghanistan (2015), Libya (2011) and Iraq (2009). Romania also contributed to UN Peacekeeping Operations including in Haiti (2013), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kosovo and Liberia.  Romania is a member of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). 

Bilateral Relations

Diplomatic relations between Australia and Romania were established in 1968. Australia is represented by an Honorary Consulate in Bucharest and a non-resident Ambassador to Romania based in Athens. Romania has an Embassy in Canberra, a Consulate-General in Sydney and an Honorary Consulate in Melbourne. 

Australia and Romania have concluded an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (1994), a Trade and Economic Agreement (1997) and an Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion (2001). In April 2012, Australia’s Department of Infrastructure signed an inaugural air services MOU for code share with the aeronautical authorities of Romania. In June 2015, Australia extended Transit without Visa (TWOV) facilities to citizens of Romania. 

Romania has worked with Australia as part of the UN Missions in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and Southern Sudan (UNMISS).  Since 2013, Romania has provided consular assistance to Australian citizens in Syria.

People to people links

Australia and Romania share a relationship based on community ties and growing engagement in international forums. According to the 2011 census, 14,051 people living in Australia declared they were Romanian-born while 20,994 claimed Romanian ancestry.

Romania is Australia’s 97th largest inbound tourist market by arrivals.  In 2014-15, there were around 1,500 short-term visitors from Romania to Australia, down 3.8 per cent on the previous year.  Over the previous five years, the average annual growth in arrivals from Romania was 3.1 per cent.

Romania is Australia’s 103rd largest short-term destination.  In 2014-15, there were approximately 1,800 short-term resident departures from Australia to Romania, a decrease of 15.8 per cent on the previous year.  Over the last five years, the average annual growth in departures to Romania was 10.7 per cent.

Economic overview

The Romanian leu is the currency of Romania.  It is subdivided into 100 bani (singular: ban).  Romania's economy is based largely on services, which accounted for 52 per cent of GDP in 2014 (est.); industry constituted the second-largest sector at 36 per cent; and agriculture the third largest at 12 per cent.

Romania’s principal merchandise export destinations in 2014 were Germany (19 per cent), Italy (12 per cent) and France (7 per cent).  The main merchandise import sources were Germany (19 per cent), Italy (11 per cent) and Hungary (8 per cent).

Although Romania ran a current account deficit of US$-0.9 billion in 2015, the unemployment rate was relatively low at 6.8 per cent. Romania's macroeconomic gains have only recently started to spur the creation of a middle class and to address Romania's widespread poverty.

Economic growth rebounded to 3.4 per cent in 2013, driven by strong industrial exports and an excellent agricultural harvest, and the current account deficit was reduced substantially. Although growth dipped to 2.8 per cent in 2014, the economy is estimated to have expanded by 3.4 per cent in 2015. Industry outperformed other sectors of the economy. Exports remained the engine of economic growth, led by trade with the EU, which accounts for roughly 70 per cent of Romania’s merchandise trade.

In 2014, the Government of Romania succeeded in meeting its annual budget deficit target, the external deficit remained low, and inflation was the lowest since 1989, allowing a gradual loosening of monetary policy throughout the year. However, progress on structural reforms has been uneven and the economy is vulnerable to external shocks. An ageing population, weak domestic demand, tax evasion and inadequate health-care represent vulnerabilities.

Trade and investment

In 2014-15, Romania was Australia’s 72nd largest merchandise trading partner.  Australia's two-way merchandise trade with Romania was $173 million. Exports to Romania amounted to $58 million and consisted mainly of telecommunications equipment and parts, and coal. Key imports from Romania were mechanical handling equipment and parts, women’s clothing, household-type equipment and rubber tyres, treads and tubes. Australia's trade in services with Romania totaled $54 million. Bilateral investment heavily favors Romania with $41 million invested in Romania in 2014, compared to $1 million invested in Australia. A promising upturn in the trading relationship has been evident since 2011. 

Economic data can be found in the Romania Fact Sheet.

High level visits

(positions indicated were held at the time of the visit)

March 2013: State Secretary for Global Affairs, Mr Ovidiu Dranga, visited Australia.

July 2012: Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mr Richard Marles, visited Romania.

January 2012: Mr Mircea Lubanovici, member of the Romanian Parliament – Chamber of Deputies in the Diaspora College, made an official visit to Australia.

April 2011: A delegation from the Department for the Romanians Abroad paid a visit to the Romanian communities in Sydney and Melbourne.

April 2008: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd attended the NATO Summit in Bucharest.

March 2007: Mr Zamfir Dumitrescu, Chair of the Romania – Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group, visited Tasmania.

Updated, 14 January 2016

Last Updated: 6 August 2013