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The largest of the Balkan countries in South East Europe has borders with Hungary, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova and Bulgaria. The legacy of Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal regime still hangs over the country, though it is now part of the European Union and a functional democracy. Romania was hit by the global financial downturn and has since implemented strict austerity measures. Major children's rights issues include discrimination against Roma children and abuse and neglect in institutions.


Romania lies in South East Europe and is the largest of the Balkan countries. It has a coastline on the Black Sea and shares its borders with Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria. The capital is Bucharest.

Population and Language

The population has slightly decreased over the past 30 years, from just over 22 million to just over 21 million in 2012[1]. Under Roman rule Christianity was introduced and the largest religious body is the Romanian Orthodox Church, with minorities of Protestants and Roman Catholics. Ethnically, the country is 90 per cent is Romanian, with the remainder predominantly Hungarian or Romani. The official language is Romanian.

History and Politics

What is now known as Romania was two separate principalities until 1862; Moldovia and Walachia. The area has seen different empires come and go, from the Romans to the Mongols to the Ottomans. In 1881 Romania gained full independence and was proclaimed a kingdom. Romanian politics during this period were undemocratic, repressive and characterised by corruption and foreign interference. Romania fought on the side of the Allied side the First World War but joined Germany and the Axis powers in its attack on the Soviet Union during WWII. After the failure of the Axis invasion, however, Soviet army groups however entered Romania and forced large numbers of Romanian troops to fight on the Allied side for the remainder of the war. After the war Romania became increasingly dependent on the Soviet Union. A communist-led coalition government was set up in 1945 and two years later Romania was proclaimed a People's Republic. Despite this, by 1963 Romania's foreign policy had shifted and it became increasingly independent of Soviet influence, even beginning to establish diplomatic relations with West Germany.[2] Former communists would, however, continue to dominate national politics until 1996 and the country struggled to make the transition to a market-based economy. Failure to reform meant held it back from EU membership in 2004, but in 2007 they managed to join the union. In 2012 Victor Ponta became prime-minister and is currently leading a centre-left government.[3]


Romania joined the European Union in 2007 which gave a great boost to both reform and modernisation. Additionally, Romania has made progress in establishing institutions compatible with a market economy. The global economic crisis hit Romania hard, but according to the World Bank it made a quick recovery thanks to careful economic management. A large package of measures, not universally popular, formed the foundation for reforms in various sectors, prompting major street rallies and clashes with the police at the beginning of 2012.[4] Romania is still vulnerable to economic shocks and growth for2012 was around 0 per cent. According to the World Bank, economic activity is projected to pick up, with a predicted growth rate of 1.2 per cent in 2013. Romania's poverty rate has dropped significantly from 36 per cent in 2000 to 5.7 per cent in 2008, but it is still among the highest in the European Union. Despite this progress access to social services like healthcare are skewed towards the wealthy.[5]

Media and Civil Society

Freedom house ranked Romania 86th, giving it a partly free status. Relative media freedom has been declining over the years as it was ranked 42 in 2007 [6] Freedom House particularly notes that civil society and the media were left vulnerable to improper influences and pressures due to economic difficulties as a consequence of the economic crisis.[7] Active Watch, a Romanian Media Monitoring Agency stated that although the country has made progress, there are still cases in which journalists are censored and citizens discouraged from protesting. They further note that racism and discrimination persist in the media and that there are issues with corruption and good governance.[8]

Human Rights and Children's Rights

A primary concern in Romania is discrimination towards Roma people, particularly negative stereotyping and access to services. They are both directly and indirectly discriminated against, with Roma pupils are separated from non-Roma pupils in some schools and evictions of informal Roma settlements. Racial discrimination as a whole is, in fact, considered to be a major concern in regards to children. The Committee on the rights of the Child has noted that while membership of certain groups is usually a matter of self-reporting, very young or abandoned children who are incapable of doing so are often identified by default as Roma children by social workers, resulting in discriminatory practices.

The Committee is further alarmed by the high prevalence of abuse and neglect in a variety of settings, the decreasing enrolment rate in primary schools, the high prevalence of drugs, tobacco and alcohol among children, and the situation of children with disabilities.[9]

Recently, the new Romanian Civil Code has prohibited same-sex partnerships and marriages.

More generally, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has inquired about the alleged existence of detention centres used in a CIA-led programme where 'suspects of terrorism' were said to have been tortured. Investigations have also been requested by the European Court of Human Rights into the conditions and treatment of patients in mental health institutions.[10]

  1. UNDESA, 2011
  2. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia Romania
  3. BBC, Romania
  4. BBC, Romania
  5. World Bank Romania
  6. Freedom House Global Press Freedom Rankings
  7. Freedom House, Romania
  8. Active Watch, “What we do”
  9. UNHCHR, "51st session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child"
  10. Amnesty International Romania


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