1999 was the year I started my career as an attorney, as a young graduate from the law school at Bucharest University, just accepted to the Bucharest Bar. Times then were so much different than today, and as 20 years have gone by, I look at what those years have meant for Romania and for me, and how much things have changed for the country I continue to live in and build my personal and professional life in.
1999 was a year of extreme economic hardships and turmoil as Romania’s broken-down economy, still isolated and insufficiently connected to the European community, was still eight years away from its 2007 accession to the EU. Romania was in desperate need of reform and foreign investment, after the period of turmoil and confusion which followed the fall of the communist regime in 1989. To put things in context, the region was still shaken by war in Yugoslavia, and Bill Clinton was the US President. At home, the ROBOR index reached an all-time peak of 148% and the exchange rate fluctuations were incredible – Romanian currency depreciated against the USD by 33% in only one quarter(!!). Nobody seemed to care too much, though, as there was virtually no lending to the population, so the effects, at least on this front, were somehow naturally contained.
1999 was the year of the defaults of Bancorex and Banca Agricola, two of the largest state-owned banks. That year, Prime Minister Radu Vasile was replaced by a “technocrat”: the National Bank of Romania’s Governor, Mugur Isarescu, who would try to contain the rampant effects of inflation and economic downturn in leading the government until the next election in 2000
20 years after 1999, I look around and realize that so many things have changed for the better, both for me as an individual, as I managed to grow personally and spearhead a more-than-fulfilling personal and professional life, but also for the Romanian economy. Maybe even more importantly, the last 20 years have changed our understanding of democracy, the free market economy, and freedom overall, in giving my generation the ability to practice and do business in any sector in a connected and more flexible environment. There are of course still many gaps to fill, many things to improve here to bridge the flourishing economy in and around the capital city and the cities in the western part of Romania with the poorer, much less developed parts of the country, but all in all I am confident that we are on this path and this goal remains achievable in the years to come.
1999 was also the year of the total solar eclipse, which, ironically, was best visible from Romania. So, at least for me, my adult life started in a stormy and strange year, but brought me where I am today, and for this reason, I hold a special place in my heart for that year.
By Miruna Suciu, Managing Partner, Suciu Popa Attorneys
This Article was originally published in Issue 5.12 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.