He embarked on an academic career in 1966 that would span several long years. He was appointed as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Geology at the University of Bucharest.
In 1979, he earned a doctorate in geology and geography. Over the years he rose through the ranks in the university to become associate professor in 1990. He became a professor of Mineralogy in 1991.
His involvement in politics greatly increased during the time of the Romanian Revolution in 1989. After the communist government was brought down, Emil Constantinescu collaborated with other intellectuals to work towards democratization of the country and establishment of a civil society.
In May 1990, he participated in the 42-day long meeting in the University Square in Bucharest which culminated in the formation of the association "University Solidarity." The same year, he played an important role in the foundation of the Civic Alliance, an important NGO working for the consolidation of a civil society.
In his academic career he was elected pro-rector of the University of Bucharest in 1990 and the rector in 1992, a position he held until 1996. During this period he also served as the president of the National Council of University Presidents in Romania (1992 - 1996).
During the early 1990s, the Civic Alliance and the University Solidarity joined hands with other civic entities and democratic parties to create the Democrat Convention of Romania (CDR) in 1991.
The CDR elected him as its president in 1992. He represented CDR in the presidential elections of 1992 but lost to the incumbent, Ion Iliescu, who had been made the acting president following the Romanian Revolution.
Over the ensuing years CDR struggled to strengthen the democratic opposition and its governance program. Emil Constantinescu, as the leader of the convention, initiated and signed “Contract with Romania.”
Even though President Ion Iliescu had begun his term with overwhelming public support, he was not able to bring about the economic or political stability the citizens sought. When the elections were held in 1996, the Democratic Convention emerged victorious and Constantinescu was elected the President of Romania.
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He assumed office on 29 November 1996. During his tenure, a large scale reformation process was initiated in several sectors like justice and administration. The economic reforms included privatization and accelerated rate of industrialization.
He brought about several positive changes in the judiciary. The Law of the Local Administration and Criminal Code were updated and the Law for restitution of agricultural fields and forests confiscated by the communist regime was adopted.
As the president he also focused on building strong foreign relations with the other nations. Working along with U.S. President Bill Clinton, he launched "the Romania-US Strategic Partnership." He also strengthened bilateral relations of cooperation with other nations.
His presidential term ended on 20 December 2000 following which he resumed his academic career. He remains involved in politics and works with several NGOs, both in Romania and internationally. Currently he is also serving as the president of the Association of Citizenship Education and the Romanian Foundation for Democracy, and is on the Board of Directors of the World Justice Project.
Awards & Achievements
The Institute for East-West Studies, New York, conferred upon him the European Statesman of the Year in 1998.
In 1998, he was given the International Democracy Medal, awarded by the Center for Democracy, Washington.
In 1999, he received the Award of the American Bar Association Central and East European Law Initiative (CEELI).
In 2000, he was awarded the Grand Order of King Tomislav by the government of Croatia “for outstanding contribution to the promotion of friendship and the development of mutual cooperation between the Republic of Romania and the Republic of Croatia.”
He received the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin in 2013.