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131,957 sq. km. (51,146 sq. mi.; roughly the size of Alabama).
Capital--Athens. Greater Athens (pop. 3,566,060), municipality of Athens
(772,072), Greater Thessaloniki (pop. 1,057,825), Thessaloniki (824,633), Piraeus
(182,671), Greater Piraeus (880,529), Patras (170,452), Larissa (113,090), Iraklion
Terrain: Mountainous interior with coastal plains; 1,400-plus islands.
Mediterranean; mild, wet winter and hot, dry summer.
(March 2001 est.): 10,964,020 million.
Growth rate: 0.21%.
99% (official); English.
Religions: Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1.3%, other
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--95%. All
levels are free.
Health: Infant mortality rate-- 6/1,000. Life
expectancy--male 76 years, female 81 years.
Work force: 4.36 million.
Constitution: June 11, 1975, amended March
1986, April 2001.
Branches: Executive--president (head of state),
prime minister (head of government). Legislative--300-seat unicameral
Vouli (parliament). Judicial--Supreme Court. Council of State.
parties: New Democracy (ND), Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), Communist
Party of Greece (KKE), Coalition of the Left (SYNASPISMOS), and Popular Orthodox
Suffrage is universal and mandatory at 18.
subdivisions: 13 peripheries (regional districts), 51 nomi (prefectures).
GDP: $204 billion.
Per capita GDP: $18,552
Growth rate: 3.7%.
Unemployment rate: 10%.
Natural resources: Bauxite, lignite,
magnesite, oil, marble.
Agriculture (8% of GDP): Products--sugar,
beets, wheat, maize, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, grapes, raisins, wine, oranges,
peaches, tobacco, cotton, livestock, dairy products.
Manufacturing (22% of
GDP): Types--Processed foods, shoes, textiles, metals, chemicals, electrical
equipment, cement, glass, transport equipment, petroleum products, construction,
Services (70% of GDP): Transportation, tourism, communications,
trade, banking, public administration, defense.
Trade: Exports--$14.4 billion:
manufactured goods, food and beverages, petroleum products, cement, chemicals.
Major markets--Germany, Italy, France, U.S., U.K. Imports--$50
billion: basic manufactures, food and animals, crude oil, chemicals, machinery,
transport equipment. Major suppliers--Germany, Italy, France, Japan,
was inhabited as early as the Paleolithic period and by 3000 BC had become home,
in the Cycladic Islands, to a culture whose art remains among the most evocative
in world history. In the second millennium BC, the island of Crete nurtured the
maritime empire of the Minoans, whose trade reached from Egypt to Sicily. The
Minoans were supplanted by the Mycenaeans of the Greek mainland, who spoke a dialect
of ancient Greek. During the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires (1st-19th centuries),
Greece's ethnic composition became more diverse. Since independence in 1830 and
an exchange of populations with Turkey in 1923, Greece has forged a national state
that claims roots reaching back 3,000 years. The Greek language dates back at
least 3,500 years, and modern Greek preserves many elements of its classical predecessor.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the dominant
religion in Greece and receives state funding. During the centuries of Ottoman
domination, the Greek Orthodox Church preserved the Greek language and cultural
identity and was an important rallying point in the struggle for independence.
There is a long-established Muslim religious minority concentrated in Thrace and
an estimated 300,000 Muslim illegal immigrants living elsewhere in the country.
Smaller religious communities in Greece include Old Calendar Orthodox, Catholics,
Protestants, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons.
education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15. Overall
responsibility for education rests with the Ministry of National Education and
Religious Affairs. Private colleges and universities (mostly foreign) do have
campuses in Greece in spite of the fact that their degrees are not recognized
by the Greek state. Entrance to public universities is determined by state-administered
The Greek War
of Independence began in 1821 and concluded in 1830 when England, France, and
Russia forced the Ottoman Empire to grant Greece its independence under a European
monarch, Prince Otto of Bavaria.
independence, Greece had an area of 47,515 square kilometers (18,346 square mi.),
and its northern boundary extended from the Gulf of Volos to the Gulf of Arta.
Under the influence of the "Megali Idea," the expansion of the Greek state to
include all areas of Greek population, Greece acquired the Ionian islands in 1864;
Thessaly and part of Epirus in 1881; Macedonia, Crete, Epirus, and the Aegean
islands in 1913; Western Thrace in 1918; and the Dodecanese islands in 1947.
entered World War I in 1917 on the side of the Allies. After the war, Greece took
part in the Allied occupation of Turkey, where many Greeks still lived. In 1921,
the Greek army marched toward Ankara, but was defeated by Turkish forces led by
Ataturk and forced to withdraw. In a forced exchange of populations, more than
1.3 million refugees from Turkey poured into Greece, creating enormous challenges
for the Greek economy and society.
politics, particularly between the two world wars, involved a struggle for power
between monarchists and republicans. Greece was proclaimed a republic in 1924,
but George II returned to the throne in 1935. A plebiscite in 1946 upheld the
monarchy, which was finally abolished by referendum on December 8, 1974.
entry into World War II was precipitated by the Italian invasion on October 28,
1940. Despite Italian superiority in numbers and equipment, determined Greek defenders
drove the invaders back into Albania. Hitler was forced to divert German troops
to protect his southern flank and overran Greece in 1941. Following a very severe
German occupation in which many Greeks died (including over 90% of Greece’s Jewish
community) German forces withdrew in October 1944, and the government-in-exile
returned to Athens.
After the German withdrawal,
the principal Greek resistance movement, which was controlled by the communists,
refused to disarm. A banned demonstration by resistance forces in Athens in December
1944 ended in battles with Greek Government and British forces. Continuing tensions
led to the outbreak of full-fledged civil war in 1946. First the United Kingdom
and later the U.S. gave extensive military and economic aid to the Greek government.
In 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall implemented the Marshall Plan under
President Truman, which focused on the economic recovery and the rebuilding of
Europe. The U.S. contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuilding Greece
in terms of buildings, agriculture, and industry.
August 1949, the Greek national army forced the remaining insurgents to surrender
or flee to Greece's communist neighbors. The insurgency resulted in 100,000 killed,
700,000 displaced persons inside the country, and catastrophic economic disruption.
This civil war left Greek society deeply divided between leftists and rightists.
Greece became a member of NATO in 1952.
From 1952 to late 1963, Greece was governed by conservative parties--the Greek
Rally of Marshal Alexandros Papagos and its successor, the National Radical Union
(ERE) of the late Constantine Karamanlis. In 1963, the Center Union Party of George
Papandreou was elected and governed until July 1965. It was followed by a succession
of unstable coalition governments.
21, 1967, just before scheduled elections, a group of colonels led by Col. George
Papadopoulos seized power in a coup d'etat. The junta suppressed civil liberties,
established special military courts, and dissolved political parties. Several
thousand political opponents were imprisoned or exiled to remote Greek islands.
In November 1973, following an uprising of students at the Athens Polytechnic
University, Gen. Dimitrios Ioannides replaced Papadopoulos and tried to continue
Gen. Ioannides' attempt
in July 1974 to overthrow Archbishop Makarios, the President of Cyprus, brought
Greece to the brink of war with Turkey, which invaded Cyprus and occupied part
of the island. Senior Greek military officers then withdrew their support from
the junta, which toppled. Leading citizens persuaded Karamanlis to return from
exile in France to establish a government of national unity until elections could
be held. Karamanlis' newly organized party, New Democracy (ND), won elections
held in November 1974, and he became Prime Minister.
the 1974 referendum, the Parliament approved a new constitution and elected Constantine
Tsatsos as president of the republic. In the parliamentary elections of 1977,
New Democracy again won a majority of seats. In May 1980, the late Prime Minister
Karamanlis was elected to succeed Tsatsos as president. George Rallis was then
chosen party leader and succeeded Karamanlis as Prime Minister.
January 1, 1981, Greece became the 10th member of the European Community (now
the European Union). In parliamentary elections held on October 18, 1981, Greece
elected its first socialist government, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK),
led by Andreas Papandreou. In 1985, Supreme Court Justice Christos Sartzetakis
was elected president by the Greek parliament. PASOK under Papandreou was re-elected
Greece had two rounds of parliamentary
elections in 1989; both produced weak coalition governments with limited mandates.
In the April 1990 election, ND won 150 seats and subsequently gained 2 others.
After Prime Minister Mitsotakis fired Foreign Minister Andonis Samaras in 1992,
the rift led to the collapse of the ND government and a victory in the September
1993 elections for Andreas Papandreou's PASOK.
January 17, 1996, following a protracted illness, Prime Minister Papandreou resigned
and was replaced by former Minister of Industry Constantine Simitis. In elections
held in September 1996, Constantine Simitis was elected prime minister. In April
2000, Simitis and PASOK won again by a narrow margin, gaining 158 seats to ND's
125. Most recently, parliamentary elections were held March 8, 2004; Konstantinos
Karamanlis, the nephew of the former prime minister, became prime minister. Karalos
Papoulias was elected as President in February, 2005.
exemplary success in hosting a safe and secure 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens
has enhanced its international prestige. The 2004 Olympics and Paralympics left
an impressive and expensive legacy of new roads, spectacular stadiums, and modern
public transportation systems begun under the PASOK government in 1997 and completed
by the New Democracy government of Karamanlis in 2004.
AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Greece is a parliamentary republic whose constitution
was last amended in April 2001. There are three branches of government. The executive
includes the president, who is head of state, and the prime minister, who is head
of government. There is a 300-seat unicameral "Vouli" (legislature). The judicial
branch includes a Supreme Court. Administrative subdivisions include 13 peripheries
(regional districts) and 51 nomi (prefectures). Suffrage is universal at 18.
President-- Karolos Papoulias
Foreign Minister--Petros Molyviatis
Ambassador to the United
Ambassador to the United Nations--Adamantios Vassilakis
Greece’s embassy in the United States is
located at 2221 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: (202) 939-1300;
fax: (202) 939-1324.
Greece also maintains
consulates in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta,
Houston and Tampa.
government succeeded in 2000 in reducing budget deficits and inflation, allowing
Greece to join the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) on January 1, 2001. Greece,
along with 11 out of its 14 European Union (EU) partners, adopted the euro as
its new common currency in January 2002. The euro was expected to boost trade,
help dismantle the last remaining market barriers within the EU, and stimulate
production. However, a more relaxed fiscal policy since 2002 and higher expenditures
associated with the preparation of the Athens 2004 Olympics resulted in higher
deficits and debt in 2003 and 2004. The government deficit in 2004 is estimated
to have reached 5.3 percent of GDP and the debt 112 percent of GDP. The new administration
has pledged to reduce the government debt to 2.8 percent of GDP in 2005 and to
tighten fiscal finances.
The Greek economy
was expected to grow by 3.7 percent in 2004 and continue relatively higher growth
rates in 2005 and beyond. High growth rates resulted in a drop in unemployment
although it is still high among younger persons. Foreign investment also has dropped,
while efforts to revive it have been only partially successful. Greek investment
in Southeast Europe has increased.
make up the largest and fastest-growing sector of the Greek economy. About 12
million tourists visited Greece in 2003 with net revenues of about 7.4 billion
euros. Remittances from transport (mainly shipping) are growing at fast rates
and in 2004 have been exceeding tourism receipts. Industrial activity has a mixed
performance with certain sectors such as the food industry and high-tech/telecommunications
showing healthy increases. Textiles are more affected by international competition.
Agriculture employs about 12 percent of the work force and is still characterized
by small farms and low capital investment, despite significant support from the
EU in structural funds and subsidies. Traditionally a seafaring nation, the Greek-owned
merchant fleet totaled 3,355 ships in May 2003, 9.3 percent of world merchant
fleet and 18.3 percent of gross tonnage.
Union (EU) Membership
Greece has realigned its economy as part of an extended
transition to full EU membership that began in 1981. Greece last assumed the rotating
EU presidency in the first half of 2003. Greek businesses continue to adjust to
competition from EU firms, and the government has liberalized its economic and
commercial regulations and practices.
has been a net beneficiary of the EU budget; in 2003, EU transfers accounted for
2.8 percent of GDP and may have exceeded 3 percent of GDP in 2004. From 1994-99,
about $20 billion in EU structural funds were spent on projects to modernize and
develop Greece's transportation network in time for the Olympics in 2004. The
centerpiece was the construction of the new international airport near Athens,
which opened in March 2001 soon after the launch of the new Athens subway system.
EU transfers to Greece, under the third
Community Support Framework Program, are to phase out over the next decade. The
last of some $24 billion in structural funds will be disbursed by 2006. These
funds contribute significantly to Greece's current accounts balance and further
reduce the state budget deficit. EU funds will continue to finance major public
works and economic development projects, upgrade competitiveness and human resources,
improve living conditions, and address disparities between poorer and more developed
regions of the country. A new support program may be implemented in the future.
In 2003, the
U.S. trade surplus with Greece was about $1.9 billion. There are no significant
non-tariff barriers to American exports. The United States accounted for 5.6 percent
of Greece's imports in 2003, which reached $44.7 billion. The top U.S. exports
remain defense contracts, although American business activity is expected to grow
in the tourism development, medical, construction, food processing, and packaging
and franchising sectors. U.S. companies are involved in Greece's ongoing privatization
efforts; further deregulation of Greece's energy sector and the country's central
location as a transportation hub for Europe may offer additional opportunities
in electricity, gas, refinery, and related sectors.
Greece's foreign policy is aligned with that of its EU partners.
Greece gives particular emphasis to its close relations with Cyprus but also has
growing political and economic ties with the Balkan countries and the Middle East.
Greece maintains full diplomatic, political,
and economic relations with its south-central European neighbors. It provides
peacekeeping contingents for Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Greece has good relations
with Russia and has embassies in a number of the central Asian republics, which
it sees as potentially important trading partners.
issues in Greek foreign policy include Greek-Turkish differences in the Aegean,
Turkish accession to the EU, the name dispute with the Macedonia, the reunification
of Cyprus and Greek-American relations. Starting in January 2005, Greece assumed
a two-year seat on the U.N. Security Council.
The Greek dispute with its northern neighbor over its constitutional
name, Republic of Macedonia, has been an important issue in Greek politics since
1992. Greece was adamantly opposed to the use of "Macedonia" by the government
in Skopje, claiming that the term is intrinsically Greek and should not be used
by a foreign country. Mediation efforts by the UN and the United States brokered
an interim agreement whereby Greece recognized the country as the Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in September 1995. Talks on the name question continue
under UN auspices.
restored diplomatic relations with Albania in 1971, but the Greek Government did
not formally lift the state of war, declared during World War II, until 1987.
After the fall of the Albanian communist regime in 1991, relations between Athens
and Tirana became increasingly strained because of allegations of mistreatment
of the Greek ethnic minority by Albanian authorities in southern Albania. A wave
of Albanian illegal economic migrants to Greece exacerbated tensions. In the past
several years, however, cooperation between Greece and Albania has improved, with
efforts focused on regional issues, such as narcotics trafficking and illegal
immigration. However, tensions hover just below the surface. Greece remains host
to 600,000-800,000 Albanian immigrants, many of them illegal. Albanian crime in
Greece often attracts headlines.
For historical reasons, most Greeks see Turkey as the major potential
threat to their security. Greece and Turkey have unresolved disagreements regarding
the Aegean, the treatment of the Orthodox Church and Greek minority in Istanbul,
and the Muslim (primarily ethnic Turkish) minority in western Thrace. The largest
source of tension in their relationship since 1974 has been the Cyprus conflict.
Only the Republic of Cyprus entered the EU on May 1, 2004, following a failed
referendum on the Annan Plan. Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected the plan,
which could have allowed a united Cyprus to enter the EU. Turkish Cypriots
voted in favor of the plan and both Greece and Turkey expressed their approval.
At times over the past three decades, tensions
between Greece and Turkey have almost reached the point of armed confrontation,
usually caused by one side or the other attempting to clarify an ambiguous status
quo in the Aegean. In 1996, President Clinton intervened to help avert a possible
armed exchange after Greek and Turkish journalists generated a dispute over ownership
of an uninhabited rock called Imia. A significant breakthrough in relations took
place with the major earthquakes that hit Turkey and Greece in 1999. Both countries
and peoples responded generously to the other's need, helping turn around official
perceptions that rapprochement was politically too risky. Since that time, Greek
and Turkish Foreign Ministers George Papandreou and Ismail Cem (and their respective
successors Petros Molyviatis and Abdullah Gul) have steadily increased the quantity
and quality of bilateral exchanges, both official and unofficial.
has endorsed and supported Turkey's bid for candidacy to the European Union since
the Helsinki EU Summit in 1999. Despite continuing disagreements with Ankara over
Cyprus and the Aegean, Greek opinion leaders across the political spectrum are
convinced that Greece's long-term interests are best served by Turkey's successfully
fulfilling the requirements for European Union membership. On December 17,
2004, the European Union voted to open accession talks with Turkey on October
The Middle East
claims a special interest in the Middle East because of its geographic position
and its economic and historic ties to the area. Greece cooperated with allied
forces during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. Since 1994, Greece has signed defense
cooperation agreements with Israel and Egypt. In recent years, Greek leaders have
hosted several meetings of Israeli and Palestinian politicians to contribute to
the peace process. Greece has been traditionally supportive of Palestinian claims.
However, beginning in the late 1990s, efforts to strike a more balanced relationship
with Israel received a boost. Greek-Israeli relations have been complicated by
Israel's strategic cooperation with Turkey.
The United States and Greece have longstanding historical, political,
and cultural ties based on a common heritage, shared democratic values, and participation
as Allies during World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Cold War. The Greek
government responded to the September 11, 2001 attacks with strong political support
for the United States, use of Greek airspace, and the offer of Greek military
assets in support of the counterterrorism campaign. Its participation in Operation
Enduring Freedom included the stationing of a Greek Navy frigate in the Arabian
Sea for almost 2 years--the most distant deployment ever for the Greek Navy. In
the summer of 2002, Greek authorities captured numerous suspected members of the
terrorist group "17 November." It was a major break in the investigation of the
group, which had killed five U.S. mission employees since 1975. The trial of the
November 17 suspects successfully concluded in the fall of 2003.
is smooth cooperation between U.S. and Greek counter-terrorism officials. Greek
and American diplomatic, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies enjoyed close
cooperation in the build-up to and throughout the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in
About 1.1 million Americans are
of Greek origin, and almost 3 million call themselves Greek-Americans. This large,
well-organized Greek-American community in the United States cultivates close
political and cultural ties with Greece. Greece has the seventh-largest population
of U.S. Social Security beneficiaries in the world.
United States has provided Greece with more than $11.1 billion in economic and
security assistance since 1946. Economic programs were phased out by 1962, but
military financial assistance continued until the early 1990s.
1953, the first defense cooperation agreement between Greece and the United States
was signed, providing for the establishment and operation of American military
installations on Greek territory. The United States closed three of its four main
bases in the 1990s. The current mutual defense cooperation agreement (MDCA) provides
for the operation by the United States of a naval support facility that exploits
the strategically located deep-water port and airfield at Souda Bay in Crete.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Jeff Olesen
Management Counselor--Jeff Olesen
Security Officer--Michael Darmiento
Political Counselor--Karen Decker
Economic Counselor--Robert Winchester
Public Affairs Counselor--Barry Levin
General-- Ann Sides
Acting Defense Attache--Col. Thomas Tutt
Principal Officer, Thessaloniki--Demitra Pappas
Counselor--Geoffrey Wiggin (resident in Rome)
U.S. Embassy in Greece is located at 91
Vasilissis Sophias Blvd., 10160 Athens; tel:  (210) 721-2951 or 721-8401,
after hours 729-4444; fax:  (210) 645-6282. The U.S. Consulate General for
Thessaloniki is located at 43 Tsimiski Street, 546-23 Thessaloniki; tel: 
(2310) 242-905 or 721-2951, ext. 2400; fax:  (2310) 242-927, 242-924. The
email address for the U.S. embassy is firstname.lastname@example.org. The
embassy's website is http://www.usembassy.gr/.
embassy in the United States is located at 2221 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington,
DC 20008; tel: (202) 939-1300; fax: (202) 939-1324.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Consular Information
Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements. Consular Information Sheets
exist for all countries and include information on entry requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to
a certain country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions
overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free
copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs
at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Consular Information
Sheets and Travel Warnings also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet
home page: http://travel.state.gov/. Consular
Affairs Tips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining
passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are on the Internet and hard copies
can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office
of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies,
Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's
single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone:
1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators
for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time,
excluding federal holidays.
can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and
a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm
give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet
entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280)
is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel.
Information on travel
conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays,
and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure
from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see
"Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).
citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged
their travel via the State Department’s travel registration web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov/
or at the Consular section of the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country by filling
out a short form and sending in a copy of their passports. This may help family
members contact you in case of an emergency.
Department of State Web Site. Available on
the Internet at http://www.state.gov/, the Department
of State web site provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information, including Background Notes and
daily press briefings
along with the directory of key officers
of Foreign Service posts and more.
provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered
by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help
with the export process, and more.
a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic,
business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The
site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market
research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the
National Trade Data Bank.
US State Department