Europe

Greece country profile

Map of Greece

The historical and cultural heritage of Greece continues to resonate throughout the modern Western world - in its literature, art, philosophy and politics.

Situated in the far south of the Balkan peninsula, Greece combines the towering mountains of the mainland with over 1,400 islands, the largest of which is Crete.

Post-World War II Greece saw rapid economic and social change, with tourism and shipping becoming major contributors to the economy.

The global financial crisis of the late 2000s had a devastating effect on Greece, as the legacy of high public spending and widespread tax evasion combined with the credit crunch and the resulting recession to leave the country with a crippling debt burden.

FACTS

The Hellenic Republic

Capital: Athens

  • Population 11.4 million

  • Area 131,957 sq km (50,949 sq miles)

  • Major language Greek

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 78 years (men), 83 years

  • Currency euro

LEADERS

President: Prokopis Pavlopoulos

Image copyright Getty Images

Born in 1950, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a veteran politician of the centre-right New Democracy Party was elected president by parliament in February 2015.

The vote was the fourth attempt to elect a successor to Karolos Papoulias, of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), after previous failures triggered the downfall of the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and snap parliamentary elections.

The presidency is a largely ceremonial post, as executive power resides with the prime minister.

Prime Minister: Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Image copyright ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images

Kyriakos Mitsotakis led the centre-right New Democracy party to a landslide victory in snap elections in July 2019.

Since taking over as leader of New Democracy in 2016, Mr Mitsotakis has balanced promises of lower taxes and increased investment with a firmly nationalist line on the question of relations with North Macedonia - the main foreign-policy breakthrough of the previous government.

A member of a prominent political dynasty, he has also pledged to negotiate a new deal with foreign creditors to free up funds for economic development.

The outgoing government, an anti-austerity coalition of the left-wing Syriza and right-wing Independent Greeks parties, had to accept tough public-spending demands by the European and International Monetary Fund in the summer of 2015.

This put the economy on course for recovery from crippling levels of indebtedness since the 2008 international credit crunch, but disappointed many of the government's supporters. Aware of this, New Democracy made a strong election pitch to those younger Greeks who still endure high levels of unemployment.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

Television is Greece's most popular medium. Established privately-owned networks operate alongside the public broadcaster ERT.

The government has sought to regulate the TV sector, and five national networks were licensed in 2018.

Media outlets have had to weather Greece's economic crisis. Some outlets have made cuts and others have closed altogether.

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TIMELINE

Some key dates in Greek history:

1821-1829 - Greek War of Independence from Ottoman Empire.

1832 - Prince Otto of Bavaria is chosen as the first king of independent Greece.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption View of Athens from the Acropolis

1919-22 - Greco-Turkish War - Greek invasion of Asia Minor prompted by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War 1 is defeated by Turkish forces.

1924 - Greeks vote for the abolition of the monarchy, country becomes republic.

1936 - General Ioannis Metaxas appointed prime minister, establishes right-wing dictatorship.

1940 - Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's forces attack Greece from Italian-held Albania, but are repelled.

1941 - Metaxas dies. Greece falls to German forces.

1942 - 1944 - Fierce resistance to the occupation by communist and royalist factions alike.

1944 - British and Greek forces combine to force Nazi withdrawal.

1946 - 1949 - Royalist parties win elections. Ensuing civil war ends with defeat of communist forces.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ships pass through the Corinth canal

1952 - New constitution declares Greece a kingdom ruled by parliamentary democracy. Greece joins Nato.

1967 - Group of army officers seize power in military coup. Elections are postponed indefinitely and Col George Papadopoulos takes office as prime minister.

1973 - Greece declared a republic, the monarchy is abolished and Papadopoulos assumes the presidency.

1974 - A Greece-backed coup against President Makarios of Cyprus is followed by Turkish invasion and occupation of north of the island.

1975 - New constitution declares Greece a parliamentary republic with some executive powers vested in a president.

1980 - Conservative Constantine Karamanlis elected president.

1981 - Greece joins EU. Andreas Papandreou's Socialist Party (Pasok) wins elections.

2008 - World credit crunch plunges Greece into a severe government debt crisis, resulting in tight austerity and a dramatic fall in living standards.

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