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Economy of Greece

Greece adopted the euro (€) as its currency in January 2002. The adoption of the euro provided Greece (formerly a high inflation risk country under the drachma) with access to competitive loan rates and also to low rates of the Eurobond market. This led to a dramatic increase in consumer spending, which gave a significant boost to economic growth. Between 1997-2007, Greece averaged 4% GDP growth, almost twice the European Union (EU) average. As with other European countries, the financial crisis and resulting slowdown of the real economy have taken their toll on Greece’s rate of growth, which slowed to 2.0% in 2008. The economy went into recession in 2009 and contracted by 2.0% as a result of the world financial crisis and its impact on access to credit, world trade, and domestic consumption--the engine of growth in Greece. High growth and low interest rates had masked major fiscal and structural weaknesses that were aggravated by the global financial crisis and ensuing recession. As a result of a high 2009 fiscal deficit (recently revised upwards by Eurostat to 15.4% of GDP from 13.6% of GDP), mounting aging and entitlement costs, and deteriorating competitiveness resulting from higher than Eurozone-average inflation and rigidities in product and labor markets, markets in early 2010 began to question the sustainability of Greece’s public debt (2009 debt recently revised upward by Eurostat from 115.1% of GDP to 126.8% of GDP). Ever-increasing market doubts and pressures resulted in higher and higher borrowing costs throughout the winter and spring of 2010. Eventually, unsustainable borrowing costs caused Greece to lose market access, forcing the Prime Minister on April 23, 2010 to request an emergency assistance program from his Euro-area partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In early May, the Greek parliament, Euro-area leaders, and the IMF Executive Board approved a 3-year €110 billion (about $145 billion) adjustment program to be monitored jointly by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF. Under the program, Greece has promised to undertake major fiscal consolidation and to implement substantial structural reforms in order to place its debt on a more sustainable path and improve its competitiveness so that the economy can re-enter a positive growth trajectory. Specifically, the 3-year reform program includes measures to cut government spending, reduce the size of the public sector, tackle tax evasion, reform the health care and pension systems, and liberalize the labor and product markets. Greece has committed to reduce its deficit to under 3% of GDP (the ceiling under the EU’s Maastricht Treaty) by 2014. The global crisis and the consecutive recession caused an increase in unemployment to 9.4% in 2009 (from 7.7% in 2008). Unemployment is expected to continue to increase, reaching 11.8% in 2010, 14.6% in 2011, and 14.8% in 2012, before beginning to decrease in 2013 to 14.3%. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Greece have dropped, and efforts to revive them have been only partially successful as a result of declining competitiveness and a high level of red tape and bureaucracy. At the same time, Greek investment in Southeast Europe has increased, leading to a net FDI outflow in some years. Greece has a predominately service economy, which (including tourism) accounts for over 73% of GDP. Almost 9% of the world’s merchant fleet is Greek-owned, making the Greek fleet the largest in the world. Other important sectors include food processing, tobacco, textiles, chemicals (including refineries), pharmaceuticals, cement, glass, telecommunication and transport equipment. Agricultural output has steadily decreased in importance over the last decade, accounting now for only about 5% of total GDP. The EU is Greece’s major trading partner, with more than half of all Greek two-way trade being intra-EU. Greece runs a perennial merchandise trade deficit, and 2009 imports totaled $64 billion against exports of $21 billion. Tourism and shipping receipts together with EU transfers make up for much of this deficit. European Union (EU) Membership Greece has been a major net beneficiary of the EU budget; in 2009, EU transfers accounted for 2.35% of GDP. From 1994-99, about $20 billion in EU structural funds and Greek national financing 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 continue, with approximately $24 billion in structural funds for the period 2000-2006. The same level of EU funding, $24 billion, has been allocated for Greece for 2007-2013. 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. The EU plans to phase them out in 2013. U.S.-Greece Trade In 2008, the U.S. trade surplus with Greece was $1.1 billion. There are no significant non-tariff barriers to American exports. U.S. exports to Greece reached $2.4 billion, accounting for 2.7% of Greece's total imports in 2008. The top U.S. exports remain defense articles, 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. Economy (2010) GDP (2010 forecast): €236 billion (about $315 billion). Per capita GDP (2009 estimated): $30,035. Growth rate (2010 forecast): -4.00%. Inflation rate (2010 forecast): 4.6%. Unemployment rate (annual average, 2010 forecast): 11.8%. Natural resources: Bauxite, lignite, magnesite, oil, marble. Agriculture (5.4% of GDP): Products --sugar beets, wheat, maize, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, grapes, raisins, wine, oranges, peaches, tobacco, cotton, livestock, dairy products. Manufacturing (21.3% of GDP): Types --processed foods, shoes, textiles, metals, chemicals, electrical equipment, cement, glass, transport equipment, petroleum products, construction, electrical power. Services (73.3% of GDP): Transportation, tourism, communications, trade, banking, public administration, defense. Trade: Exports (2009 estimated)--$21.37 billion: manufactured goods, food and beverages, petroleum products, cement, chemicals. Major markets --Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, U.S., U.K., Romania. Imports (2009 estimated)--$64.27 billion: basic manufactures, food and animals, crude oil, chemicals, machinery, transport equipment. Major suppliers --Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, Russia.

Geography of Greece

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. Location: Southern Europe, bordering the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, between Albania and Turkey Map references: Europe Area: total area: 131,940 sq km land area: 130,800 sq km comparative area: slightly smaller than Alabama Land boundaries: total 1,210 km, Albania 282 km, Bulgaria 494 km, Turkey 206 km, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 228 km Coastline: 13,676 km Maritime claims: continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation territorial sea: 6 nm International disputes: complex maritime, air, and territorial disputes with Turkey in Aegean Sea; Cyprus question; dispute with The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over name, symbols, and certain constitutional provisions; Greece is involved in a bilateral dispute with Albania over border demarcation, the treatment of Albania's ethnic Greek minority, and migrant Albanian workers in Greece Climate: temperate; mild, wet winters; hot, dry summers
mostly mountains with ranges extending into sea as peninsulas or chains of islands Natural resources: bauxite, lignite, magnesite, petroleum, marble Land use: arable land: 23% permanent crops: 8% meadows and pastures: 40% forest and woodland: 20% other: 9% Irrigated land: 11,900 sq km (1989 est.) Environment: current issues: air pollution; water pollution natural hazards: severe earthquakes international agreements: party to - Air Pollution, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Wetlands; signed, but not ratified - Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea. Note: strategic location dominating the Aegean Sea and southern approach to Turkish Straits; a peninsular country, possessing an archipelago of about 2,000 islands.

Government of Greece

Greece is a parliamentary republic and last amended its constitution in May 2008. 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. Greece is implementing a program (“Kallikratis”) that reorganized and consolidated its system of local governments into 13 regional districts and 325 municipalities. Suffrage is universal at 18. Domestic Terrorism Greece has recently confronted an upsurge in domestic terrorism after successfully dismantling groups that had been active from the 1970s to the early 2000s. In the summer of 2002, Greek authorities captured numerous suspected members of the terrorist group "November 17." In 2003, 15 members of the terrorist organization, which since 1975 had killed many prominent Greeks and five U.S. Mission employees, were found guilty and convicted of a number of crimes, including homicide. In 2007, an appellate court acquitted two of the defendants, but otherwise largely upheld the results of the initial trial, leaving the leadership of the defunct group serving multiple life sentences and others serving long prison terms. The defendants exhausted their appeals in the Greek legal system in 2010. On January 12, 2007, terrorists fired a rocket-propelled grenade that struck the U.S. Embassy. The terrorist group Revolutionary Struggle later claimed responsibility for the act. Revolutionary Struggle also claimed responsibility for a number of other attacks on Greek officials, police, financial institutions, and other targets. In April 2010, police arrested six suspected members of Revolutionary Struggle, and discovered hideouts containing bombs, rocket launchers, attack plans, and other evidence connected with the group. An additional new group, Sect of Revolutionaries, has claimed responsibility for shooting attacks on police, including the murder of an anti-terrorist unit officer in June 2009, as well as the murder of a Greek journalist in July 2010. A domestic terrorist group called Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei has claimed responsibility for a number of bomb attacks of varying size. Two suspects believed to be connected to the group were arrested for taking part in an October 2010 attack designed to send over a dozen parcel bombs to foreign embassies in Athens and political leaders in Europe. Unknown domestic terrorists carried out bomb attacks that killed a 15-year-old Afghan immigrant boy in March 2010 and an aide to the Minister of Citizen Protection in June 2010. Principal Government Officials President--Karolos Papoulias Prime Minister--George Papandreou Foreign Minister--Dimitris Droutsas Minister of Defense--Evangelos Venizelos Minister of Citizen Protection--Christos Papoutsis Ambassador to the United States--Vassilis Kaskarelis Ambassador to the United Nations--Anastasios Mitsialis Greece's embassy in the United States is located at 2221 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: (202) 939-5800; fax: (202) 939-5824. Type: Parliamentary republic. Independence: 1830. Constitution: June 11, 1975, amended March 1986, April 2001, May 2008. Branches: Executive--president (head of state), prime minister (head of government). Legislative--300-seat unicameral Vouli (parliament). Judicial--Supreme Court. Council of State. Political parties: New Democracy (ND), Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Coalition of the Left (SYNASPISMOS), and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). Suffrage is universal and mandatory at 18. Administrative subdivisions: 13 peripheries (regional districts), 51 nomi (prefectures).

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History of Greece

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, Bavarian prince Otto. 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. 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. Under the influence of the "Meagali Idea," of expanding the Greek state to include all areas of Greek population, Greece aquired 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. 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 marched toward Ankara, but was defeated by Turkish forces led by Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk) and forced to withdraw. In a forced exchange of populations, more than 1.3 million Christian refugees from Turkey poured into Greece, creating enormous challenges for the Greek economy and society. 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. A plebiscite in 1946 upheld the monarchy, which was finally abolished by referendum on December 8, 1974. Greece's 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. 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 millions of dollars to rebuilding Greece in terms of buildings, agriculture, and industry. In August 1949, the 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 deep political division in Greek society between leftist and rightist. 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 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, 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 in 1985. 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 Mitsotakis fired his Foreign Minister, Andonis Samaras in 1992, the rift led to the collapse of the ND government and new elections in September 1993 won again by Andreas Papandreou's PASOK. On 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, gaining 158 seats to ND's 125. Parliamentary elections were held March 8, 2004, and ND won 165 seats to PASOK's 117; Konstantinos Karamanlis, ND leader and the nephew of the former prime minister, became Prime Minister. Karolos Papoulias was elected President by Parliament in February 2005. Most recently, parliamentary elections were held September 16, 2007. ND won 152 seats to PASOK’s 102; Karamanlis was re-elected Prime Minister. Greece's 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, which the PASOK government began in 1997 and the New Democracy government of Karamanlis completed in 2004. In December 2008, violent protests by "anarchists" and, later, students and labor groups, broke out in Athens and other Greek cities following the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy by the police. Athens, in particular, suffered damage in its commercial center, where hundreds of shops and cars were burned and looting was reported. The Karamanlis government came under criticism by the opposition for the shooting of the teenager, with PASOK demanding early elections.

People of Greece

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. 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. The roots of Greek language and culture date 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 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 centuries-old Muslim religious minority concentrated in Thrace and an estimated 300,000 legal Muslim immigrants living elsewhere in the country. Smaller religious communities in Greece include Old Calendar Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons. Greek 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) have campuses in Greece despite the fact that their degrees are not recognized by the Greek state. Entrance to public universities is determined by state-administered exams. Population (2010 est.): 11,295,002. (Legal immigrants make up approximately 6.95% of the population.) Population growth rate (2010 estimated): 0.1%. Languages: Greek 99% (official), Turkish, others. Albanian is spoken by approximately 700,000 Albanian immigrants. English is the predominant second language. Religions: Greek Orthodox (approximately 98% of citizens), with Muslim (1.5%), Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and other religious communities. Education: Years compulsory --9. Literacy --97.5%. All levels are free. Health: Infant mortality rate --5.43/1,000. Life expectancy --male 77.69 years, female 82.35 years. Work force (2009 estimated): 5.0 million.

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