As Romania enters the 21st century under a new government, its immediate troubles seem to be behind it. The recession is over and growth is predicted for the next 4 years. This is partly for unhealthy reasons, with the government trying to stimulate the economy. But it is also for more healthy reasons. The country's exports are rising as Romanian firms learn to compete in international markets, and more foreign investment is coming into the country.
But for the long term, a lot depends on whether Romania progresses towards membership in the European Union. Even now, the goal of EU membership forces the government to tackle some of the uncomfortable reforms still needed if the economy is to thrive, such as closing down uneconomic factories and rooting out corruption. It also encourages much-needed investment in the country. Meanwhile, the EU itself is contributing billions of dollars in aid to help Romania repair its infrastructure.
These benefits can only increase if Romania achieves its goal and joins the EU within the next decade. EU aid should increase, along with the investment. And trade will be eased, raising living standards. It is the country's best chance for economic security and of achieving some kind of political security. NATO membership would be an added boon, bringing military security.
But there are plenty of risks along the way. One is that Romania's governments will fail to do the work they need to do to persuade the EU and NATO to let them join. Existing EU and NATO members could block Romania's entry to both organizations if the potential problems seem too big. Worst of all, Romania's attempts to establish democracy could fail if there is a backlash against some of the job cuts and austerity measures needed to revive the economy.