Romania, an overview

Economic profile

With a population of 22 million, Romania is Central Europe’s second largest market. Romania boasts several real advantages:

  • an excellent location at the crossroads of the main trade routes between western Europe and Asia, between South Europe (the Mediterranean) and northern Europe;
  • important river and sea navigation facilities  (Constanta is the biggest port on the Black Sea; proximity to the Danube – Rhine – Main canal connecting the Black Sea to the North Sea);
  • skilled labour, including highly trained specialists in the fields of technology, IT and engineering;
  • plenty of natural resources (oil, gas etc.) and vast fertile croplands;
  • a huge tourism potential;
  • diversified industrial structure;
  • legislation favouring foreign investment, based on free and nondiscriminatory access to the market.

In 1990 Romania undertook an economic reform process that accompanied and complemented rapprochement or, in certain cases, integration in international institutions and organizations – the European Economic Community (which became the European Union / EU) and NATO, but then also the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the World Trade Organization / WTO (of which Romania is a founding member) or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The 90s were marked by economic downturn, worse in the first transition years (1990-1992), when the economy shrank by 27%, and over 1997-1999 (a decline of over 12%). This trend, accompanied by quasi-permanent inflation and a significant rise in unemployment, evolved on the backdrop of measures geared at decentralization, privatization and, notably after 1997, accelerated economic restructuring.

The interval 2000-2008 brought a marked economic recovery, with an annual growth rate above 6%, higher over 2003-2008 when Romania posted a sizable rise in consumption and productive investment.

Improvement of the business environment, the effects of the flat taxation rate and foreign partners’ positive attitude towards Romania in the context of accession to NATO and the EU helped attract a record volume of foreign investment. Over 2005-2008 inflows of foreign direct investment amounted to approx. EUR 28 billion. i.e. more than half the total foreign investment of the last 20 years.

Foreign trade grew sensibly in point of both quality and quantity. The value of Romania’s trade exchanges has grown significantly, notably in recent years, when annual growth rates higher than 10% have been recorded. 2008 saw a peak in foreign trade which aggregated approx. EUR 90 billion (of which approx. 34 billion in exports). Romania’s main trade partners in the last decade have been Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, Hungary, the Netherlands, the UK, and Austria.


In point of quality, the structure of commercial exchanges has been marked by major changes, Romania exporting more and more value-added products and services, that mirroring the economic restructuring, the capacity of the national economy to supply goods and services and a better utilization of facilities of access to foreign markets. Currently, the EU accounts for over 70% of Romania’s foreign trade, which indicates the level of economic integration in the European single market.

As the world financial crisis that started in autumn 2008 caused commercial and credit flows to drop, 2009 and 2010 were years of economic downturn. Although the Romanian banking system is solid and the economy grew for nearly one decade, Romania has still been affected by the global economic and financial crisis, posting drops in GDP of 7% in 2009 and an estimated 2% in 2010, concurrently with an expanding budget deficit and unemployment. Foreign direct investment, too, declined in 2009, standing at about EUR 4.5-5 billion (roughly half the figure of the previous year).

The Government’s efforts to cushion the effects of the crisis were geared at stimulating economic growth, maintaining the capacity to attract investment, and protecting the economic interests of the people, by lowering the number of taxes included.

To prevent subsequent difficulties, Romania agreed with the EU and the international financial institutions on a two-year financial assistance package worth nearly EUR 20 billion. The main goals are to support the balance of payments (notably to ensure judicious expenditures in the public sector), to secure the credit and investment flow and to consolidate the reserves of the central Bank.

Romania’s macroeconomic prospects have visibly improved of late, on the backdrop of external demand, even though unemployment-related problems are likely to persist.

The Romanian Government will further work to fulfill the convergence criteria and observe the terms of the Stability and Growth Pact, as well as to ensure long-term stability of the exchange rate, with a view to switching to the Euro.

Reforms are to be operated at a fast pace, with emphasis on decentralizing the public administration, mobilizing public funds and strengthening the administrative capacity of generating projects to better absorb European funds, and financing priority projects in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, education, health care, energy, environment, and creating new business opportunities for investors.

Romania’s strategic priorities for the next period are to develop the infrastructure, to ensure energy security  and supply from alternative sources, modernize agriculture, enhance the quality of education and health care services

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