U.S. Department of State
Background Note: Greece, October 1998
Official Name: Hellenic Republic
Area: 131,957 sq. km. (51,146 sq. mi.; roughly the size of Alabama).
Major cities: Greater Athens (pop. 3,096,775), municipality of Athens
(748,110), 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, dry summer.
Population: 11.5 million.
Growth rate: 0.4%.
Languages: Greek 99%, other 1%.
Religions: Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1%, other 1%.
Education: Years compulsory -- 9. Literacy -- 93%. All levels are free.
Health: Infant mortality rate --
8/1,000. Life expectancy--male 74 years, female 79 years.
Work force: 4.85 million.
Type: Presidential parliamentary republic.
Constitution: June 11, 1975, amended March 1986.
Branches: 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 18.
Administrative subdivisions: 13 peripheries (regional districts), 51
GDP: $121 billion.
Per capita GDP: $11,428.
Growth rate: 3.5%.
Inflation rate: 5.4%.
Unemployment rate: 10%.
Natural 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 products.
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 -- $11 billion: manufactured goods, food and beverages,
petroleum products, cement, chemicals. Major markets -- Germany, Italy,
France, U.S., U.K. Imports -- $28 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
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 and SFOR in Bosnia. 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
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 second
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 gain admission to Greek
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
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
U.S. 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 Soviet Union.
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
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
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
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 Democracy 108.
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 duties.
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 can also 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 (nomarchies), each headed by a
prefect (nomarch), 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 controls.
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 required textbooks.
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
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 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 Council for
Radio and Television. In practice, however, official licensing has not
been implemented. 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 working on a proposal to
reallocate TV frequencies and issue licenses.
Principal Government Officials
President -- Konstandinos Stephanopoulos
Prime Minister -- Constantine Simitis
Foreign Minister -- Theodhoros Pangalos
Ambassador to the U.S. -- Alexandros Philon
Ambassador to the UN -- Khristos Zakharakis
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
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 $26.9 billion at the end of 1993. The
general government debt was $129 billion at the end of 1995, or 120% of
GDP. Greece's external debt was $32.7 billion at the end of 1994.
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 for 1994-95, 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 financial crisis.
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 was close to 4.3% in February 1998.
High interest rates are still 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.
Services, including tourism, make up the largest and fastest-growing
sector of the Greek economy, accounting for about 66.5% of GDP in 1997.
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 $3.7 billion in 1996 and increased somewhat in 1997 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 a successful
shipping industry based on its geographic location and the
entrepreneurial ability of its ship owners. The Greek-owned fleet (all
flags) totaled 3,204 ships (128 million DWT) in 1997.
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
Historically, Greece has been a net beneficiary of the EU budget. Net
payments to Greece increased to $5.1 billion in 1996, representing 5%
of GDP. Net inflows were estimated at about $5 billion in 1997, or 4%
of GDP. These funds contribute significantly to Greece's current
accounts balance and reduce the state budget deficit.
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 provides Greece 16.6 billion ecu ($20
billion) for the period 1994-98 of which 14 billion ecu is from the
Community Support Framework and 2.6 billion ecu is from the Cohesion
Fund. This total will 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.
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 New York.
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
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 plans to host another such meeting in July
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
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 -- Terry Snell
Political Counselor -- Alexander Karagiannis
Economic Counselor -- Jack Felt
Principal Commercial Officer -- Patrick Santillo
Consul General -- Betsy Anderson
Consular Officer -- Jacqueline Briggs
Regional Security Officer -- Timothy Burchfield
Agricultural Officer -- Elizabeth Berry (resident in Rome)
Public Affairs Officer (USIS) -- Robert Callahan
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 Information Program provides Travel
Warnings and Consular Information
Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends
that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information
Sheets exist for all countries and include information on immigration
practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of
crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses
of the U.S. posts in the 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. Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets
also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB,
dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to
33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no
parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100.
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case
is required). The CABB also carries international security information
from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau
of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning
a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954,
PA 15250-7954; 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
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour,
7-day a week 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-
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
A hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives 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
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; Dispatch, the official magazine of U.S. foreign
policy; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides;
directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's
World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov.
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