Greece -- Geography --
Official Name: Hellenic Republic
Capital City: Athens
Languages: Greek (official), English, French
Official Currency: Euro
Religions: Greek Orthodox, others
Population: 10 706 290 (2008)
Land Area: 130 850 sq km
Landforms: Mountains cover 75% of the country with the Pindus Mountains running north to south. Coastlines are rugged, as well as the smaller islands.
Land Divisions: 51 prefectures
Greece -- History --
The earliest period of the historic development of Ancient Greece is the Crete - Mycenaean (around 3000 – around 1180 B.C.) with major centers island Crete and the western part of Peloponnesus. During the “Homer’s Epoch” (XII – VIII century B.C.) the Greeks colonize the Aegean islands and the west coast of Asia Minor (Dorian migration), and in VII-VI century in South Italy and West Sicilian, South France, the north coast of Africa, the coast of the Black sea and the Straits. Towards the end of this period the Greek slave-owner town-states (polis) are formed, which constitute the Ancient Hellas. Among them Athens arises which, due to the legislation of Solon and the reforms of Klisten, develops as a typical slave-owner democracy. And Sparta where a military oligarchic-aristocratic system is established. The fight for hegemony between the two polises brings to the Peloponnesian war (431 – 404 year B.C.), which ends with a victory for Sparta. From 338 B.C. Ancient Greece is under Macedonian, and from 146 B.C. (after the decay of the Alexander Macedonian’s empire) – under the Rome’s rule. From 395 Greece is in the East Roman empire – Byzantium, which in XIV-XV century is conquered bye the Turks. According to the Odrin peace treaty (1829) Greece assumes a wide autonomy; from 1832 it becomes a monarchy. In March 1924 Greece is declared for a republic. In 1935 king George II completes a military- monarchic take-over. In August 1936 general Metaxas establishes a monarchic- fascist dictatorship. On the eve of World War II Greece declares a neutrality, but is occupied consecutively by Italian and German armies. In 1946 the monarchy is restored in the country. The Civil war from 1946 – 49 ends because of the American intervention (the “Truman” doctrine). The Democratic army of Greece suffers a loss. In 1952 Greece enters NATO. From 1955 to 1957 the country is in a political crisis, provoked by King Constantine. In April 1967 a military dictatorship is established. After an unsuccessful contra take-over the King leaves the country (December 1967). From June 1973 Greece is a parliament republic. It is a member of UNO (1945).
Since the restoration of democracy, the stability and economic prosperity of Greece have grown. Greece joinñ the European Union in 1981 and adopted the Euro as its currency in 2001. New infrastructure, funds from the EU and growing revenues from tourism, shipping, services, light industry, and the telecommunications industry have greatly raised the standard of living in Greece. Tensions continue to exist between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus and the delimitation of borders in the Aegean Sea, but relations have thawed considerably following successive earthquakes - first in Turkey and then in Greece - and an outpouring of sympathy and generous assistance by ordinary Greeks and Turks. This is in stark contrast to decades of hostility between these two countries, which have seen repeated threats of war. Even though both are members of NATO, at times more than half of the entire Greek military is positioned against Turkey. In recent years, Greece has become one of the chief advocates of Turkey's application to join the European Union. The 2004 Summer Olympic Games are held in Athens, returning to Greece for the first time since their modern inception in 1896. Despite widespread initial concerns over the city's ability to meet construction deadlines as well as over its ability to handle a potential terrorist threat, the Athens Games are widely praised as a success.
Greece -- Economy --
Until the 1950s, agriculture dominated the Greek economy, with subsistence farming predominating in many areas. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Greece drew most of its income from the export of a few agricultural products, principally tobacco and dried fruit; from its shipping industry; and from money sent home by Greeks living abroad. Greece became increasingly industrialized in the period following World War II, benefiting from government policies that encouraged growth, along with foreign aid and investment. Greece’s most striking economic development of the postwar period has been its emergence as a major tourist destination. Greece became a full member of the European Community (now the European Union, or EU) in 1981. The country engages in free trade with its European partners and also benefits from EU grants and subsidies. Still, Greece’s economy remains one of the least developed in the EU.
The Greek government has traditionally been a major employer, both directly, through the large public sector—which includes state-owned banks, public utilities, schools, and mass transit—and indirectly, through businesses controlled by state-owned banks. Economic activity is also conducted to a significant degree by the self-employed and by small family-run businesses. This characteristic has limited the growth of labor unions outside the public sector.
Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2003 was $172 billion, which amounted to $15,610 per capita. The GDP understates Greece’s prosperity, because an estimated 40 percent of all economic activity takes place in a black market outside the tax and social security systems. The size of this underground economy is an obstacle to economic modernization, as black-market merchants rarely make long-term improvements to their businesses or try to comply with new regulations. Another obstacle is the large size of the public sector. Public expenditure constitutes one-third of the GDP. In the 1990s attempts were made to reduce the size of the public sector through privatization. These efforts were only partially successful, however, and the government still controls important areas of the economy. The efforts to reduce the government sector have met with severe opposition from powerful public-sector trade unions.
In 1996 the government undertook efforts to qualify Greece to share a proposed single European currency, the euro, with other members of the EU. These efforts necessitated tough and unpopular measures to reduce Greece’s traditionally high rate of inflation and to increase its tax revenues. Greece’s inflation and deficits were still too high for the country to qualify in 1998 when the EU chose the participant countries, and so Greece could not adopt the euro when it was launched in January 1999. However, in 2000 Greece successfully met the qualifying criteria and was invited to join the single currency. Greece officially adopted the euro in January 2001.
In 2003 Greece’s total labor force numbered 4,845,000 people; men made up 62 percent. The service sector, including tourism-related work, employs 61 percent of those who work. Agriculture employs 16 percent, while manufacturing employs 23 percent. Unemployment was 9.6 percent in 2002. About 600,000 members of the Greek workforce are members of private- and public-sector unions affiliated with the General Confederation of Greek Workers. Unions in the public sector are generally well organized.
Services, including tourism, account for the largest sector of the Greek economy. In 2003 services contributed 69 percent of the GDP. The hot, dry summers that characterize most of Greece, combined with the many fine beaches along its extensive coastline, make it a favored tourist destination. Tourism represents about 20 percent of service sector revenues. In 2003, 14 million tourists visited Greece. The majority of foreign visitors were from other European countries, the United Kingdom and Germany in particular. Popular tourist destinations include the Acropolis in Athens, the palace of Knossos (Knosos) on Crete, and the temple of Apollo at Delphi, as well as Aegean Islands such as Mikonos and Thira, and the Ionian island of Corfu. Greece’s large ferry fleet is also an important service sector employer.
Industry—primarily manufacturing and construction—contributed 24 percent of the country’s GDP in 2003. Chief products include processed foods, textiles, clothing, footwear, chemicals, and ships. Greece also has a modest arms industry. Greece is home to a major cement factory, situated in Volos. Building houses is a particularly important part of the construction industry.
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing remain significant, if declining, sectors of the Greek economy, contributing 7 percent of the GDP in 2003. A distinctive feature of Greek farming is the traditionally small size of landholdings. Principal crops include tobacco, cotton, sugar beets, vegetables, grapes and other fruit, and olives (from which olive oil is produced). Livestock, primarily sheep and goats, are a significant part of Greece’s agricultural output.
Although forests cover 28 percent of Greece’s land area, forest products make only a small contribution to the GDP. Fires, in some cases started by developers seeking new land for construction projects, regularly lay waste to large tracts of forestland. Despite the omnipresence of the sea, fishing also makes only a small contribution to Greece’s GDP. Overfishing and pollution have damaged the fishing industry.
The mining industry in Greece is a small part of the total economy but makes significant contributions to the country’s exports. Bauxite is the major mineral resource of value. Other resources mined significantly include nickel, iron ore, asbestos, bentonite, magnesite, perlite, marble, lignite coal, and petroleum.
The energy sector in Greece has developed rapidly since World War II. Electricity production increased by almost 50 percent during the 1980s, due largely to the expansion of coal-burning thermoelectric stations. Two-thirds of the country’s energy is produced in power stations burning domestically produced coal. Hydroelectric power stations produce 6 percent of the country’s electricity. The rest comes from oil-fired generators. Almost all of Greece’s oil is imported.
Greece has 117,000 km (72,700 mi) of roads, of which about 10,000 km (about 6,000 mi) are classified as national highways. Improved roads and growing prosperity among Greeks led to a major increase in car ownership between 1977 and 1998, from 67 vehicles per 1,000 people to 348. Traffic congestion and the accompanying pollution are major problems in Athens, and to a lesser extent in Thessaloniki. The Athens subway, still under construction in the late 1990s, is expected to ease Athens’s notorious traffic problems. As of 1999, public transportation in the capital consisted of an overcrowded bus system and one small commuter rail line.
The state-run railroad system is relatively small, with lines totaling 2,383 km (1,481 mi). The railroad system on the Peloponnisos is narrow gauge, which limits the speed at which trains can travel and the freight that they can carry. Greece’s national airline, Olympic Airways, maintains an extensive domestic network and also flies to numerous international destinations. The two largest international airports are Hellinikon Airport at Athens and Thessaloniki-Macedonia Airport at Thessaloniki. In 1999 a new airport was under construction at Spata, near Athens.
Greece has one of the largest merchant marines in the world. In 2004, 1,540 ships were trading under the Greek flag, totaling (without cargo) 32 million gross registered tons. The leading Greek seaports are Piraeus (near Athens), Patrai, Thessaloniki, Iraklion, and Volos. Domestic shipping has declined as the country’s roads have improved. A ship canal cuts through the Isthmus of Corinth, which connects the Peloponnisos to mainland Greece. A network of ferries links Piraeus and other mainland ports with the country’s numerous islands.
Communications in Greece have improved greatly since the 1950s. Even the most remote villages are now connected to the national telecommunications network. Cellular telephones are widely used. Telecommunications are for the most part in the hands of the Greek Telecommunications Organization (known by its Greek acronym, OTE), which has been partially privatized. The monopoly of the government-controlled Greek Radio and Television (ERT) was broken up in 1987, and there are now numerous private television and radio stations. Greek Television (ET) provides three channels. As of 2000 there were 484 television sets and 475 radios per 1,000 people in Greece. Telephone ownership, including mobile phones, was 454 per 1,000 in 2003, reflecting a dramatic increase in recent years. There is increasing reliance on computers, and Internet access is limited but growing.
Greece has a lively press, with 207 daily newspapers published in 1998. Most of the leading dailies are published in Athens or Thessaloniki. Important newspapers include the dailies Apogevmatini, Ta Nea, Kathimerini, and Eleftherotypia, and the weekly To Vima, which is published on Sundays.
Greece consistently runs a trade deficit, meaning that it spends more on imports than it sells in exports. The trade deficit is offset in large part by income from tourism, shipping, EU payments, and decreasingly, remittances from Greeks working abroad. Since Greece became a member of the EU, an increasing proportion of its trade has been with European partners. Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the largest purchasers of Greece’s exports; leading suppliers of imports are Italy, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Greece’s main exports include fruit and vegetables, olive oil, textiles, and clothing. Principal imports include machinery, cars, trucks and buses, food, chemical products, and petroleum and petroleum derivatives.
The monetary unit of Greece is the single currency of the EU, the euro (1.07 euros equal U.S. $1; 1999 average). Greece adopted the euro on January 1, 2001. At that time, the euro was used for electronic wire transfers and accounting purposes only, and Greece’s national currency, the drachma, was used for other purposes. On January 1, 2002, euro bills and coins went into circulation, and the drachma ceased to be legal tender.
As a participant in the single currency, Greece must follow economic policies established by the European Central Bank (ECB). On January 1, 2001, control over Greek monetary policy was transferred from the Bank of Greece to the ECB. The Bank of Greece joined the national banks of the other EU countries that adopted the euro as part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).
Under the influence of EU membership, the Greek banking system has been liberalized, with many government restrictions relaxed or eliminated. A considerable number of foreign banks have opened branches in Greece. The Greek stock exchange is located in Athens.
Greece -- Culture --
Greece (Greek Hellas), officially known as the Hellenic Republic (Elliniki Dimokratia), country in southeastern Europe, occupying the southernmost part of the Balkan Peninsula.
The arts take an essential part of Greece’s culture. Greece has a thriving cultural life that draws on a celebrated classical heritage. Plays written in Athens in the 5th century BC are still performed, and Greek architects have produced notable neoclassical buildings. Greek artists and musicians have incorporated Byzantine traditions as well.
Greece has a strong literary tradition, especially in poetry. Constantine Cavafy, a Greek poet who lived much of his life in Alexandria, Egypt, attained international prominence in the 20th century. His poems, many of them set in the classical era, reflect nostalgia for the past glories of the Greeks. The Greek past is also reflected in the work of 20th-century poets George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis, who were each awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. The novels of Nikos Kazantzakis, including Zorba the Greek (1943; translated 1952), have been widely translated, and a number have been turned into films. A great deal of foreign literature is translated into Greek.
During the 19th century neoclassical architecture was the dominant style in Greece, reflecting the revival of interest in everything associated with the civilization of ancient Greece. Designers in the neoclassical style included Danish-born architects and brothers Christian and Theophilos Hansen, as well as Greek architects Stamatis Kleanthes and Lysandros Kaftantzoglou. Greek painting tended to be influenced by postclassical European models.
Important Greek artists of the 20th century include Photis Kontoglou, who sought inspiration in the traditions of Byzantine art, and Theophilos Khatzimikhail, who painted primitive pictures of great originality. Nikos Khatzikyriakos-Gkikas, one of Greece’s greatest modernist painters, was greatly influenced by cubism.
Traditional Greek dances such as the hasapiko, the tsamiko, and the kalamatiano continue to be performed at weddings and other celebrations. Ethnic Greek refugees from Turkish lands in Asia Minor were forcibly moved to Greece during the 1920s, and they brought with them their own dance tradition. Refugees from cities of the Ottoman Empire brought rebetika, songs of the urban working class that combined Greek traditions with Eastern influences. The refugees’ music and dance have had a considerable influence on the development of contemporary Greek popular music, including bouzouki (a Greek stringed instrument) music.
Important Greek classical composers of the 20th century include Manolis Kalomoiris, Nikos Skalkottas, and Yannis Xenakis. The world-famous opera soprano Maria Callas, born in New York City to Greek immigrant parents, received her musical training in Greece. Composers such as Manos Khatzidakis and Mikis Theodorakis have done much to popularize Greek music for a wider international audience. The Athens Concert Hall, completed in 1994, has given a considerable boost to the musical life of the country.
Greece has a strong theatrical tradition. Ancient Greek tragedies are performed in the modern language in amphitheaters that survive from classical times, such as the one at Epidaurus. Many foreign plays are translated into Greek, and there is a lively tradition in satirical reviews. The motion-picture industry is well established in Greece, and a significant number of Greek films are produced each year. However, television and the large number of subtitled foreign films compete for the attention of the Greek audience. Greek actress Melina Mercouri made her international reputation in the film Never on Sunday (1960) and subsequently became a major force in the country’s cultural life. Director Theo Angelopoulos is known internationally and won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his 1995 film Ulysses’ Gaze.
Greece’s National Library is housed in an attractive neoclassical building in Athens that was constructed by Theophilos Hansen in the 1800s. Library funding in Greece is generally poor, and it can be difficult to gain access to archives. The town of Khios has an outstanding provincial library.
Principal museums devoted to Greek antiquities include the National Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine Museum, and the Acropolis Museum, all in Athens, and the archaeological museums in Olympia and Thessaloniki. The archaeological museum in Iraklion on the island of Crete has an impressive collection of Minoan and early Greek antiquities. Also in Athens are the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, focused on the ancient Aegean Cycladic culture; the Benaki Museum, devoted to postclassical art and antiquities; and the National Historical Museum, housed in the old parliament building, with collections relating to Greek independence and the country’s subsequent expansion. The Museum of Greek Folk Art in Athens contains a rich collection of traditional costumes.
Greek cuisine is the cuisine of Greece or perhaps of the Greeks. Given the geography and history of Greece, this style of cookery is typical of Mediterranean cuisine, with strong influences from Italy, Middle East and, to a lesser extent, from the Balkans. The basic grain in Greece is wheat, though barley is also grown. Important vegetables include tomato, eggplant, potato, green beans, okra, and onions. The terrain has tended to favour the production of goats and sheep over cattle, and thus beef dishes tend to be a rarity by comparison. Fish dishes are also common, especially in coastal regions and the islands. Olive oil, produced from the trees prominent throughout the region, adds to the distinctive taste of Greek food. Some dishes use filo pastry. Too much refinement is generally considered to be against the hearty spirit of the Greek cuisine, though recent trends among Greek culinary circles tend to favour a somewhat more refined approach. Traditionally, Greek dishes are served warm rather than hot.
Greece -- Political system, law and government --
President: Karolos Papoulias (2005)
Prime Minister: Kostas Karamanlis (2004)
Greece formally became an independent state in 1830. Except for the period between 1923 and 1935, when a republic was instituted briefly, the country’s system of government was that of a hereditary constitutional monarchy. In 1967 a junta (group of military leaders) took control of the country. A constitution drafted the following year stripped the king of most powers. Following the collapse of military rule in 1974, the Greek people voted in favor of a republic and for the end of the monarchy. A new republican constitution took effect in 1975.
A) Executive Body
The 1975 constitution significantly strengthened the powers of the executive over the legislature. Greece has both a president and a prime minister, as well as a cabinet of ministers. A constitutional revision in 1986 transferred a great deal of executive authority from the president to the prime minister and the cabinet. The powers of the president are now largely ceremonial.
The president is the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. He or she is elected by parliament for a maximum of two five-year terms. Under extraordinary circumstances, a Council of the Republic, consisting of prominent political figures, can authorize the president to dissolve parliament. The prime minister is head of government. The president appoints the prime minister but is obliged to select the candidate proposed by the party with the largest number of seats in parliament. The president appoints the cabinet on the recommendation of the prime minister. Parliament can remove the prime minister and cabinet with a vote of no confidence.
The parliament, or Vouli, is a unicameral (single-chamber) body consisting of 300 deputies elected for four-year terms. Voting is compulsory for all citizens aged 18 and older. Most deputies are directly elected, but a small number of state deputies are elected from party lists in proportion to the number of votes each party receives. This system of reinforced proportional representation has been frequently amended as ruling parties have sought to manipulate the electoral system to their advantage.
Greece’s judicial system is based on Roman law. There is a hierarchy of courts that handle cases related to civil, criminal, and administrative law. Civil and criminal cases are tried in courts of first instance, from which appeals may be made to courts of appeal and then to the Supreme Court. Special courts, such as labor arbitration and social security courts, adjudicate in administrative cases, which may be appealed to a Council of State. At the apex of the judicial system is the Special Supreme Tribunal, which rules on the constitutionality of legislation. The president appoints the judges of all of the courts after consultation with the Judicial Council. Judges are appointed for life terms.
Political Parties: The 1975 constitution guarantees the right to establishment of, and membership in, political parties. In the second half of the 20th century, political parties have tended to be grouped in three main families: right, center, and left. Currently the principal parties are the left-of-center Panhellenic Socialist Movement (known by its Greek acronym, PASOK) and the right-of-center New Democracy (ND). Further to the left are the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Synaspismos coalition. Historically, parties have tended to be organized around charismatic (and frequently elderly) leaders, but politics are becoming more ideologically based and political leaders are often younger.
Greece is divided into 51 nomoi (departments), each administered by a popularly elected nomarch (prefect). The self-governing monastic republic of Mount Athos, consisting of 20 monasteries, is administered by a council. Towns and cities have democratically elected mayors and municipal councils. The Greek government is highly centralized in Athens, and local tax-raising powers are limited.
Military service, ranging from 19 to 23 months, is compulsory for all males. Female volunteers may serve in certain branches of the armed forces. In 2003 the Greek army consisted of 110,000 members; the air force had 30,200 members and the navy had 19,000. The armed forces are well equipped. In 2003 military expenditures amounted to 4 percent of the GDP.
Greece is a founding member of the United Nations (UN) and was admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952. Greece entered the European Community (now the European Union, or EU) in 1981 as its 12th member. Greece is also a member of the Council of Europe (CE), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Western European Union (WEU), which is the defense arm of the EU.