Overview | Government

This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. Derived from The Library of Congress.


Overview: Romania is a republic with a directly elected president and a bicameral legislature. In the postcommunist era, Romania generally has had a democratic system of government, although until 2004 governance was dominated by a single figure, Ion Iliescu (who has been elected president three times), and parties associated with him. The European Union (EU) has identified reform of Romania’s public administration as a requirement for membership. After the Ceauşescu regime fell in 1989, a new constitution was ratified in 1991. It was last modified by referendum in October 2003.

Executive Branch: The executive branch is composed of the president (head of state), the prime minister (head of government), and the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The president is elected by popular vote and cannot serve more than two five-year terms (extended by a constitutional referendum from four years in 2003). The president serves as supreme commander of the armed forces, chairs the Supreme Defense Council, and nominates the prime minister. The prime minister, who was Calin Popescu-Tariceanu in 2006, appoints the government (Council of Ministers), which must be confirmed by a vote of confidence from parliament. In 2006 the government included 15 ministries, three deputy prime ministers, and the head of the National Bank of Romania; some reorganization was expected following admission to the European Union (EU) in 2007.

Legislature: The legislative branch, a two-chamber parliament, is made up of the Chamber of Deputies (Camera Deputatilor, 332 seats) and the Senate (Senat, 137 seats); all seats are filled by popular vote. Deputies and senators serve four-year terms. As at the lower levels of government, all seats in the national parliament are allocated in proportion to the votes gained by the parties. The legislature has been weakened by the availability of an “emergency ordinance” strategy that enables the executive branch to pass legislation without parliamentary approval. However, in recent years European Union law has been the model for a substantial portion of Romania’s new legislation.

The parliamentary elections of 2004 gave the Social Democratic Party (SDP) a plurality of seats in the Chamber of Deputies, but a coalition of three parties, the Justice and Truth Alliance (DA), the Hungarian Democratic Union in Romania (HDUR), and the Romanian Humanist Party (PUR), formed a government based on their combined numbers. Between 2004 and late 2006, some deputies changed party allegiance, giving the DA (itself an alliance of the National Liberal Party and the Democratic Party) an independent plurality. As of October 2006, the party alignment of the Chamber of Deputies was as follows: DA, 118; SDP, 105; the Greater Romania Party (GRP), 31; HDUR, 22; Conservative Party (formerly the PUR), 18; other parties, 18; and independents, 19. The distribution in the Senate was as follows: DA, 50; SDP, 43; GRP, 18; Conservatives, 11; HDUR, 10; and independents, 11. The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Bogdan Olteanu, was elected in March 2006 when the previous president, former prime minister Adrian Năstase, was forced to resign because of alleged corruption.

Judiciary: The judicial branch is divided into a Constitutional Court, a lower court system with municipal and county courts, a court of appeals, and a High Court of Cassation and Justice. The role of the High Court of Cassation and Justice, as defined by the constitution, is to ensure a unitary and consistent interpretation and enforcement of the law by all lower courts. The nine-member Constitutional Court addresses the constitutionality of challenged laws and decrees. The members serve nonconcurrent nine-year terms. The two houses of parliament and the president appoint three judges each to the Constitutional Court. Judges to the High Court of Cassation and Justice serve six-year terms and may serve multiple terms; like all other judges in the lower court system, they are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the 19-member Superior Council of Magistrates. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; judges appointed by the president cannot be removed prior to the end of their terms.

Administrative Divisions: Romania is divided into 41 counties (judete; sing., judet). Below the county level are three categories of population centers: 2,800 communes, having fewer than 5,000 inhabitants; 280 towns, having 5,000 to 20,000 inhabitants; and 86 municipalities, having more than 20,000 inhabitants.

Provincial and Local Government: Each of Romania’s 41 counties is governed by a county council, whose members are elected by party; municipalities, towns, and communes are administered by mayors (elected individually) and local councils (elected by party). The county council coordinates the actions of all commune and town councils within a given county. Each county and Bucharest has a prefect appointed by the central government, who is charged with representing the central government at the local level. The prefect can block the actions of a local authority under certain conditions, such as violations of the law or the constitution. Such contested matters are then referred to an administrative court for arbitration. Reform proposals by President Traian Basescu in 2006 would give municipalities and county councils substantially greater responsibility for education, health care, and police services now provided by the central government. The inefficient county administrative system may be replaced by a regional system after 2007, but this controversial reform will await Romania’s entry into the European Union.

Judicial and Legal System: The Romanian legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code. The law does not provide for jury trials; therefore, judges alone decide the outcome of trials. The law stipulates the right to counsel and presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The system has three levels below the High Court of Cassation and Justice: a lower court, an intermediate court, and an appellate court. Courts at each level have a prosecutor’s office. In the early 2000s, the Romanian legal system struggled to cope with a steadily increasing volume of court cases, particularly commercial litigation, and a shortage of judges. In 2004 and 2005, reports by the European Commission criticized the Romanian judiciary for lack of political independence and training and for unfamiliarity with the law of the European Union (EU). A judicial reform law passed in 2005 aimed at increasing the independence and professionalism of judges and prosecutors. Minister of Justice Monica Macovei, a nonpolitical appointee, has received credit for accelerating the judicial reform process, a major factor in the EU’s final approval of Romania’s membership in 2006. The 2006 state budget increased funding of the judicial branch by 12 percent.

Electoral System: Representatives to the two houses of parliament are chosen by direct, popular vote on a proportional representation basis for four-year terms. Parliamentary elections last were held on November 28, 2004, when 58 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. The organization and conduct of national elections are the responsibility of the Central Election Bureau, which has branch offices in each county. The Permanent Electoral Authority, created in 2006, monitors the funding of political parties. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for November 28, 2008.

The president is elected by direct popular vote. The most recent presidential election, held on November 28, 2004, resulted in a runoff between the top two candidates on December 12, 2004. In that election, Traian Basescu of the Democratic Party defeated incumbent prime minister Adrian Năstase of the Social Democratic Party with 51.2 percent of the vote. The next presidential election will be held on November 28, 2009, with a runoff on December 12, 2009, if necessary.

Politics and Political Parties: As of 2006, political parties represented in parliament include the National Liberal Party (NLP) and the Democratic Party (DP), which together formed the Justice and Truth Alliance (DA); the Hungarian Democratic Union in Romania (HDUR); the Conservative Party; the Social Democratic Party (SDP); and the ultranationalist Greater Romania Party. In 2006 the main parties of the governing coalition, the center-right NLP and the center-left DP, were increasingly hostile and not expected to remain partners in the Justice and Truth Alliance for the next election (in 2007 or 2008). The SDP, which had suffered serious scandals, was not expected to be a serious factor, and the NLP was weakened by factionalism. A new coalition was expected to head the next government. Parties failing to gain seats in parliament in the 2004 elections include the National Peasant and Christian-Democrat Party (PNTCD), the Popular Action Party (AP), the New Generation Party (PNG), the Union for Romania’s Reconstruction (URR), and the Democrat Force (FD).

Mass Media: The fall of the Ceauşescu regime brought extensive changes in Romanian media markets. In 2006 the mass media market remained a balance between state-owned and independent outlets. In the 2004 presidential election, international monitors criticized the broadcast media for favoritism but found the print media basically fair. Although 2005 saw a significant increase in the unimpeded reporting of controversial views, the state continued to use advertising revenue and other devices to influence coverage in the broadcast media. Financial restraints on media freedom are particularly pronounced in the provinces. In 2005 two national and several other state-owned television channels and four state-owned national radio stations were broadcasting. At least 13 private national channels competed with public television. Some 3.3 million households had cable television, and about 150 FM radio stations were operating. In 2005 Romanians had 12.1 million radios and 11.4 million television sets.

In 2005 Romania had more than 100 newspapers, 18 of which are in Bucharest. The tabloid Libertatea had the top circulation of about 200,000 per day; its main competitors included Jurnalul National, Adevarul, and Evenementul Zilei. The early 2000s saw a consolidation of major media groups. By 2004 the Swiss Ringier group owned three of the top-circulation daily newspapers, and the Mediapro group owned the major private television network, several other large stations, and radio and print outlets. The largest domestic news agency is the independent Mediafax. The state-run agency Rompress has received substantial criticism for bias. The major West European news agencies and agencies of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia have offices in Bucharest.

Foreign Relations: Since the demise of the Ceauşescu regime, Romania has actively pursued closer relations with the West and with the United States and the European Union (EU) in particular. Romania is a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in March 2004, and is scheduled to join the EU in 2007. The last hurdle to EU membership was final approval by the European Commission, which occurred in April 2006. Relations with neighbors Bulgaria and Hungary, often tense in the past, have improved significantly since 2000 with the prospect of EU membership. No major issues exist with Serbia, the neighbor to the West. Relations with Russia are on generally cordial terms, although Russia has expressed concern over Romania’s membership in NATO and potential accession to the EU. In 2003 Russia and Romania signed a Treaty on Friendly Relations and Cooperation. Although relations with Ukraine have improved in recent years, territory and oil drilling rights at the mouth of the Danube remain in dispute. An eventual goal of Romanian foreign policy is reunification with the neighboring former Soviet republic of Moldova (then Moldavia), which was part of Romania until 1940 and 60 percent of whose population is ethnically Romanian.

Major International Memberships: Romania is a member of the Australia Group, Bank for International Settlements, Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone, Central European Initiative, Council of Europe, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Union (applicant), Food and Agriculture Organization, G–9, G–77, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Chamber of Commerce, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, International Criminal Court, International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Olympic Committee, International Organization for Migration, International Organization for Standardization, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, International Telecommunication Union, Latin American Integration Association, Multilateral Investment Geographic Agency, Nonaligned Movement (guest), Nuclear Suppliers Group, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Organization of American States (observer), Partnership for Peace, Permanent Court of Arbitration, United Nations, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Universal Postal Union, Western European Union (associate affiliate), World Confederation of Labor, World Customs Organization, World Federation of Trade Unions, World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, World Meteorological Organization, World Tourism Organization, World Trade Organization, and Zangger Committee.

Major International Treaties: Romania is a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Romania is also a party to the following international environmental agreements: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change–Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, and Wetlands.


Armed Forces Overview: Romania has 97,200 military personnel, organized in the army (66,000, including 18,500 conscripts), navy (7,200), and air force (14,000, including 3,800 conscripts), as well as some units under joint command (10,000). In preparation for accession to the European Union (EU) in 2007, Romania’s military is undertaking changes to bring it in line with EU standards for member states. In addition, in order to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (which it did in 2004), Romania committed to a minimum expenditure of 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense spending. Nonetheless, Romania’s military currently is constrained by outdated equipment and national budget limitations.

Foreign Military Relations: The United States began training the Romanian military through the International Military Education and Training program in 1993. Since the early 2000s, Romania has focused on establishing effective cooperation with the military organizations of the other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. To reinforce the new Central European region of the alliance, Romania has sought closer strategic relationships with Hungary and Poland. Romania has offered diplomatic advice for political conflict resolution as well as troops for NATO’s Kosovo Force, in order to advance the critical goal of stability in neighboring former Yugoslavia. To bring its air force closer to NATO standards, Romania has received technical assistance from Israel and has sought secondhand aircraft from NATO allies in Europe.

External Threat: Romania faces no threat of conventional armed conflict.

Defense Budget: Defense spending in Romania declined significantly after the fall of the Ceauşescu regime in 1989, but spending has grown as a percentage of gross domestic product since 2000. In 2005 the defense budget was US$1.96 billion. The 2006 budget allotted US$2.13 billion, and the projected budget for 2007 was US$2.8 billion.

Major Military Units: The Romanian army has one joint operations command (corps), two operations commands (divisions), one land forces headquarters, and two territorial corps commands with 10 active brigades (one tank, three mechanized, one mountain, one airborne, one artillery, one antiaircraft, one engineering, and one logistical) and 14 territorial brigades (one tank, six mechanized, two mountain, two artillery, two antiaircraft, and one engineering). The navy has a naval headquarters with one naval operational command (fleet level) and one Danube-based riverine flotilla. The air force has a headquarters with one air operational command, one air division, six air bases, and one training base. Plans call for the establishment in 2007 of two new ground force units—one brigade of mountain troops and one infantry brigade—to contribute to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Union combat forces.

Major Military Equipment: According to some estimates, more than half of Romania’s military hardware is more than two decades old. Budget constraints make a rapid upgrade of military equipment to Western standards unlikely. In 2006 the Romanian army had 1,258 main battle tanks, 84 assault guns, 4 reconnaissance vehicles, 177 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 1,583 armored personnel carriers, 1,238 pieces of artillery, 9 surface-to-surface missile launchers, 127 antitank missiles, 933 antitank guns, 663 air defense guns, 64 surface-to-air missiles, 10 surveillance vehicles, and 6 unmanned aerial vehicles. The navy had 7 principal surface combatants (3 frigates and 4 corvettes); 3 missile craft; 12 torpedo boats; 38 patrol craft; 1 minelayer; 10 mine countermeasure craft; and 10 logistics and support craft. The air force had 68 MiG–21A and 25 MiG-–1C combat aircraft, 11 transport aircraft, 83 training aircraft, 114 utility and support helicopters, 8 assault helicopters, and 42 surface-to-air missiles.

Military Service: In 2006 Romania required eight months of military service for males. Compulsory service begins at 20 years of age; volunteers may enter the service at 18 years of age. Conscription is scheduled to end in 2007.

Paramilitary Forces: In 2006 Romania had a paramilitary force of 79,900 under the control of the Ministry of Interior. Of that number, 22,900 were border guards, and about 57,000 were in the gendarmerie. Because of Romania’s location at the eastern frontier of the European Union (EU), reforming and streamlining the Border Police was a high priority in advance of its admittance to the EU.

Military Forces Abroad: In 2006 Romania had 400 soldiers serving as part of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and 550 troops with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, as well as one mechanized infantry brigade of 860 troops in Iraq. In addition, Romanian troops participate in the following United Nations missions: Afghanistan (550), Bosnia (120), Côte d’Ivoire (5 observers) Democratic Republic of Congo (22 observers), Ethiopia/Eritrea (7 observers), and the Kosovo Force (KFOR; 308).

Foreign Military Forces: In June 2006, Romania’s parliament ratified a controversial bilateral agreement that would allow a U.S. military presence at several bases in eastern Romania. Bulgarian, Romanian, and U.S. forces conducted joint ground forces exercises on Romanian territory in summer 2006.

Police: Romania’s police are divided into two organizations, both of which fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior: the gendarmerie and the national police, which is the main civil law enforcement agency. Each of the 41 counties has its own police organization under the overall control of the general inspectorate. The general inspectorate investigates crimes of national significance such as organized crime and economic and financial malfeasance. A program of reorganization and modernization, begun in 2004 to meet European Union standards, will divide the force into departments for organized crime prevention, criminal investigations, and public order and safety, and administration is to be decentralized. The gendarmerie, a police force with military status, is responsible for crowd and riot control, patrolling mountainous and coastal areas, apprehending fugitives and deserters, counterterrorism operations, and guarding sensitive installations such as the nuclear power plant, embassies, and international airports. Like the national police, it is divided into 41 county jurisdictions. The gendarmerie’s special intervention brigade handles national incidents of terrorism, hostage-taking, and heavy rioting.

Internal Threat and Terrorism: Although post-Ceauşescu Romania has had periods of civil unrest (often related to disputes over political reforms and budget cuts), there is no evidence of terrorism or other internal threats.

Human Rights: The Romanian government generally respects the civil liberties of citizens, although police abuses continue to be reported. In addition, in 2006 a report by the European Commission stated that further measures are required to guarantee the political independence and professionalism of judges and prosecutors. Reports of police brutality continued in 2005, as did allegations of the failure of the government to fully prosecute such cases. The government also has been accused at times of restricting freedom of the press. Journalists who wrote reports critical of government policies and actions have claimed they were targets of harassment and intimidation, although such incidents have decreased under the government formed in 2004. Religious minorities have complained of discriminatory treatment by the government. Societal harassment of ethnic and sexual minorities remains a problem, as do violence and discrimination against women. Major cities continue to have large populations of homeless children. In the early 2000s, the government began to address the chronic problem of trafficking in females for the purposes of prostitution. Discrimination and violence against the Roma minority remain widespread, as the government has not punished such discrimination consistently. Child labor abuses have been reported, as well as government interference in trade union activities.

Index for Romania:
Overview | Government


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