Romania. According to COUNTRYAAH, Romania has a population of 19.41 million (2019). The government that took office before the New Year was forced into unpopular austerity measures to lower the budget deficit and pave the way for necessary loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the EU and the World Bank. For Romania, it was not to be drawn into the vacuum of the Greek financial crisis.
In May, the government presented a tough savings package that was welcomed by lenders but caused angry protests at home. Public wages would be reduced by 25 percent – the average salary was about 350 euros a month – and pensions and unemployment benefits would be reduced by 15 percent.
Tens of thousands of pensioners and workers protested in Bucharest, demanding the government’s resignation and renegotiation of the IMF’s loan terms. A general strike was carried out when the savings package was debated in parliament in June, and the opposition requested a vote of no confidence. It was supported by 228 votes, eight too few to topple the government.
The opposition appealed the cuts to the Constitutional Court and was partially correct. According to the court, the reduction of pensions by 15 percent contravened the country’s constitution, but the salary reduction by 25 per cent was approved. The public sector employed one-third of the labor force in Romania – a legacy of the Soviet era – and, according to economists, cost twice as much as it should.
As compensation for the missing pension reduction, the government decided to increase VAT by five percentage points to 24 percent. Thus, the IMF approved a partial payment of the large loan package.
During the year, the EU criticized Romania for its weak fight against corruption. But a judge in the Supreme Court was arrested in April on suspicion of receiving large bribes, and former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase was indicted in May for corruption, accused of taking bribes and breaking customs rules.
Romania’s planned entry into the EU passport union Schengen at the New Year 2010/2011 was blocked by Germany and France, which demanded greater efforts against organized crime. President Bašescu described the decision as discriminatory.
In July, former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescus and his wife Elena’s graves were opened at a military cemetery in Bucharest. The couple’s children had long requested to establish that it was the parents who lay in the graves, since the Ceauşescu couple had been secretly buried at night after being executed after a summary trial. The Ceauşescu couple was buried again in December.
At the beginning of the year, Amnesty International criticized Romania for widespread discrimination against the Roma. Amnesty felt that the Roma were evicted from their homes into substandard housing and that they then lost access to work, community service and social networks. According to Amnesty, three-quarters of Romania’s roughly 2.2 million Roma were living in poverty due to discrimination.
Therefore many of the Romans went abroad, not least to France. There, President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered the demolition of hundreds of camps for Roma and travelers to combat smuggling, begging and prostitution. In August, hundreds of Roma were expelled to Romania, and France was accused of violating EU rules on free movement of EU citizens. Romanian President Traian Băsescu called for an integration plan for Europe’s Roma, while France demanded that the European Commission force Romania to stop the emigration of Roma. Instead, the European Parliament condemned France’s deportation of Roma.
In October, tens of thousands of people in Bucharest demonstrated against the government’s decision to cut public salaries and increase VAT. The opposition again demanded a vote of no confidence in the government, but it did not go through. By contrast, the opposition gained an unexpected majority in order to lower the VAT on food from 25 to 5 percent, which was welcomed by the people but not by the international lenders.
Romania was hit in the summer by floods that claimed the lives of 26 people.