3.3 Regions of Romania

Romania (cf. Figure 3.14) is divided into 41 counties and the Municipal Bucharest. Another division would distinguish four historical and cultural provinces: Transylvania (green) in the north-west and center, Moldova (red) in the east, and Walachia (Oltenia and Muntenia) in the South (blue). The two counties Tulcea and Constanța at the Black Sea (yellow) belong to the Dobrudja.

Image 3.14: The Counties and Historical Regions of Romania
The Regions of Romania and Romania's Counties

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Romania_counties.svg [1]

Regions of Romania

In general, the Capital and its surrounding county Ilfov are described (e.g. Ianoș 2006: 606) as better developed, followed by Transylvania and Banat (the western part of Transylvania along the Hungarian-Serbian border). Especially the north-east of the country and its south-west are considered backwarded.[2] Ianoș assumes that the economic development of Romania is asymetrical driven by FDI-flows, which follow the main traffic roads.

Popescu (2006: 90ff.) explicates that the southern and eastern parts always were more rural, while handcrafted-oriented trades are characteristic for the central and western parts. She describes the economic profile of the early 20th century Romania according to the historical-cultural main provinces. Transylvania, traditional better developed and focused on handcrafts and extraction of raw materials, both Walachia and Moldova based on agriculture but also featuring some industrialized cities. On the contrary, Oltenia and Dobrudja are described as backwarded, solely depending on agriculture.

In the first two decades of socialism some county Capitals, which already were big cities then, were industrialized. These tend to dominate the regions and counties even today (such as Iași, Craiova, Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Oradea or Târgu-Mureș).  Secondary centers followed after a next wave of industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s. These often remained mono-sectoral and had more problems to deal with the consequences of restructuration after the 1989. Heller (2005: 55) tracks the spatial patterns of the Romanian economy via the net balances of interior migration for 2004. The picture remains rather unchanged. The Capital and the surrounding county Ilfov attracted the most people, followed by the western counties from Transylvania and Banat: Timișoara, Arad, Caraș-Severin, Bihor and the central Transylvanian counties Sibiu, Mureș, Cluj and Brașov. The only county from the north with a (slightly) positive migration balance is (surprisingly) Botoșani (probably because retired workers returned home from other counties such as Hunedoara), in the South-East as to be expected Constanța and again surprisingly Giurgiu in South-Muntenia. All other counties faced negative or neglectable positive migration balances.

Regarding regional development prospects scientific literature seems to concentrate rather on agri- and silviculture, raw materials and tourism, rather than other economic activities (e.g. Ianoș 2006, Popescu 2006). The growing services sector, re-industrialization via FDI-activities and the various trade activities are less often taken into account in a sharp contrast to the considerations in the business media or investment guidebooks.

The Development Regions of Romania – NUTS-II

After 1990, Romania shifted its spatial policy from a central-based policy to a regional-based policy, in compliance with EU-standards (cf. Benedek 2006: 105). According to four criteria (number of inhabitants, surface, cultural identity and functional-spatial relations; cf. ibid: 125) Romania was divided 1998 into eight Development Regions. The eight regions serve as NUTS-II units and as a framework for development policies (ibid: 123), while the counties serve as NUTS-III units.

The model was criticized on the one hand, for the few and only weak competences of the regional institutions (Regional Development Office and Regional Development Council), which remain subordinated to a national institution (National Development Council) that is controlled to 50 % by the government (ibid: 127). On the other hand, the composition of the regions lacks coherence. Especially the South-East Region (cf. chapter 3.3.2) is considered to be very heterogeneous from several points of view. First, it combines each two counties from the three different historical provinces Moldova, Muntenia and Dobrudja. Second, they are not always really well connected and exhibit, furthermore, a very different economic performance (cf. ibid: 128).

However, as Romania entered the EU with this regional model it seems exhausting to suggest better compositions of Development Regions. The important point is that the current division rather hides the regional disparities than to reveal them. Figure 3.15 and Figure 3.16 might illustrate that.

Image 3.15: Regional Disparities in Romania by Development Regions 2005
Development Regions of Romania - Regional Disparities - GDP

Source: INS 2008; own graphic, own calculations
Image 3.16: Regional GDP per Capita in Current Prices, by County 2005
Regional GDP in the Counties of Romania

Source: INS 2008; own graphic, own calculations
Academic Research paper and Study of the Economy of Romania and Romanian Business

The subsequent chapters will present the eight Development Regions of Romania in order to deepen both the insight into the current state and development of the Romanian economy and additional potentials and problems. The comprehensive “Manual de România” by the Romanian News agency NewsIn (2008) was of particular importance for these chapters, which rely to a large extent on it.


[1] It is admitted that, in general, Wikipedia might not be the best fitting source for reviewed, high quality information. On the other hand, this map does perfectly well, looks good and is free of charge.

[2] Ianoș (2006) uses the share of workers and office staff as proxy for development. The mentioned pattern remains stable when other indicators such as GDP per capita are deployed (cf. e.g. Figure 3.15, Figure 3.16 and for details Appendix 4).