Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea. Romania shares a border with Hungary and Serbia to the west, Ukraine and Moldova to the northeast and east, and Bulgaria to the south.
The country of 22 million people, one of the newest, most populous, and poorest EU members, is undertaking a long haul out of its economic crisis, and austerity measures are cutting deep. The perception of a remote, authoritarian, and corrupt political and economic elite that has changed little since the days of Communism has exacerbated public frustration.
But the protests have added a new dynamic to Romania’s political and social scene. After some years of apathy, public anger and a desire for change are being expressed on Romanian streets again.
Romania's government collapsed today following weeks of protests against austerity measures, the latest debt-stricken government in Europe to fall in the face of rising public anger over biting cuts.
Emil Boc, who has been prime minister since 2008, said he was resigning "to defuse political and social tension" and make way for a new government after thousands of Romanians took to the streets in January to protest salary cuts, higher taxes, and widespread perception that the government was not interested in the problems of ordinary people in this nation of 22 million.
Romania's government has been unseated in a no-confidence vote, just two months after taking office.
The opposition seized on public anger over austerity measures to oust prime minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu. The centre-right coalition had cut salaries and raised sales tax to try to put the economy on a more sound footing.
Romania signed up for a euro20-billion ($26 billion) loan with the IMF, European Union and World Bank in 2009 to help pay salaries and pensions, when the economy shrunk by more than 7 percent.
In 2010, the government hiked sales tax from 19 to 24 percent, and cut public workers salaries by one-fourth to reduce the budget deficit. Romanians are also angry over cronyism, widespread corruption and a perception that the government is not interested in the problems of ordinary people in this nation of 22 million.
Romania's government has caused outrage among Romany — or Gypsy — communities and organizations after it asked Parliament in Bucharest to accept a proposal to change the official name of the Romany from Roma, which means "man" in the Romany language, to Tigan, which comes from the Greek term for "untouchable."
The government says the name change is necessary because of the possible confusion among the international community between the words Roma — which refers to the Romany ethnic minority — and Romania, a nation proud of its historical status as the last colony of the Roman Empire.
Romania has changed its labor laws to officially recognize witchcraft as a profession, prompting one self-described witch to threaten retaliation.
The move, which went into effect Saturday, is part of the government's drive to crack down on widespread tax evasion in a country that is in recession.
In addition to witches, astrologists, embalmers, valets and driving instructors are now considered by labor law to be working real jobs, making it harder for them to avoid income tax.
For almost 70 years, successive Romanian governments have downplayed the nation's role in the Holocaust. But now a suspected mass grave has been found in the Vulturi forest, and some are hoping that the discovery will help Romania face up to one of the darkest periods in its history.
Rumors about a mass grave in the Vulturi forest had been circulating for years; when a similar grave was found near Iasi in 1945, it led to a trial that ended with several top military commanders being sentenced to jail.
After World War II, Romania came under communist rule. In 1965, the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu came to power. He was overthrown and executed in 1989.
Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1, 2007. However, it was — and remains — much poorer than than other E.U. nations.
Romania's former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase was sentenced Monday to two years of prison in a corruption case after more than 1,000 days of trial and over 900 witnesses.
Romania's Supreme Court found Nastase guilty of illegally raising 1.6 million euros ($2.1 million) during his 2004 election campaign, when he ran for president on behalf of the Social Democrat Party.
It is the first prison sentence for a Romanian prime minister since the fall of communism.
The largest of the Balkan countries, Romania has dramatic mountain scenery and a coastline on the Black Sea.
It has seen numerous empires come and go from the Roman, to the Ottoman, to the Austro-Hungarian.
After World War II the country was under communist rule although the leadership pursued a foreign policy independent of that of the Soviet Union.