Romania lies on the Black Sea in Southern Europe and shares land boundaries with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova. It is evenly divided between mountains, hills and plains and boasts the Carpathian Mountains, the Danube Delta and around 3,500 lakes.
Romania has a population of 19.9 million, comprised mainly of Romanians, 6% Hungarian and 3% per cent Roma. Romania became a Republic in 1947, some seventy years after claiming independence from the Ottoman Empire. Economically, it is the second poorest country in the European Union. Driven by strong industrial exports and an excellent agricultural harvest Romania registered one of the highest growth rates in Europe in 2016. The industry is the leading performer in the economic sectors. Exports buoy economic growth, with EU countries accounting for over three-quarters of Romania’s merchandise trade.
Education in Romania is based on a free-tuition, egalitarian system guaranteed by the Constitution. Schooling is compulsory until age 16, school meals are provided for free, and public transport is subsidised to and from school. Maternity care is free in Romania. Adults are entitled to welfare, unemployment aid, disability and state pension. The state finances primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.
Age-old customs are celebrated like nowhere else in the world by the villagers of Romania, where hardly a week passes without a religious or secular festival. Train routes offer a unique perspective of the country and a great experience in and of itself. Journeying overland for just a few hours through Romania will bring diverse scenes from medieval towns to the Danube River, from the city of Bucharest to the Black Sea. It encompasses Transylvania and its Dracula connection and numerous historical regions including the painted monasteries of Bucovina and the perfectly preserved hilltop citadel of Sighisoara. In fact, Transylvania claims a unique cultural and architectural heritage.
It boasts almost 200 Saxon villages, churches and fortifications erected between the 13th and 15th centuries. Seven of the fortified Saxon churches are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Hutul Horses of the Romanian Carpathians are unique to the country. The country offers an unspoilt wilderness, picturesque ski slopes, peaceful sandy beaches, a burgeoning wine and craft beer scene and cities as vibrant as any in the world. While Romania has modernised regions, its distinctive rural folk culture remains. No trip will be complete without sampling the native foods and getting to know the people.
Romania is one of only four European Union states not a member of the Schengen Area, although Romania is currently in the process of joining the Schengen Area. The EU Commission have proposed the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) to minimise security risks associated with terrorism and uncontrolled immigration into Europe. This pre-authorisation system, due to be implemented in 2021, will safeguard and secure Europe’s external borders by identifying potential risks before they reach the borders.
Australians, EU citizens and nationals from the 62 countries enjoying the visa liberation policy, may currently travel to Romania with just a valid passport. ETIAS will impact these travellers, who will have to complete an online application similar to Australia’s own Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) before travelling to Europe. ETIAS authorisation is electronically attached to the passport within minutes of approval and remains valid for three years or until the passport expires. A Schengen Visa will still be required for visits exceeding 90 days.
The post-World War II years saw Romanians join the influx of European migrants to Australia. Many initially arrived assisted by the International Refugee Organization scheme only to be followed by thousands more once the communist government was instated in 1947. Emigration was restricted between the 1970s and early 1990s under Romania’s repressive government, but many Romanians fled illegally and sought asylum.
Diplomatic relations between Australia and Romania were established in 1968. Bilateral agreements between the two countries include an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, a Trade and Economic Agreement and an Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion. Australia’s Department of Infrastructure has signed an inaugural air services MOU for a codeshare with the aeronautical authorities of Romania. International security, disarmament and non-proliferation are shared interests. The countries have worked together as part of the UN Missions in Afghanistan and Southern Sudan.
Australia’s two-way merchandise trade with Romania has increased by 67%. Exports to Romania are mainly telecommunications equipment and parts, while imports include ships and boats, mechanical handling equipment and parts, women’s clothing, and plywood and veneers. Bilateral investment heavily favours Romania.
Australian residents include 14,051 who are Romanian-born while 20,994 claim Romanian ancestry.
Australia has long had their own visa-waiver system, known as Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). Romanians need to apply for this before travelling to Australia. Australians can travel to Romania with only a valid passport at the moment. When ETIAS is rolled out in 2021, Australians will have to complete the online ETIAS application before embarking on travel to Romania, whether by land, air or sea.