Mediation and arbitration had been part of the traditional Romanian justice system for centuries. The introduction of the Civil Code in 1864, however, slowly eliminated amicable conflict resolution practices, in favor of litigation in the newly established courts of law. The Civil Code followed the European model of the time. The previous Law of the Land, which provided for mediation and arbitration, faded into memory.

Modern mediation made a comeback in the early 2000s, due to donor-funded programs and good initial legislation. In May of 2006, a law regarding mediation and the profession of mediation was adopted by parliament. Mediation gathered momentum during the following years, with accredited professional training programs and the first mediators, authorized and entering the field of dispute resolution. Because of subsequent changes to the law that repeatedly failed constitutionality checks, however, interest in mediation services is now at its lowest level.

Currently, judges and lawyers are not referring cases to mediation, and many mediators are abandoning the profession. Most universities and continuous professional development programs are yet to include mediation and ADR in their curriculum, with very few notable exceptions.

Arbitration has suffered less from the modernization of legislation in the 19th century. The Civil Code provided the framework for commercial arbitration in 1864. Nonetheless, the advent of the Communist regime in 1945 and the nationalization of all industry, commerce and agriculture made arbitration impossible, until the change of regime in 1989 created the conditions for arbitration to be reintegrated into the practice of conflict resolution.

Unfortunately, years of mandatory appeals to the courts have created a deeply ingrained culture of litigation in Romanian society, making mediation and arbitration rather exotic in the landscape of dispute resolution practices and institutions. Still, with the integration of Romania into the European Union, mediation and arbitration are making slow headway, supported by academics, businesses, and NGOs. Given time and legislative stability, mediation and arbitration should eventually be elevated to the mainstream of conflict resolution in Romania.

By Constantin-Adi Gavrilă, Senior Fellow-Romania, Weinstein International Foundation.

For more information