Name: Hellenic Republic
Area: 131,957 sq. km. (51,146 sq. mi.; roughly the size of
Major cities: Capital -- Athen (pop. greater Athens
3,096,775, municipality of Athens 748,110). Other cities -- Thessaloniki
(377,951), Piraeus (169,622), Greater Piraeus (880,529), Patras (172,763),
Larissa (113,426), Iraklion (117,167).
Terrain: Mountainous interior with
coastal plains; many islands.
Climate: Mediterranean; mild winter and hot,
Population: 11.5 million.
Growth rate: 0.4%.
Greek 99%; other 1%.
Religions: Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1%, other 1%.
Education: Years compulsory -- 9. Literacy -- 93%. All levels
Health: Infant mortality rate -- 8/1,000. Life
expectancy -- male 74 yrs.; female 79 yrs.
Work force: 4.85
Type: Presidential parliamentary republic.
Constitution: June 11, 1975, amended March 1986.
Executive -- president (head of state), prime minister (head of
government). Legislative -- 300-seat unicameral Vouli (parliament).
Judicial -- Supreme Court.
Political parties: Panhellenic Socialist
Movement (PASOK), New Democracy (ND), Political Spring, Communist Party of
Greece (KKE), Coalition of the Left (SYNASPISMOS).
Suffrage: Universal at
Administrative subdivisions: 13 peripheries (regional districts), 51
GDP: $120.25 billion.
Per capita GDP: $11,305.
Inflation rate: 4.7%.
Unemployment rate: 10.1%.
resources: Bauxite, lignite, magnesite, oil, marble.
Agriculture (10% of
GDP): Products -- Sugar, beets, wheat, maize, tomatoes, olives, olive
oil, grapes, raisins, wine, oranges, peaches, tobacco, cotton, livestock, dairy
Manufacturing (14% of GDP): Types -- Processed foods,
shoes, textiles, metals, chemicals, electrical equipment, cement, glass,
transport equipment, petroleum products, construction, electrical power.
Services (66.5% of GDP): Transportation, tourism, communications, trade,
banking, public administration, defense.
Trade: Exports -- $10.5
billion: manufactured goods, food and beverages, petroleum products, cement,
chemicals. Major markets -- Germany, Italy, France, U.S., U.K.
Imports -- $27 billion: basic manufactures, food and animals, crude oil,
chemicals, machinery, transport equipment. Major suppliers -- Germany,
Italy, France, Japan, Netherlands, U.S.
Greece is located in southeastern Europe on the southern tip of
the Balkan Peninsula. The Greek mainland is bounded on the north by Bulgaria,
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Albania; on the east by the
Aegean Sea and Turkey; and on the west and south by the Ionian and
Mediterranean Seas. The country consists of a large mainland; the Peloponnesus
Peninsula, connected to the mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth; and more than
1,400 islands, including Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, and the Dodecanese and Cycladic
groups. Greece has more than 14,880 kilometers (9,300 mi.) of coastline and a
land boundary of 1,160 kilometers (726 mi.).
About 80% of Greece is mountainous or hilly. Much of the country
is dry and rocky; only 28% of the land is arable. Greece has mild, wet winters
and hot, dry summers. Temperatures are rarely extreme, although snowfalls do
occur in the mountains and occasionally even in Athens in the winter.
Greece is located at the junction of three continents: Europe,
Asia, and Africa. Greece's foreign policy, despite its joining NATO in 1952 and
its accession to the European Community in 1981, has remained focused on the
Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean region.
Greece maintains full diplomatic, political, and economic
relations with its south-central European neighbors. It provided a 250-man
military contingent to IFOR/ SFOR in Bosnia and assigned a 1,200-man unit to
KFOR in Kosovo. Diplomatic relations with Bulgaria were restored in 1965--after
a 24-year break--when Bulgaria renounced its claim to Greek territory in Thrace
and Macedonia. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Greece has had good
relations with Russia and has opened embassies in a number of the former Soviet
republics, which it sees as potentially important trading partners.
Greece 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. Early in the 2nd millennium
BC, the island of Crete nurtured the sophisticated maritime empire of the
Minoans, whose trade reached from Egypt to Sicily. The Minoans were challenged
and eventually supplanted by the Mycenaeans of the Greek mainland, who spoke a
dialect of ancient Greek. Initially, Greece's mosaic of small city-states were
ethnically similar. 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 which 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. In the 19th
century, after Greece's War of Independence, an effort was made to rid the
language of Turkish and Arabic words and expressions. The resulting version was
considered to be closer to the classical Greek language of Homer and was called
Katharevousa. However, Katharevousa was never adopted by most Greeks in daily
speech. The commonly spoken language, called Demotiki, became the official
language in 1976.
Greek education is free and compulsory for children between the
ages of 5 and 15. English language study is compulsory from 5th grade through
high school. University education, including books, is also free, contingent
upon the student's ability to meet stiff entrance requirements. Recent
statistics indicate progressively poorer results in the annual entrance
examinations. Low salaries and status of teachers; lack of books, supplies,
labs, and computers; frequent strikes; and continuing reliance on rote
memorization methods are all matters of concern for Greek educators.
A high percentage of the student population seeks higher
education. About 100,000 students are registered at Greek universities, and 15%
of the population currently holds a university degree. Entrance to a university
is determined by state-administered exams, the candidate's grade-point average
from high school, and his/her priority choices of major. About one in four
candidates gains admission to Greek universities.
Since Greek law does not permit the operation of private
universities in Greece, a large and growing number of students are pursuing
higher education abroad. The Greek Government decides through an evaluation
procedure whether to recognize degrees from specific foreign universities as
qualification for public sector hiring. Other students attend private,
post-secondary educational institutions in Greece that are not recognized by
the Greek Government.
The number of Greek students studying at European institutions is
increasing along with EU support for educational exchange. In addition, nearly
5,000 Greeks are studying in the United States, about half of whom are in
graduate school. Greek per capita student representation in the U.S. is the
highest of any European country.
Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion in Greece. During
the centuries of Ottoman domination, the Greek Orthodox Church preserved Greek
language, values, and national identity and was an important rallying point in
the struggle for independence. There is a Muslim minority concentrated in
Thrace. Other religious communities in Greece include Catholics, Jews, Old
Calendar Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Protestants.
The Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire began in
1821 and concluded with the winning of independence in 1830. With the support
of England, France, and Russia, a monarchy was established. A Bavarian prince,
Otto, was named king in 1833. He was deposed 30 years later, and the Great
Powers chose a prince of the Danish House of Glucksberg as his successor. He
became George I, King of the Hellenes.
The Megali Idea (Great Idea), a vision of uniting all Greeks of
the declining Ottoman Empire within the newly independent Greek State, exerted
strong influence on the early Greek state. At 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. The Ionian Islands were
added 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.
Greece 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 attacked from its base in Smyrna
(now Izmir), and marched toward Ankara. The Greeks were defeated by Turkish
forces led by Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk) and were forced to withdraw in the
summer of 1922. Smyrna was sacked by the Turks, and more than 1.3 million Greek
refugees from Turkey poured into Greece, creating enormous challenges for the
Greek economy and society and effectively ending the Megali Idea.
Greek 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, and a
plebiscite in 1946 upheld the monarchy. It was finally abolished, however, by
referendum on December 8, 1974, when more than two-thirds of the voters
supported the establishment of a republic.
Greece's entry into World War II was precipitated by the Italian
invasion on October 28, 1940. That date is celebrated in Greece by the one-word
reply--ochi ("no")--symbolizing the Greek Prime Minister's rejection of the
surrender demand made by Mussolini. 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
attacked Greece in early April 1941. By the end of May, the Germans had overrun
most of the country, although Greek resistance was never entirely suppressed.
German forces withdrew in October 1944, and the government in exile returned to
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 violence
and was followed by an intense, house-to-house battle with Greek Government and
British forces. After 3 weeks, the communists were defeated, and an unstable
coalition government was formed. Continuing tensions led to the dissolution of
that government and the outbreak of full-fledged civil war in 1946. First the
United Kingdom and later the United States gave extensive military and economic
aid to the Greek Government.
Communist successes in 1947-48 enabled them to move freely over
much of mainland Greece, but with extensive reorganization and American
material support, the Greek National Army was slowly able to regain control
over most of the countryside. Yugoslavia closed its borders to the insurgent
forces in 1949, after Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia broke with Stalin and the
In August 1949, the National Army under Marshal Alexander Papagos
launched a final offensive that forced the remaining insurgents to surrender or
flee across the northern border into the territory of Greece's communist
neighbors. The insurgency resulted in 100,000 killed and caused catastrophic
economic disruption. In addition, at least 25,000 Greeks were either
voluntarily or forcibly evacuated to Eastern bloc countries, while 700,000
became displaced persons inside the country.
After the 1944-49 Greek civil war, Greece sought to join the
Western democracies and 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
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.
On April 21, 1967, just before scheduled elections, a group of
colonels led by Col. George Papadopoulos seized power in a coup d'etat. Civil
liberties were suppressed, special military courts were established, and
political parties were dissolved. 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 the dictatorship.
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.
Following the 1974 referendum which resulted in the rejection of
the monarchy, a new constitution was approved by parliament on June 19, 1975,
and parliament 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, Prime Minister Karamanlis was elected to succeed Tsatsos as
president. George Rallis was then chosen party leader and succeeded Karamanlis
as Prime Minister.
On 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 when the Panhellenic
Socialist Movement (PASOK), led by Andreas Papandreou, won 172 of 300 seats. On
March 29, 1985, after Prime Minister Papandreou declined to support President
Karamanlis for a second term, Supreme Court Justice Christos Sartzetakis was
elected president by the Greek parliament.
Greece had two rounds of parliamentary elections in 1989; both
produced weak coalition governments with limited mandates. Party leaders
withdrew their support in February 1990, and elections were held on April 8. In
the April 1990 election, ND won 150 seats and subsequently gained 2 others.
After Mitsotakis fired his first Foreign Minister--Andonis Samaras--in 1992,
Samaras formed his own political party, Political Spring. A split between
Mitsotakis and Samaras led to the collapse of the ND government and new
elections in September 1993.
On January 17, 1996, following a protracted illness, Prime
Minister Papandreou resigned and was replaced as Prime Minister by former
Minister of Industry Constantine Simitis. In elections held in September 1996,
Constantine Simitis was elected Prime Minister. PASOK won 162 seats, New
The 1975 constitution, which describes Greece as a "presidential
parliamentary republic," includes extensive specific guarantees of civil
liberties and vests the powers of the head of state in a president elected by
parliament and advised by the Council of the Republic. The Greek governmental
structure is similar to that found in many Western democracies and has been
described as a compromise between the French and German models. The prime
minister and cabinet play the central role in the political process, while the
president performs some governmental functions in addition to ceremonial
The president is elected by parliament to a 5-year term and can be
reelected once. The president has the power to declare war and to conclude
agreements of peace, alliance, and participation in international
organizations; upon the request of the government a three-fifths parliamentary
majority is required to ratify such actions, agreements, or treaties. The
president also can exercise certain emergency powers, which must be
countersigned by the appropriate cabinet minister. Changes to the constitution
in 1986 limited the president's political powers. As a result, the president
may not dissolve parliament, dismiss the government, suspend certain articles
of the constitution, or declare a state of siege. To call a referendum, he must
obtain approval from parliament.
Parliamentary deputies are elected by secret ballot for a maximum
of 4 years, but elections can be called earlier. Greece uses a complex
reinforced proportional representation electoral system which discourages
splinter parties and makes a parliamentary majority possible even if the
leading party falls short of a majority of the popular vote. A party must
receive 3% of the total national vote to qualify for parliamentary seats.
Greece is divided into 51 prefectures, each headed by a prefect,
who is elected by direct popular vote. There are also 13 regional
administrative districts (peripheries), each including a number of prefectures
and headed by a regional governor (periferiarch), appointed by the Minister of
the Interior. In northern Greece and in greater Athens, three areas have an
additional administrative position between the nomarch and periferiarch. This
official, known as the president of the prefectural local authorities or "super
nomarch," is elected by direct popular vote. Although municipalities and
villages have elected officials, they do not have an adequate independent tax
base and must depend on the central government for a large part of their
financial needs. Consequently they are subject to numerous central government
The Government and Education, Religion, and the Media
Education. Under the Greek constitution, education is the
responsibility of the state. Most Greeks attend public primary and secondary
schools. There are a few private schools, which must meet the standard
curriculum of and be supervised by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of
Education oversees and directs every aspect of the public education process at
all levels, including hiring all teachers and professors and producing all
Religion. The Greek Orthodox Church is under the protection
of the state, which pays the clergy's salaries, and Orthodox Christianity is
the "prevailing" religion of Greece according to the constitution. The Greek
Orthodox Church is self-governing but under the spiritual guidance of the
Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul.
The Muslim minority, concentrated in Thrace, was given legal
status by provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and is Greece's only
officially recognized minority.
Media. The Greek media, collectively, is a very influential
institution--usually aggressive, sensationalist, and frequently irresponsible
with regard to content. Objectivity as known to the U.S. media on the whole
does not exist in the Greek media. Most of the media are owned by businessmen
with extensive commercial interests in other sectors of the economy. They use
their newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV channels to promote their
commercial enterprises as well as to seek political influence.
In 1994, the Ministry of Press and Information was established to
deal with media and communication issues. ERT S.A.--a public corporation
supervised by the Minister of Press--operates three national television
channels and five national radio channels. The Minister of Press also serves as
the primary government spokesman.
The Secretary General of Press and Information prepares the Athens
News Agency (ANA) Bulletin, which is used, with AP and Reuters, as a primary
source of information by the Greek press. The Ministry of Press and Information
also issues the Macedonian News Agency (MPE) Bulletin, which is distributed
throughout the Balkan region. For international news, CNN is a particular
influence in the Greek market; the major TV channels often use it as a source.
State and private TV stations also use "Eurovision" and "Visnews" as sources.
While few papers and stations have overseas correspondents, those few
correspondents abroad can be very influential.
In 1988, a new law provided the legal framework for the
establishment of private radio stations and, as of 1989, private TV stations.
According to the law, supervision of radio and television is exercised by the
National Radio and Television Council. In practice, however, official licensing
has been delayed for many years. Because of this, there has been a
proliferation of private radio and TV stations, as well as European satellite
channels, including Euronews; more than 1,000 radio stations are currently
operating in Greece. The Greek Government is now implementing its plans to
reallocate TV frequencies and issue licenses, authorized by the 1993 Media Law.
Principal Government Officials
President -- Konstandinos Stephanopoulos
Prime Minister --
Foreign Minister -- Yeoryios Papandreou
to the U.S. -- Alexandros Philon
Ambassador to the UN -- Ilias Gouneris
Greece's embassy in the U.S. is located at 2221 Massachusetts
Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: (202) 939-5800; fax: (202) 939-5824.
The Greek economy is slowly coming out of a slump caused by a drop
in investment and the implementation of stabilization policies in recent years.
Greece remains a net importer of industrial and capital goods, foodstuffs, and
petroleum. Leading exports are manufactured goods, food and beverages,
petroleum products, cement, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.
Recent Economic History
The development of the modern Greek economy began in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries with the adoption of social and industrial legislation
and protective tariffs and the creation of the first industrial enterprises.
Industry at the turn of the century consisted primarily of food processing,
shipbuilding, and the manufacture of textiles and simple consumer products.
Greece achieved high rates of growth in the late 1960s and early
1970s due to large foreign investments. In the mid-1970s, Greece suffered
declines in its GDP growth rate, ratio of investment to GDP, and productivity,
and real labor costs and oil prices rose. In 1981, protective barriers were
removed when Greece joined the European Community. The government pursued
expansionary policies, which fueled inflation and caused balance-of-payment
difficulties. Growing public sector deficits were financed by borrowing. In
October 1985, supported by a 1.7-billion European Currency Unit (ECU) loan from
the European Union (EU), the government implemented a 2-year "stabilization"
program with limited success. Public sector inefficiency and excessive spending
caused government borrowing to increase; by the end of 1992, general government
debt exceeded 100% of GDP.
Greece continued to rely on foreign borrowing to finance its
deficits. Public sector external debt was $32 billion at the end of 1998. The
general government debt was $119 billion at the end of 1998, or 105.5% of GDP.
Greece's external debt was $32 billion at the end of 1998.
Greece, as a member of the EU, is currently striving to reduce its
budget deficit and inflation rate in order to meet the prerequisites for the
European monetary union. Although growth remained above the convergence program
guidelines, high budget deficits and deficient infrastructure continue to
dampen the economy's long-term potential growth rate.
In May 1994, the Bank of Greece successfully managed a currency
crisis triggered by the lifting of currency restrictions on short-term capital
movements. The bank contained speculative attacks on the drachma by tightening
its monetary policy and raising interest rates dramatically: For a few days,
interest rates pushed as high as 180%. In less than 2 months, with speculation
on the drachma no longer a threat, interest rates returned to normal levels. A
similar wave of speculation was beaten back in fall 1997, following the Asian
One of the successes of recent Greek economic policy has been the
reduction of inflation rates. For more than 20 years, inflation hovered in the
double digits, but a combination of fiscal consolidation, wage restraint, and
strong drachma policies resulted in lowered inflation. Inflation fell to 2.0%
by mid-1999. High interest rates have been a significant problem, despite
recent cuts in both treasury bill and bank rates for savings and loans. The
government's strong drachma policy and Public Sector Borrowing Requirement
(PSBR) make the lowering of interest rates difficult, but progress was made in
1997-99 and rates are gradually declining in line with inflation.
Services, including tourism, make up the largest and
fastest-growing sector of the Greek economy, accounting for about 62.7% of GDP
Tourism is a major source of foreign exchange earnings. Although
it is one of the country's most important industries, it has been slow to
expand and suffers from poor infrastructure. With more than 10 million tourists
visiting Greece in 1996, the tourist industry faced declining revenues, partly
due to the strong drachma. Revenue from tourism exceeded $5.2 billion in 1998,
having increased somewhat as Greek tourism benefited from problems in
neighboring countries and an economic recovery in the European Union.
The manufacturing sector accounts for about 14% of GDP. The food
industry is one of the most profitable and fastest-growing areas of
manufacturing with significant export potential. High-technology equipment
production, especially for telecommunications, is also a fast-growing sector.
Other important areas include textiles, building materials, machinery,
transport equipment, and electrical appliances.
Greece is traditionally a seafaring nation and has built an
impressive shipping industry based on its geographic location and the
entrepreneurial ability of its ship owners. The Greek-owned fleet (all flags)
totaled 3,358 ships (134 million DWT) in 1998.
Construction activity (about 7.5% of GDP) is expected to increase
due to infrastructure projects partially financed by European Union structural
funds. Through 1999, about $20 billion will go to projects to modernize and
develop Greece's transportation network. The centerpiece of this effort will be
the construction of a new international airport near Athens. In addition, the
Athens subway system is being greatly expanded, and construction or expansion
of roads, railway lines, and bridges is either underway or planned.
Greece must realign its economy as part of an extended transition
to full EU membership that began in 1981. Greek businesses are adjusting to
competition from EU firms and the government has had to liberalize its economic
and commercial regulations and practices. However, Greece has been granted
waivers from certain aspects of the EU's 1992 single market program.
Historically, Greece has been a net beneficiary of the EU budget.
Net payments to Greece totaled $4.9 billion in 1998, representing 4.2% of GDP.
Net inflows were estimated at about $5 billion in 1998. These funds contribute
significantly to Greece's current accounts balance and reduce the state budget
Greece is receiving additional substantial support from the EU
through the Delors II package. In July 1994, the Greek Government and the EU
agreed on a final plan which provided Greece 16.6 billion ecu ($17.1 billion at
current exchange rates) for the period 1994-98 of which 14 billion ecu was from
the Community Support Framework and 2.6 billion ecu was from the Cohesion Fund.
This level of assistance was continued in 1999 and finances major public works
and economic development projects, upgrades competitiveness and human
resources, improves living conditions, and addresses disparities between poorer
and more developed regions of the country.
Prominent issues in Greek foreign policy include a dispute over
the name of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.), the
enduring Cyprus problem, Greek-Turkish differences over the Aegean, and
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.)
Greek refusal to recognize F.Y.R.O.M. under the name "Republic of
Macedonia" has been an important issue in Greek politics since 1992. Greece was
adamantly opposed to the use of the name "Macedonia" by the government in
Skopje, claiming that the name is intrinsically Greek and should not be used by
a foreign country.
Furthermore, Greece believes that an independent "Republic of
Macedonia" bordering the Greek region of Macedonia would fuel irredentist
tensions in F.Y.R.O.M. The dispute led to a Greek trade embargo against
F.Y.R.O.M. in February 1994. Mediation efforts by the UN, U.S., and EU brokered
an interim solution to some of these differences in September 1995, leading to
the lifting of the Greek embargo. Since the signing of these interim accords,
the two governments have concluded agreements designed to facilitate the
movement of people and goods across their common border and improve bilateral
relations. Talks on remaining issues are still being held under UN auspices in
Greece 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
widespread allegations of mistreatment by Albanian authorities of the Greek
ethnic minority in southern Albania. A wave of Albanian illegal economic
migrants to Greece exacerbated tensions. The crisis in Greek-Albanian relations
reached its peak in the summer of 1994, when an Albanian court sentenced five
members (a sixth member was added later) of the ethnic Greek organization
"Omonia" to prison terms on charges of undermining the Albanian state. Greece
responded by freezing all EU aid to Albania and deporting tens of thousands of
illegal Albanians. In December 1994, however, Greece began to permit limited EU
aid to Albania, while Albania released two of the Omonia defendants and reduced
the sentences of the remaining four.
Today, relations between the two countries are good, and, at the
Albanian Government's request, about 250 Greek military personnel are stationed
in Albania to assist with training and restructuring the Albanian armed forces.
Greece and Turkey enjoyed good relations in the 1930s, but
relations began to deteriorate in the mid-1950s, sparked by the Cyprus
independence struggle and Turkish violence directed against the Greek minority
in Istanbul. The July 1974 coup against Cyprus President Makarios -- inspired
by the Greek military junta in Athens -- and the subsequent Turkish military
intervention in Cyprus helped bring about the fall of the Greek military
dictatorship. It also led to the de facto division of Cyprus. Since then,
Greece has strongly supported Greek-Cypriot efforts, calling for the removal of
Turkish troops and the restoration of a unified state. The Republic of Cyprus
has received strong support from Greece in international forums. Greece has a
military contingent on Cyprus, and Greek officers fill some key positions in
the Greek Cypriot National Guard, as permitted by the constitution of Cyprus.
Other issues dividing Greece and Turkey involve the delimitation
of the continental shelf in the Aegean Sea, territorial waters and airspace,
and the condition of the Greek minority in Turkey and the Muslim minority in
Greece. Greek and Turkish officials held meetings in the 1970s to discuss
differences on Aegean questions, but Greece discontinued these discussions in
the fall of 1981. In 1983, Greece and Turkey held talks on trade and tourism,
but these were suspended by Greece when Turkey recognized the Turkish-Cypriot
declaration of an independent state in northern Cyprus in November 1983.
After a dangerous dispute in the Aegean in March 1987 concerning
oil drilling rights, the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey exchanged
messages exploring the possibility of resolving the dispute over the
continental shelf. Greece wanted the dispute to be decided by the International
Court of Justice. Turkey preferred bilateral political discussions. In early
1988, the Turkish and Greek Prime Ministers met at Davos, Switzerland, and
later in Brussels. They agreed on various measures to reduce bilateral tensions
and to encourage cooperation. New tensions over the Aegean surfaced in November
1994, precipitated by Greece's ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty and
its ensuing statement that it reserved the right to declare a 12-mile
territorial sea boundary around its Aegean islands as permitted by the treaty.
Turkey stated that it would consider any such action a cause for war. New
technical-level bilateral discussions began in 1994 but quickly fizzled.
In January 1996, Greece and Turkey came close to an armed
confrontation over the question of which country had sovereignty over an islet
in the Aegean. In July 1997, on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid,
Greek and Turkish leaders reached agreement on six principles to govern their
bilateral relations. Within a few months, however, the two countries were again
at odds over Aegean airspace and sovereignty issues. Tensions remain high.
However, the two countries are discussing, under the auspices of the NATO
Secretary General, various confidence-building measures to reduce the risk of
military accidents or conflict in the Aegean.
The Middle East
Greece has 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 made numerous trips to the region in order to
strengthen bilateral ties and encourage the Middle East Peace Process. In July
and December 1997, Greece hosted meetings of Israeli and Palestinian
politicians to contribute to the peace process. Greece hosted another such
meeting in July 1998.
The U.S. and Greece have long-standing 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 U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Greece; U.S. foreign
investment in Greece was about $1.5 billion in 1994.
About 1.1 million Americans are of Greek origin. The large,
well-organized Greek-American community in the U.S. cultivates close political
and cultural ties with Greece. Greece has the seventh-largest population of
U.S. Social Security beneficiaries in the world.
During the Greek civil war of 1946-49, the U.S. proclaimed the
Truman Doctrine, promising assistance to governments resisting communist
subjugation, and began a period of substantial financial and military aid. The
U.S. 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
assistance has continued. In fiscal year 1995, Greece was the fourth-largest
recipient of U.S. security assistance, receiving loans totaling $255.15 million
in foreign military financing.
In 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 current mutual
defense cooperation agreement (MDCA) provides for continued U.S. military
assistance to Greece and the operation by the U.S. of a major military facility
at Souda Bay, Crete.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador -- R. Nicholas Burns
Deputy Chief of Mission --
Political Counselor -- Alexander Karagiannis
Counselor -- Jack Felt
Principal Commercial Officer -- Patrick Santillo
Consul General -- Betsy Anderson
Administrative Counselor -- Jacqueline
Regional Security Officer -- William Gaskill
-- Elizabeth Berry (resident in Rome)
Public Diplomacy Counselor -- Arlene
The U.S. embassy in Greece is located at 91 Vasilissis Sophias
Blvd., 10160 Athens; tel:  (1) 721-2951 or 721-8401, after hours 722-3652;
fax:  (1) 645-6282.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. 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 which 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.
Emergency 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.
Passport information can be obtained by calling the National
Passport Information Center's automated system ($.35 per minute) or live
operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number
is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat
rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648). It also is
available on the internet.
Travelers 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
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. (202) 512-1800.
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).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous
areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may
help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on
the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign
policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; daily
press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of
foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an
annual basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official
foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA
15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S.
Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related
information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the
NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.