(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)
|Introduction||Greece achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it gradually added neighboring islands and territories, most with Greek-speaking populations. In World War II, Greece was first invaded by Italy (1940) and subsequently occupied by Germany (1941-44); fighting endured in a protracted civil war between supporters of the king and Communist rebels. Following the latter’s defeat in 1949, Greece joined NATO in 1952. A military dictatorship, which in 1967 suspended many political liberties and forced the king to flee the country, lasted seven years. The 1974 democratic elections and a referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished the monarchy. In 1981 Greece joined the EC (now the EU); it became the 12th member of the euro zone in 2001.|
|History||The southern shores of Greece’s Aegean Sea experienced the emergence some of the first advanced civilizations in Europe. Minoan and Mycenean civilizations, and later Greek city-states, emerged across the Greek peninsula but also on the shores of Black Sea, South Italy and Asia Minor, reaching great levels of prosperity that resulted in an unprecedented cultural boom, expressed in architecture, drama, science and philosophy, and nurtured in Athens under a democratic environment. Athens and Sparta led the way in repelling the Persian Empire in a series of battles. Both were later overshadowed by Thebes and eventually Macedonia, with the latter under the guidance of Alexander the Great uniting and leading the Greek world to victory over the Persians, to presage the Hellenistic era, itself brought only partially to a close two centuries later with the establishment of Roman rule over Greek lands in 146 BC.
The subsequent mixture of Roman and Hellenic culture took form in the making of the Byzantine Empire in 330 AD around Constantinople (today Istanbul, Turkey), and remained a major cultural and military force for the next 1,123 years until its fall at the hands of Ottomans in 1453. On the eve of the Ottoman era the Greek intelligentsia migrated to Western Europe, playing a significant role in the Western European Renaissance through the transferring of works of Ancient Greeks to Western Europe. Nevertheless, the Ottoman millet system contributed to the ethnic cohesion of Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the Ottoman Empire based on religion as the latter played an integral role in the formation of modern Greek identity.
Through the Greek War of Independence, successfully fought against the Ottoman Empire from 1821 to 1829, the nascent Greek state was finally recognized under the London Protocol. In 1827, Ioannis Kapodistrias, a noble Greek from the Ionian Islands, was chosen as the first governor of the new Republic. However, following his assassination, the Great Powers soon installed a monarchy under Otto, of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach. In 1843, an uprising forced the King to grant a constitution and a representative assembly. Due to his unimpaired authoritarian rule, he was eventually dethroned in 1863 and replaced by Prince Vilhelm (William) of Denmark, who took the name George I and brought with him the Ionian Islands as a coronation gift from Britain. In 1877, Charilaos Trikoupis, a dominant figure of the Greek political scene who is attributed with the significant improvement of the country’s infrastructure, curbed the power of the monarchy to interfere in the assembly by issuing the rule of vote of confidence to any potential prime minister.
As a result of the Balkan Wars, Greece successfully increased the extent of her territory and population, a challenging context both socially and economically. In the following years, the struggle between the new King Constantine I and the charismatic prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos over the country’s foreign policy on the eve of World War I dominated the country’s political scene, and divided the country into two bitterly hostile factions (see National Schism).
In the aftermath of WW I, Greece fought against Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal,a war which resulted in a massive population exchange between the two countries under the Treaty of Lausanne. Instability and successive coup d’etats marked the following era, which was coloured by the massive task of incorporating 1.5 million Greek refugees from Asia Minor into Greek society.On 28 October 1940 Fascist Italy demanded the surrender of Greece, but the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas famously responded to the Italian ultimatum with the single word “OXI” (“No”). In the following Greco-Italian War, Greece repelled Italian forces into Albania, giving the Allies their first victory over Axis forces on land. The country would eventually fall to urgently dispatched German forces during the Battle of Greece, but the occupiers nevertheless met serious challenges from the Greek Resistance.
After liberation, Greece experienced a civil war between Royalist and Communist forces, which led to economic devastation and severe social tensions between its Rightists and largely Communist Leftists for the next 30 years. The next 20 years were characterized by persecutions of the left in the political and social spheres but also by a significant economic growth, propelled in part by the Marshall Plan. In 1965, a period of political turbulence led to a coup d’etat on April 21, 1967 by the US-supported Regime of the Colonels. On November 1973 the Athens Polytechnic Uprising sent shock waves across the regime, and a counter-coup established Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannides as dictator. On July 20, 1974, as Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus, the regime collapsed.
Ex-Premier Constantine Karamanlis was invited back from Paris where he had lived in self-exile since 1963, marking the beginning of the Metapolitefsi era; a 1975 democratic republican constitution was activated and the monarchy abolished by a referendum held that same year. Meanwhile, Andreas Papandreou founded the Panhellenic Socialist Party, or PASOK, in response to Constantine Karamanlis’ New Democracy party, with the two groupings dominating Greek political affairs in the ensuing decades. Greece became the tenth member of the European Union on January 1, 1981 and ever since, the nation has experienced a remarkable and sustained economic growth. Widespread investments in industrial enterprises and heavy infrastructure, as well as funds from the European Union and growing revenues from tourism, shipping and a fast growing service sector have raised the country’s standard of living to unprecedented levels. The country adopted the Euro in 2001, and successfully organised the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens
|Geography||Location: Southern Europe, bordering the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, between Albania and Turkey
Geographic coordinates: 39 00 N, 22 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 131,940 sq km
land: 130,800 sq km
water: 1,140 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Alabama
Land boundaries: total: 1,228 km
border countries: Albania 282 km, Bulgaria 494 km, Turkey 206 km, Macedonia 246 km
Coastline: 13,676 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: temperate; mild, wet winters; hot, dry summers
Terrain: mostly mountains with ranges extending into the sea as peninsulas or chains of islands
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Olympus 2,917 m
Natural resources: lignite, petroleum, iron ore, bauxite, lead, zinc, nickel, magnesite, marble, salt, hydropower potential
Land use: arable land: 20.45%
permanent crops: 8.59%
other: 70.96% (2005)
Irrigated land: 14,530 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 72 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 8.7 cu km/yr (16%/3%/81%)
per capita: 782 cu m/yr (1997)
Natural hazards: severe earthquakes
Environment – current issues: air pollution; water pollution
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds
Geography – note: strategic location dominating the Aegean Sea and southern approach to Turkish Straits; a peninsular country, possessing an archipelago of about 2,000 islands
|Politics||Greece is a parliamentary republic. The head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected by the Parliament for a five-year term. After the Constitutional amendment of 1986 the President’s duties were curtailed to a significant extent, and they are now largely ceremonial.
The current Constitution of Greece was drawn up and adopted by the Fifth Revisionary Parliament of the Hellenes and entered into force in 1975 after the fall of the military junta of 1967-1974. It has been revised twice since, in 1986 and in 2001. The Constitution, which consists of 120 articles, provides for a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and grants extensive specific guarantees (further reinforced in 2001) of civil liberties and social rights.
According to the Constitution, executive power is exercised by the President of the Republic and the Government; after 1986, however, the role of the President in the executive branch is ceremonial. The position of Prime Minister, Greece’s head of government, belongs to the current leader of the political party that can obtain a vote of confidence by the Parliament. The President of the Republic formally appoints the Prime Minister and, on his recommendation, appoints and dismisses the other members of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister exercises vast political power, and the amendment of 1986 further strengthened his position to the detriment of the President of the Republic.
Legislative power is exercised by a 300-member unicameral Parliament. Statutes passed by the Parliament are promulgated by the President of the Republic. Parliamentary elections are held every four years, but the President of the Republic is obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier on the proposal of the Cabinet, in view of dealing with a national issue of exceptional importance. The President is also obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier, if the opposition manages to pass a motion of no confidence.
The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises three Supreme Courts: the Court of Cassation (Άρειος Πάγος), the Council of State (Συμβούλιο της Επικρατείας) and the Court of Auditors (Ελεγκτικό Συνέδριο). The Judiciary system is also composed of civil courts, which judge civil and penal cases and administrative courts, which judge administrative cases, namely disputes between the citizens and the State.
Since the restoration of democracy the party system is dominated by the liberal-conservative New Democracy and the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Non-negligible parties include the Communist Party of Greece, the Coalition of the Radical Left and the Popular Orthodox Rally.
On March 7, 2004, Kostas Karamanlis, president of the New Democracy party and nephew of the late Constantine Karamanlis was elected as the new Prime Minister of Greece, thus marking his party’s first electoral victory in nearly eleven years. Karamanlis took over government from Kostas Simitis of PASOK, who had been in office since January 1996. Kostas Karamanlis won a second term on September 16, 2007, however his party acquired a slimmer majority in the Greek Parliament gaining only 152 out of 300 seats.
|People||Population: 10,706,290 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.3% (male 789,637/female 742,535)
15-64 years: 66.7% (male 3,565,237/female 3,570,630)
65 years and over: 19% (male 895,384/female 1,142,867) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 41.2 years
male: 40 years
female: 42.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.163% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 9.62 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 10.33 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.34 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.063 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.998 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.783 male(s)/female
total population: 0.962 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 5.34 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.87 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.38 years
male: 76.85 years
female: 82.06 years