Forgotten world (66): Romania

If NightHawk has a dominant theme, it is that we live in a wide and varied world and we should know more about other countries and other cultures and learn to respect them. Therefore, on 13 occasions now, I’ve had a week-long feature devoted to parts of the world that tend to be under-reported or even forgotten. You can check out the previous 65 entries here. This week, I am going to run an 14th series of postings on this theme.
One of the last two entrants to the European Union, Romania had a GDP per head in 2005 of only $4,490 compared to $9,240 for the eight post-Communist entrants in 2004 and an EU average of $29,330. However, in population terms, at 22M Romania is the second biggest Eastern European country after Poland. Unlike most other Eastern European countries, the people of Romania speak a Romance language related to Italian and French. However, some 7% of Romanians are ethnic Hungarians. As many as 2M Romanians live abroad.
Following the uprising which brought about the execution of communist-era leader Nicolae Ceausescu on Christmas Day 1989, former communists dominated politics until 1996 when a centrist government came to power. It became involved in prolonged political feuding which did little or nothing to promote economic reform. The left returned in 2000 when Ion Iliescu was re-elected president. However, in 2004, Traian Basescu, the popular centrist mayor of Bucharest, became president.