He was born on March 3, 1930, to parents of modest social status, at Oltenita, a small town in the south of Romania, at the confluence of the rivers Arges and the Danube. He spent there his childhood and first two years of primary school that he graduated in Bucharest, where he also attended secondary and high school courses, being successively a student of the “Polizu,” “Spiru Haret” and Sfantul Sava” High Schools. He furthered his studies at the Faculty of Electric Technology of the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest and at the Energetics Institute of Moscow.
Having specialized in hydroelectric power systems and water management, he started his professional career in 1955 as a design engineer at the Institute of Studies and Design for Energetics of Bucharest, the “Systems” department, where he co-authored the synthesis work titled The Inventory of Romania’s Hydropower Resources. Between 1979-1984, as head of the Waters National Council, he took part in the elaboration of specialty studies among which – the first systemic work – The National Program for the Use of Water Resources and The Planning Charts of Hydrographic Basins, which referred to the use of all waters in relation to economic development and environment requirements. Ion Iliescu supported the specialists in the field against the megalomaniac programs of the dictatorship. For this, he was discharged in 1984.
Since 1984 until December 22, 1989, he was the director of the Technical Publishing House in Bucharest, where he pursued his professional goals, approaching some connected fields such as ecology; the enduring development, principles and reason of contemporary economic and technological progress; post-industrial and IT society; knowledge. He has authored a large number of studies, articles and papers published in specialty journals, many of which were developed in the books he has been publishing almost annually, tackling with either considerations in principle and new contextual bracketing of the economic and social development processes, or with the structural changes in economy and society, or with the phenomena of integration and globalization, seen and analyzed as objective processes likely to speed up progress and give the world a new balance, a new order in this new millennium.
Ion Iliescu is member of the Scientists Academy and Doctor Honoris Causa of several universities home and abroad. He has a good command of French, English and Russian that he currently uses in his activities.
He has been married since 1951 to Nina Iliescu (Elena Serbanescu by her maiden name, whom he met in high school), an engineer, scientific researcher in metal corrosion.
In the ‘80s he was the President of the Romanian Federation of Canoe-Kayak, which scored notable national and international results.
He entered public life in his teens. In 1984, while a high-school student, he was one of the founders of the Union of School Students Associations of Romania (UAER). In 1956, he founded the Union of the Students Associations (UASR), organized at first after the pattern of the national student unions in the European countries, as professional organizations of the students. He took part in the international student movement in its various bodies and organisms as representative of the Romanian students.
Between 1967-1971, he was minister in charge with the youth’s problems, and then, for six months, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR), when he took a firm stand against the “cultural revolution” promoted by Nicolae Ceausescu. Excluded from the central body of the PCR on charges of “intellectual deviation,” Ion Iliescu did not relinquish his critical attitude towards the dogmas of the “cultural revolution” when he became Vice-president of the Timis County Council, in 1971-1974, and President of the Iasi County Council, in 1974-1979. On this account, he was gradually removed from political life. He was permanently under the surveillance of the Securitate people, who tried to isolate him, take him out of the political life, control and cut his communication bridges.
In the evening of December 22, 1989, Ion Iliescu was among the founders of the National Salvation Front Council (CFSN) and became President of this body of the provisional state power and ad-hoc command in charge with protecting and strengthening the victory of the revolution. The CFSN’s Communiqué to the Country – that he co-authored and presented on radio and television on the night of December 22, 1989 – defined the social and political nature of the changes that were to irreversibly mark Romania’s destiny: the annihilation of the totalitarian system and of the monopoly of one sole party; the institution of democracy, of political pluralism and the rule of the law; the building of the civil society, the observance of human dignity and rights; the guarantee of the freedom of expression, of association and manifestation; economic reform and the transition to the market economy, a wide opening on an international plane.
At the end of January 1990, he was one of the founders of the National Salvation Front, from which later derived the Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PSDR).
Between February-May 1990, Ion Iliescu was the President of the Provisional Council of National Unity, a newly created body that assumed the powers of the provisional state power, in which were included the representatives of all political parties founded after the revolution.
On May 20, 1990, he was elected President of Romania, over the two-year period of the Constituent Assembly, as stipulated by the Electoral Law, under which the first free elections were organized after almost half a century of totalitarianism.
At the presidential elections of October 11, 1992, the first organized under the new Constitution of Romania, Ion Iliescu got 7,297,551 votes – that is 61.5% of the total 11,910,609. A large part of the electorate chose his program I Believe in Romania’s Change for the Better. During his first term as head of the state, his priorities were: national reconciliation, social accord, joining all political forces in order to secure the country’s stability and recovery, transition to the market economy, economic reform, social protection, opening towards the world.
Running for a new term in the presidential elections of November 1996, with the program Let Us Further Together Romania’s Change for the Better, he was outrun in the second ballot by his counter candidate. He was elected senator and headed, from the bench of the opposition, the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PDSR).
The Extraordinary National Conference of the Social Democratic Party of Romania (currently the Social Democratic Party – PSD) of January 17, 1997, appointed him President of the PSDR, and he was re-elected at the National Conference of June 20-21, 1997. In this capacity, Ion Iliescu contributed to the reconstruction and building of a modern, social democratic party at European standards.
Nominated and supported by PSDR, he got a new term as President of Romania following the ballot of November-December 2000, with his program Close to the Citizens, Together with Them.
On December 20, 2000, Ion Iliescu was sworn in before the reunited Chambers of Romania’s Parliament, thus becoming the President of this country for the next four years. This is the second constitutional term that Ion Iliescu was elected to during his post-revolutionary career.
In the message addressed to Parliament and the Country upon his being sworn in for the second time, he announced the main objectives of his program: consolidating democracy and the rule of law; social and economic recovery by restoring the principle of economic growth and, on this basis, the improvement of the citizens’ living standard; reforms for the country’s modernization and access to the world of the values of democracy and contemporary progress; accession to the EU and NATO. Action was to be taken for national reconciliation, social peace and stability, removing bureaucracy from the institutions of the State and increasing their performance, fighting corruption, consolidating civil society, implementing the European Community spirit and putting its practical values to good use.
There is no doubt that Ion Iliescu as a political man has put his imprint on the history of Romania at the end of one century and the beginning of a new one. Due to his openness to dialogue and his prodigious political experience, Ion Iliescu’s role on the Romanian political scene has by now become a symbol and a landmark for the analysts and commentators of Romania's new history.
Engineer and President of Romania