From the second half of the seventies the economic life of the Romania underwent a series of difficulties that marked the crisis of the development model pursued by the country in the previous decades. The traditional policy of forced industrialization had led to a sharp increase in domestic energy consumption, forcing the Romania to become an oil importing country starting from 1976. The increase in the price of oil and the interruption of imports from Iran after the 1979 revolution they created severe inconvenience, while also increasing dependence on the import of raw materials. Among the consequences of this situation was the strong growth of the external debt, which went from 2.5 billion dollars in 1976 to 9.2 billion in 1980.
The economic difficulties had repercussions on the government structure, which, starting from 1977, was subjected to repeated reshuffles; in March 1979 M. Mănescu, president of the Council of Ministers since 1974, was replaced by I. Verdeçt (vice president in 1967-74 and 1978-79). Also at the top of the Romanian Communist Party (Partidul Communist Român, PCR) numerous changes took place, while the position of the Secretary General, N. Ceauçsescu (who also held the posts of President of the Republic, of the Defense Council and of the Supreme Council for Socio-economic Development), was further strengthened by the acquisition of important positions by his closest relatives. His son Nicu joined the party’s Central Committee during the 12th Congress (November 1979), and in March 1980 his wife Elena, a former member of the party’s executive political committee since 1973, was appointed deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers. Faced with the further growth of foreign debt (which reached 10.1 billion dollars in 1981), the Romanian government asked its creditors, banks and Western governments to renegotiate it (1982); at the same time it adopted a policy of containing imports and increasing exports, especially food, which in a situation of energy crisis and agricultural crisis (aggravated by two disastrous floods in 1980 and 1981) had strongly negative repercussions on the living conditions of the population. In October 1981, after the introduction of rationing of grain products, protest strikes took place in the mining area of the Jiu valley, which had already been the site of unrest in 1977, while in May 1982 Verdeçt was replaced by C. Dăscălescu, one of the secretaries of the Central Committee and member of the party’s Executive Political Committee.
Between 1983 and 1984 the first signs of improvement in the external financial situation appeared, but inside the living conditions of the population continued to worsen; in 1983 the introduction of a piecework wage system was followed by the rationing of energy products, made more severe in the winter of 1984-85. In October 1985 the Executive Political Committee of the PCR also established the militarization of the working regime in the electricity sector, while the energy crisis was aggravated by a severe drought which reduced the availability of energy from hydroelectric sources.
The 13th congress of the PCR, in November 1984, indicated the directives for the five-year plan 1986-90: the objective of eliminating the foreign debt (which had fallen to 8 billion in 1983) by 1990 remained a priority, and the lines of the industrialization policy followed in the previous period. Ceauçsescu, re-elected general secretary of the party, reaffirmed his positions in international politics: request for an interruption of the deployment of US medium-range missiles underway in Western Europe, as well as for Soviet countermeasures; it confirmed its support for the proposal to create a nuclear-free zone and to strengthen cooperation in the Balkans and proposed the possibility of overcoming NATO and the Warsaw Pact. From at the beginning of the Eighties the close relations with Western countries registered the emergence of difficulties; consequently there was a reorientation of commercial exchanges towards the USSR and an improvement in political relations, however interrupted after the initiation, by M. Gorbačëv, of the policy of reforms, judged negatively by Ceauçsescu. The relations between the two countries, marked by the visit of Gorbačëv in Romania in 1987 and that of Ceauçsescu in the USSR in 1988, showed a growing cooling. The isolation of the Romania grew, also following the conflict with Hungary whose government repeatedly accused the Romanian one of adopting a policy of forced assimilation of the Hungarian minority (about 2,500,000) present in Romania.