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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 21:21 GMT
Romania: Key facts and figures
Romania joins the European Union on 1 January 2007, along with Bulgaria. Together they take the number of EU members to 27.

Read on for some of the key things to know about Romania.

POLITICS

Romania's communist-era leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, was executed at the culmination of a national uprising, on Christmas Day 1989, but his legacy endured for years.

Images from Romania:

Former communists under President Ion Iliescu dominated the country's politics for seven years. The country applied for EU membership in 1993, but it took the election of a centrist government in 1996 for the country to orient itself fully towards the West.

When Mr Iliescu and the left returned in 2000, they continued this pro-Western policy and took the country into Nato in 2004. However, centrists were back in power by the time the EU Accession Treaty was signed in 2005.

The current Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu, who leads an alliance of Liberals and Democrats, has prioritised the fight against corruption.

A number of senior officials and members of the judiciary are being investigated, including Mr Iliescu. Former Social Democrat prime minister Adrian Nastase, faces trial on charges of bribe-taking, blackmail and abuse of public office. He denies taking 1.37m euros ($1.76m; 921,000) in bribes during his 2002-2004 term in office.

SOCIETY

Romania has a population of about 22 million. This represents a drop of some 1.5m since 1990 - however, some experts say these figus underestimated the number of Romanians who have gone to live and work abroad, which is sometimes put at two million.

More than 54% of the population live in urban areas. Those living in rural areas often work hard to enjoy a minimal standard of living.

Cost of Living
In 1990, all farming land was collective property - agricultural co-operatives or state farms. The end of communism allowed a large number of former owners to get back up to 10 hectares of their land - creating almost four million small private farms.

In 2005, some 22% of Romanians, including about 80% of Roma (which make up about 2.5% of the total population), lived below the poverty line. The north-eastern region had the highest poverty rate, Bucharest the lowest.

In 2006, the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births was 25.5 - one of the highest in Europe.

The child welfare system, a legacy of the Ceausescu regime, was a serious problem until the end of the 1990s. But the number of children abandoned at hospitals decreased by 50% between 2003 and 2005. Further efforts to improve child welfare laws were made in 2005.

The European Commission has praised Romania's progress in tackling human trafficking, improving detention conditions and child protection. But it says limited progress has been made regarding the treatment of people with disabilities and the integration of minorities.

Population

ECONOMY

Romania's average 5.8% annual economic growth over the past five years makes it one of Europe's fastest-growing economies.

Details of imports and exports and Romania's trading partners

In Bucharest and the west of country, unemployment has dropped to about 2%. There were even concerns about a lack of available labour when foreign companies such as Procter and Gamble set up production plants.

But economic growth has not alleviated widespread poverty, and corruption and bureaucracy is still said to hinder business activities.

Observers say the unemployment rate is kept unrealistically low in part by emigration of Romanians in search of employment. It is estimated that between 600,000 and two million Romanians have gone to live and work abroad since 1989.

Romania was historically a major agricultural producer - but the sector is now weak. According to the US Library of Congress, agriculture accounted for more than 30% of total employment in Romania in 2004 and contributed only 10% of GDP.

Immigration and Emigration

ENVIRONMENT

Romania's geography is a mixture of the Carpathian mountains, the Transylvanian plateau in the north-west, and the plains bordering the Danube river in the south-east.

Dead fish on Rover Tisza

The Danube is Romania's major waterway, travelling 1,000km through or along the country, forming the southern frontier with Serbia and Bulgaria. One of Europe's largest hydroelectric stations is located at the Iron Gate, where the river passes through a gorge separating the Carpathian mountains from the foothills of the Balkan mountains.

Under Ceausescu, environmental laws were never fully enforced. Observers say toxic air emissions are the biggest environmental hazard, but pollution of waterways is also a concern.

In January 2000, 100 tonnes of cyanide spilled from a gold mine in northern Romania into rivers in Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia. It wiped out all fish and plant life for several hundred kilometres and was described by the UN as one of the worst river pollution accidents in Europe.

In 2006, the European Commission gave Romania extra time to reach required environmental standards.

CULTURE

The Transylvanian city of Sibiu, with its medieval centre and ethnically mixed population, has been named European Capital of Culture 2007.

Bran Castle
Bran Castle: The Dracula story draws tourists to Transylvania
It has a significant Hungarian minority - a result of the years Transylvania spent within the Hungarian Empire - and Romania's largest German community. There are also Roma, Slovak and Ukrainian communities.

According to legend, the lost children of Hamelin emerged from the "Almasch" cave into Transylvania, somewhere close to Sibiu.

One of Romania's most popular tourist attractions is the 14th Century Bran Castle, associated with the cruel prince known as Vlad the Impaler, who inspired Irish author Bram Stoker to write the horror novel, Dracula.




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