The principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia - for centuries under the suzerainty of the Turkish Ottoman Empire - secured their autonomy in 1856; they were de facto linked in 1859 and formally united in 1862 under the new name of Romania. The country gained recognition of its independence in 1878. It joined the Allied Powers in World War I and acquired new territories - most notably Transylvania - following the conflict. In 1940, Romania allied with the Axis powers and participated in the 1941 German invasion of the USSR. Three years later, overrun by the Soviets, Romania signed an armistice. The post-war Soviet occupation led to the formation of a communist "people's republic" in 1947 and the abdication of the king. The decades-long rule of dictator Nicolae CEAUSESCU, who took power in 1965, and his Securitate police state became increasingly oppressive and draconian through the 1980s. CEAUSESCU was overthrown and executed in late 1989. Former communists dominated the government until 1996 when they were swept from power. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.
Romania, which joined the European Union on 1 January 2007, began the transition from Communism in 1989 with a largely obsolete industrial base and a pattern of output unsuited to the country's needs. The country emerged in 2000 from a punishing three-year recession thanks to strong demand in EU export markets. Domestic consumption and investment fueled strong GDP growth, but led to large current account imbalances. Romania's macroeconomic gains have only recently started to spur creation of a middle class and to address Romania''s widespread poverty. Corruption and red tape continue to permeate the business environment. Inflation rose in 2007-08, driven by strong consumer demand, high wage growth, rising energy costs, a nation-wide drought, and a relaxation of fiscal discipline. As a result of the increase in fiscal and current account deficits and the global financial crisis, Romania signed on to a $26 billion emergency assistance package from the IMF, the EU, and other international lenders. Worsening international financial markets, as well as a series of drastic austerity measures implemented to meet Romania''s obligations under the IMF-led bail-out agreement contributed to a GDP contraction of 6.6% in 2009, followed by a 1.1% GDP contraction in 2010. The economy returned to positive growth in 2011 due to strong exports, a better than expected harvest, and weak domestic demand. In 2012, however, growth slowed to less than 1%, partially due to slackening export demand and an extended drought that resulted in an exceptionally poor harvest. In March 2011, Romania and the IMF/EU/World Bank signed a 24-month precautionary stand-by agreement, worth $6.6 billion, to promote fiscal discipline, encourage progress on structural reforms, and strengthen financial sector stability. The Romanian authorities announced that they do not intend to draw funds under the agreement.