European Heritage Policies


Romania’s cultural heritage is rich and diverse although much was destroyed by wars, earthquakes, political decisions and neglect. Romania currently has a total of approx. 29,500 listed historical monuments ( ; Of these, a total of approx. 6,800 buildings, archaeological and historical sites are of national and universal value (A grade). Their ownership condition differs being either public property, private or mixed. Regarding conservation status, it differs from one county to another and from one monument to another but maybe 60% are in bad condition. There are currently a total of 31 Romanian historical monuments belonging to the UNESCO World Heritage List, recorded between 1993 and 2010: the eight medieval painted churches in Moldavia, 7 Saxon villages with fortified churches in Transylvania, 6 Dacian fortresses in the Orăștie Mountains, 8 wooden churches of Maramureș, Sighișoara Old Town, Hurezi Monastery, and the natural reserve of the Danube Delta ( ; There are also 14 objectives proposed on the tentative list to be registered in UNESCO World Heritage List ( ).

Romania ratified the three European Heritage Conventions (not yet the Faro Convention) and implemented them in the heritage legislation in 2000 - 2001. The three main heritage laws in action are Ordinance 43/2000 regarding archaeology (, Law 182/2000 regarding movable heritage ( and Law 422/2001 regarding historical monuments (

The Romanian Ministry of Culture ( is the main government body responsible for cultural heritage. It has a network of 41 county culture directorates and that of Bucharest, the Capital City. It is assisted by three advisory bodies: The National Commission for Historical Monuments, the National Archaeological Commission and the National Commission for Museums and Collections. The National Commission for Historical Monuments is the only one to have a network of 12 regional commissions. The National Heritage Institutes, created in 2011, under the Ministry of Culture, by merging together the former National Institute for Historical Monuments, National Office for Historical Monuments and The Institute for Cultural Memory (CIMEC) is the main central organization responsible with the maintenance and updating of the Historical Monuments List, the UNESCO World Heritage List, the National Archaeological Record of Romania, The Inventory of the Movable National Cultural Heritage, and the administration of the National Restoration Plan, financed by the Ministry of Culture for monuments of A grade (national value). National, regional and county museums play an important role in research, protection and valorisation of cultural heritage in their areas.

After 2008, the economic crisis, severe austerity policy and government instability (9 ministers of culture in the past three years!) had a bad impact on cultural heritage protection: we had several years of budget austerity, personnel cuts, frozen job schemes, frequent reorganisation of heritage institutions,  changes of the members of heritage commissions and of the chiefs of county directorates, less money for restoration of historical monuments and other measures that affected the already fragile human and material heritage protection infrastructure. Existing heritage legislation is not entirely applied in real life in the absence of proper financial support and human resources. The purpose of updating of heritage legislation in a unitary Cultural Heritage Code was not yet fulfilled. There are huge delays in heritage inventory, monitoring, restoration and preventive conservation. The number and quality of personnel working in heritage field decreased significantly in recent years (by one third to half in some organizations), after a whole generation of experienced specialists either retired or left the country not to be replaced. Young graduates cannot find jobs in cultural heritage field since 6 years and training opportunities are poor. There is stagnation if not regress in digitization, computerization, heritage websites administration and public communication. Heritage policy remains centralized and slow to react. Poor administrative capacity at both central and local level, corruption and improper economic conditions to follow heritage policies on medium and long terms put our cultural heritage in danger. Many heritage buildings in public property were returned to their former private owners or buyers of owner rights, sometimes on disputable documents, to be left to ruin for real estate interests. The state support for heritage owners to maintain their heritage property is poor.

On the other side, we saw an increase in civic action for heritage protection, a growing number of non-governmental organizations and joint platforms from heritage causes, successful public campaigns against economic projects that destroy landscape and heritage (Roșia Montana gold mining area, for example), more community interest for local heritage, amplified private initiatives to save monuments and open local museums, and more international cooperation. These trends are encouraging. The capacity of our judiciary system to fight illicit traffic of cultural goods and recover stolen items from Romania improved: gangs of traffickers were dismantled and brought to justice and thousands of coins and precious hoards were brought back to our collections (unique Dacian gold bracelets, for example). European Structural Funding, Cross Border Cooperation Programmes and Regional Development Fund provided money for projects of restoration and conservation of some churches, theatres, museums and for development of tourism infrastructure. There should be much more to be done to increase the absorption rate of European funding which is very low in Romania (under 57%, the lowest in the European Union).

Romanian Heritage Protection System



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Bucharest (București)
20 121 641
Area (km2): 
238 391.00
Density (pop/km2): 
Photo gallery: 
Rural Landscape in Prahova County
Official minorities: 
NamePercentage of overall population
Romania, a medium size European country (the 7th in the European Union), is member of the European Union since the 1st of January 2007. It is situated at the Eastern border of the Union, among Hungary, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Black Sea, Bulgaria and Serbia. Its main geographic features are the Carpathians Mountains, like a crown in the middle of the country, the Danube River at the southern border with Serbia and Bulgaria, and the Danube Delta, World Heritage Reserve, at the Black Sea. Romania’s territory is like an amphitheatre going down in all directions from the heights of the Carpathians (2,507 m above sea level the highest peak), to hills and plateaus, and further on to plains, each harmoniously representing one third of the total surface of the country. Romania still keeps the largest area of virgin forests and most of wild life of Europe, the highest percentage of rural population (46%), and large areas of traditional rural life in small family households. Historically, the territory of Romania is crossed by the moving line between Oriental and Occidental civilizations and is situated at the border of large empires (Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman in the South, Holy Roman and Austro-Hungarian in the West, Tartar and Russian in the East) with changing influences and dominant features along the time, according to the balance of power in the region. The three Romanian historical Principalities – Transylvania in the West, Moldavia in the East and Walachia in the South – finally united in 1918 in modern Romania, after the “small union” of Moldavia and Walachia in 1859. Today Romania is a national state with almost 89% Romanians and 90% declaring their mother tongue Romanian. Among the 18 ethnic minorities represented in the Romanian Parliament, only Hungarians (1,227,600 people) and Rroma (621,600 people) are in significant number. Historical ethnic communities like German and Jewish ones almost disappeared after the Second World War through encouraged migration to Germany and Israel. Most of Romanians are Christian Orthodox and speak a Romance language which makes them different from all their neighbours excepting the Republic of Moldova (former part of Romania until 1812 and between 1918 and 1940). According to the National Census of October 2011, the population of Romania decreased by 1,559,300 persons compared to the previous one of 2002, mainly due to external migration. It is estimated that between 2 and 3 million Romanians work or study abroad. The main destination countries are Italy and Spain (three thirds of the migrants), followed at great distance by Great Britain, Germany, France, and Greece. The external migration was stronger from poorer areas of Moldova region, in the Eastern part of the country. External migration is a source of income for the families left at home but also a source of social and demographic problems: depopulation, an unknown number of children (between 80,000 and 200,000) left alone, decrease of active population and less contributors to the social budget. Urban population represents 54% (10,859,000 persons). Romania still has 46% of its population in rural areas, one of the highest rates in Europe. 86.5% are Christian Orthodox, and only 0.2 declared themselves as atheists. The population is aging due to lower birth rate and high mortality caused by poor health system.