U.S. Department of State
Background Note: Greece, October 1998

Official Name: Hellenic Republic

PROFILE

Geography

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.



People

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.

Government

Type: Presidential parliamentary republic.

Independence: 1830.

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 
nomi (prefectures).

Economy (1997)

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.


GEOGRAPHY

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 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 
partners.

PEOPLE

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 
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. 



HISTORY

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 
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 
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 
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 Democracy 108.



GOVERNMENT



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 
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 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.

ECONOMY

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 $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.

Principal Sectors

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. 

EU Membership

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 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.

FOREIGN RELATIONS


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 
Greek-American relations.

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.

Albania

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-Turkey Relations

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 plans to host another such meeting in July 
1998.


U.S.-GREECE RELATIONS

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 -- 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: [30] (1) 721-2951 or 721-8401, after hours 722-3652; 
fax: [30] (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 
instability,
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:
http://travel.state.gov
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 
publication
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, 
Pittsburgh,
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
202-647-4000. 

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-
3648)

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
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; 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
information. 

[End of Document]


Return to Europe Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage