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Key facts about Romania

05 December 2012
by eub2 -- last modified 05 December 2012

Romania, which votes Sunday to elect its 470-member parliament, is the European Union's newest member and also its second poorest country.


Here is a factfile on the country:

GEOGRAPHY: Located in southeastern Europe, Romania borders Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria. At 237,500 square kilometres (91,700 square miles), Romania is slightly smaller than the United Kingdom.

POPULATION: 19 million, plus an estimated three million living outside the country. Romania is home to more than 25 ethnic groups, including Hungarians and Roma.

CAPITAL: Bucharest


RELIGIONS: Predominantly Orthodox Christian (over 85 percent). Minority faiths include Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam.

HISTORY: Torn for centuries between the Ottoman Turks, Russia and the central European Habsburg Empires, Romania became a single independent state in 1878.

It fought alongside the Allies against Germany in World War I but sided with the Nazis in World War II, under the leadership of dictator Ion Antonescu. When he was toppled in 1944, Romania changed sides and fought with the Allies.

The Communists came to power after the war, forcing King Michael I to abdicate in 1947 and forming a People's Republic that became part of the Eastern bloc.

The fall of communism in Romania was particularly violent, with long-time dictator Nicolae Ceausescu driven from power in December 1989 and executed along with wife Elena.

Romania joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.

President Traian Basescu was elected to a first five-year mandate in December 2004 and a second in 2009.

POLITICS: Romania is a parliamentary republic. Presidential terms are limited to five years and no one can serve more than two terms. Members of the two-chamber parliament are elected every four years via a first-past-the-post system mixed with party-list proportional representation. The House of representatives has 333 lawmakers and the Senate 137.

ECONOMY: Romania has the second-largest area devoted to farming of any country in the EU, after Poland. The country also has oil and gas resources as well as a large IT-service sector.

A period of economic collapse followed the 1989 end of communism. The country recovered and booked steady growth until 2008, when a real-estate and credit bubble burst.

It suffered a major recession in 2009-10 and called on the International Monetary Fund for a 20-billion-euro ($26-billion) lifeline.

Thanks to one of Europe's most drastic austerity packages, it managed to post 2.5 percent growth in 2011 and rein in its public deficit, which is expected to be at 2.2 percent of GDP in 2012 according to the finance ministry.

The country remains outside the eurozone; its currency is the leu. Its public debt is small compared to other EU countries at around 36 percent of GDP.

With an average monthly wage of 350 euros ($460), Romania is the EU's second poorest country, after Bulgaria.

HEALTH: Romania's health system is in tatters. The infant-mortality rate is the highest in the EU, at nine deaths per 1,000 births. Life expectancy is also significantly lower than in the rest of Europe, with 70 years for men and 77 for women. The EU average is 77 and 83 respectively.

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