Greece

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Europe; European Countries

Ελληνική Δημοκρατία
Ellinikí Dimokratía
Hellenic Republic
Flag of Greece Coat of Arms of Greece
Flag Coat of Arms
Motto: Ελευθερία ή θάνατος
Eleftheria i thanatos  ( transliteration)
"Freedom or Death"
Anthem: Ύμνος εις την Ελευθερίαν
Ýmnos eis tīn Eleutherían
Hymn to Liberty1
Location of Greece
Location of  Greece  (dark green)

– on the European continent  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  —  [Legend]

Capital
(and largest city)
Athens
Official languages Greek
Demonym Greek
Government Parliamentary republic
 -  President Karolos Papoulias
 -  Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis
 -  Speaker Dimitris Sioufas
Modern statehood
 -  Independence from
the Ottoman Empire

25 March 1821 
 -  Recognized 3 February 1830, in the London Protocol 
 -  Current constitution 1975, "Third Republic" 
EU accession January 1, 1981
Area
 -  Total 131,990 km² ( 96th)
50,944  sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.8669
Population
 -  2008 estimate 11,216,708 ( 74th)
 -  2001 census 10,964,020 
 -  Density 84/km² ( 88th)
218/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2008 IMF estimate
 -  Total $342.886 billion ( 32nd)
 -  Per capita $30,745 ( 30th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 IMF estimate
 -  Total $361.577 billion ( 27th)
 -  Per capita $32,421 ( 27th)
Gini (2000) 35.42 (low
HDI (2005) 0.926 (high) ( 24th)
Currency Euro ( €)3 ( EUR)
Time zone EET ( UTC+2)
 -  Summer ( DST) EEST ( UTC+3)
Internet TLD .gr4
Calling code +30
1 Also the national anthem of Cyprus.
2 UNU/Wider World Income Inequality Database.
3 Before 2001: Greek Drachma.
4 The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Greece ( Greek: Ελλάδα, Elláda, IPA [ɛˈlaða], or Ελλάς, Ellás, [ɛˈlas]), officially the Hellenic Republic [Ελληνική Δημοκρατία (ɛliniˈkʲi ðimokraˈtia)], is a country in southeastern Europe, situated on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. It has borders with Albania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the north, and Turkey to the east. The Aegean Sea lies to the east and south of mainland Greece, while the Ionian Sea lies to the west. Both parts of the Eastern Mediterranean basin feature a vast number of islands.

Greece lies at the juncture of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is heir to the heritages of ancient Greece, the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule. Greece is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama including both tragedy and comedy.

Greece is a developed country, a member of the European Union since 1981, a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union since 2001, NATO since 1952, the OECD since 1961, the WEU since 1995 and ESA since 2005. Athens is the capital; Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion, Volos, Ioannina, Larissa and Kavala are some of the country's other major cities.

History

The Parthenon in Athens.
The Parthenon in Athens.

The shores of the Aegean sea saw the emergence of the first advanced civilizations in Europe, the Minoan civilization in Crete and the Mycenean civilization on the mainland. Later, city-states emerged across the Greek peninsula and spread to the shores of Black Sea, South Italy and Asia Minor reaching great levels of prosperity that resulted in an unprecedented cultural boom, expressed in architecture, drama, science and philosophy, and nurtured in Athens under a democratic environment. Athens and Sparta led the way in repelling the Persian Empire in a series of battles. Both were later overshadowed by Thebes and eventually Macedon, with the latter under the guidance of Alexander the Great uniting and leading the Greek world to victory over the Persians, to presage the Hellenistic era, itself brought only partially to a close two centuries later with the establishment of Roman rule over Greek lands in 146 BC.

The subsequent mixture of Roman and Hellenic cultures took form in the establishment of the Byzantine Empire in 330 AD around Constantinople, which remained a major cultural and military power for the next 1,123 years, until its fall at the hands of Ottomans in 1453. On the eve of the Ottoman era the Greek intelligentsia migrated to Western Europe, playing a significant role in the Western European Renaissance through the transferring of works of Ancient Greeks to Western Europe. Nevertheless, the Ottoman millet system contributed to the ethnic cohesion of Orthodox people by segregating the various peoples within the Ottoman Empire based on religion as the latter played an integral role in the formation of modern Greek identity.

After the Greek War of Independence, successfully fought against the Ottoman Empire from 1821 to 1829, the nascent Greek state was finally recognized under the London Protocol. In 1827, Ioannis Kapodistrias, a noble Greek from the Ionian Islands, was chosen as the first governor of the new Republic. However, following his assassination, the Great Powers soon installed a monarchy under Otto, of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach. In 1843, an uprising forced the King to grant a constitution and a representative assembly. Due to his unimpaired authoritarian rule, he was eventually dethroned in 1863 and replaced by Prince Vilhelm (William) of Denmark, who took the name George I and brought with him the Ionian Islands as a coronation gift from Britain. In 1877, Charilaos Trikoupis, a dominant figure of the Greek political scene who is attributed with the significant improvement of the country's infrastructure, curbed the power of the monarchy to interfere in the assembly by issuing the rule of vote of confidence to any potential prime minister.

March 25, 1821: Germanos of Patras, blessing the Greek flag at Agia Lavra. Theodoros Vryzakis, 1865.
March 25, 1821: Germanos of Patras, blessing the Greek flag at Agia Lavra. Theodoros Vryzakis, 1865.

As a result of the Balkan Wars, Greece successfully increased the extent of her territory and population, a challenging context both socially and economically. In the following years, the struggle between King Constantine I and charismatic prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos over the country's foreign policy on the eve of World War I dominated the country's political scene, and divided the country into two bitterly hostile factions.

In the aftermath of WW I, Greece fought against Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal, a war which resulted in a massive population exchange between the two countries under the Treaty of Lausanne. Instability and successive coup d'etats marked the following era, which was overshadowed by the massive task of incorporating 1.5 million Greek refugees from Asia Minor into Greek society. On 28 October 1940 Fascist Italy demanded the surrender of Greece, but the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas famously responded to the Italian ultimatum with the single word "OXI" ("No"). In the following Greco-Italian War, Greece repelled Italian forces into Albania, giving the Allies their first victory over Axis forces on land. The country would eventually fall to urgently dispatched German forces during the Battle of Greece, but the occupiers nevertheless met serious challenges from the Greek Resistance.

After liberation, Greece experienced a bitter civil war between Royalist and Communist forces, which led to economic devastation and severe social tensions between its Rightists and largely Communist Leftists for the next 30 years. The next 20 years were characterized by marginalisation of the left in the political and social spheres but also by a significant economic growth, propelled in part by the Marshall Plan.

In 1965, a period of political turbulence led to a coup d’etat on April 21, 1967 by the US-backed Regime of the Colonels. On November 1973 the Athens Polytechnic Uprising sent shock waves across the regime, and a counter-coup established Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannides as dictator. On July 20, 1974, as Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus, the regime collapsed.

Ex-Premier Constantine Karamanlis was invited back from Paris where he had lived in self-exile since 1963, marking the beginning of the Metapolitefsi era. On the 14 August 1974 Greek forces withdrew from the integrated military structure of NATO in protest at the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus. In 1975 a democratic republican constitution was activated and the monarchy abolished by a referendum held that same year. Meanwhile, Andreas Papandreou founded the Panhellenic Socialist Party, or PASOK, in response to Constantine Karamanlis' New Democracy party, with the two political formations dominating Greek political affairs in the ensuing decades. Greece rejoined NATO in 1980. Relations with neighbouring Turkey have improved substantially over the last decade, since successive earthquakes hit both nations in the summer of 1999 ( see Greek-Turkish earthquake diplomacy), and today Athens is an active supporter of the country's EU membership bid.

Greece became the tenth member of the European Union on January 1, 1981 and ever since the nation has experienced a remarkable and sustained economic growth. Widespread investments in industrial enterprises and heavy infrastructure, as well as funds from the European Union and growing revenues from tourism, shipping and a fast growing service sector have raised the country's standard of living to unprecedented levels. The country adopted the Euro in 2001 and successfully organised the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Government and politics

Great State Seal of the Presidency of the Republic
Great State Seal of the Presidency of the Republic
Eleftherios Venizelos (1864–1936), one of the greatest political figures of modern Greece.
Eleftherios Venizelos (1864–1936), one of the greatest political figures of modern Greece.
Kostas Karamanlis, the current Prime Minister of Greece.
Kostas Karamanlis, the current Prime Minister of Greece.

Greece is a parliamentary republic. The head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected by the Parliament for a five-year term. The current Constitution was drawn up and adopted by the Fifth Revisionary Parliament of the Hellenes and entered into force in 1975 after the fall of the military junta of 1967-1974. It has been revised twice since, in 1986 and in 2001. The Constitution, which consists of 120 articles, provides for a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and grants extensive specific guarantees (further reinforced in 2001) of civil liberties and social rights.

According to the Constitution, executive power is exercised by the President of the Republic and the Government. The Constitutional amendment of 1986 the President's duties were curtailed to a significant extent, and they are now largely ceremonial. The position of Prime Minister, Greece's head of government, belongs to the current leader of the political party that can obtain a vote of confidence by the Parliament. The President of the Republic formally appoints the Prime Minister and, on his recommendation, appoints and dismisses the other members of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister exercises vast political power, and the amendment of 1986 further strengthened his position to the detriment of the President of the Republic.

Legislative power is exercised by a 300-member elective unicameral Parliament. Statutes passed by the Parliament are promulgated by the President of the Republic. Parliamentary elections are held every four years, but the President of the Republic is obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier on the proposal of the Cabinet, in view of dealing with a national issue of exceptional importance. The President is also obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier, if the opposition manages to pass a motion of no confidence.

The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises three Supreme Courts: the Court of Cassation (Άρειος Πάγος), the Council of State (Συμβούλιο της Επικρατείας) and the Court of Auditors (Ελεγκτικό Συνέδριο). The Judiciary system is also composed of civil courts, which judge civil and penal cases and administrative courts, which judge disputes between the citizens and the Greek administrative authorities.

Since the restoration of democracy, the Greek two-party system is dominated by the liberal-conservative New Democracy and the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Other significant parties include the Communist Party of Greece, the Coalition of the Radical Left and the Popular Orthodox Rally. The current prime minister is Kostas Karamanlis, president of the New Democracy party and nephew of the late Constantine Karamanlis, who won a second term on September 16, 2007, acquiring a slimmer majority in the Parliament with only 152 out of 300 seats.

Peripheries and prefectures

Administratively, Greece consists of thirteen peripheries subdivided into a total of fifty-one prefectures (nomoi, singular nomos). There is also one autonomous area, Mount Athos (Agio Oros, "Holy Mountain"), which borders the periphery of Central Macedonia.

Map Number Periphery Capital Area Population
1 Attica Athens 3,808 km² 3,761,810
2 Central Greece Lamia 15,549 km² 605,329
3 Central Macedonia Thessaloniki 18,811 km² 1,871,952
4 Crete Heraklion 8,259 km² 601,131
5 East Macedonia and Thrace Kavála 14,157 km² 611,067
6 Epirus Ioannina 9,203 km² 353,820
7 Ionian Islands Corfu 2,307 km² 212,984
8 North Aegean Mytilene 3,836 km² 206,121
9 Peloponnese Kalamata 15,490 km² 638,942
10 South Aegean Ermoupoli 5,286 km² 302,686
11 Thessaly Larissa 14.037 km² 753,888
12 West Greece Patras 11,350 km² 740,506
13 West Macedonia Kozani 9,451 km² 301,522
- Mount Athos (Autonomous) Karyes 390 km² 2,262

Geography

Map of Greece
'
GREECE
Thessaloniki
Kavala
--- Thasos
Alexandroupoli
-- Samothrace
Corfu
Igoumenitsa
Larissa
Volos
Ioannina
Chalcis
Patras
Corinth
.
Nafplion
.
Areopoli
.
Piraeus
Eleusina
Laurium
Heraklion
M a c e d o n i a
Thrace
Epirus
Thessaly
Euboea
Central Greece
Peloponnese
M.Olympus (2917 m)
Lefkada
Kefalonia
Zakynthos-
Lemnos
Lesbos
Chios
Samos
Andros
Tinos
Mykonos
Icaria
-- Patmos
Naxos
Milos
Kos
Rhodes
Karpathos
Kassos
Kythira
Gavdos
Aegean
Sea
Sea of Crete
Myrtoan
Sea
Ionian
Sea
Crete
Aegean
Islands
Cyclades
Dodecanese
Ionian
Islands

Greece consists of a mountainous mainland jutting out into the sea at the southern end of the Balkans, the Peloponnesus peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth), and numerous islands (around 2,000), including Crete, Euboea, Lesbos, Chios, the Dodecanese and the Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea as well as the Ionian Sea islands. Greece has the tenth longest coastline in the world with 14,880 kilometres (9,246 mi); its land boundary is 1,160 kilometres (721 mi).

Four fifths of Greece consist of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most mountainous in Europe. Western Greece contains a number of lakes and wetlands and it is dominated by the Pindus mountain range. Pindus has a maximum elevation of 2,636 m (8,648 ft) and it is essentially a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps.

The range continues through the western Peloponnese, crosses the islands of Kythera and Antikythera and find its way into southwestern Aegean, in the island of Crete where it eventually ends. (the islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once constituted an extension of the mainland). Pindus is characterized by its high, steep peaks, often dissected by numerous canyons and a variety of other karstic landscapes. Most notably, the impressive Meteora formation consisting of high, steep boulders provides a breathtaking experience for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the area each year.

View of the rocky Meteora formation in central Greece.
View of the rocky Meteora formation in central Greece.
View of Mount Olympus (2,917 metres (9,570 ft)) from the town of Litochoro.
View of Mount Olympus (2,917 metres (9,570 ft)) from the town of Litochoro.

The Vikos-Aoos Gorge is yet another spectacular formation and a popular hotspot for those fond of extreme sports. Mount Olympus,a focal point of Greek culture throughout history is host to the Mytikas peak 2,917 metres (9,570 ft),the highest in the country. Once considered the throne of the Gods, it is today extremely popular among hikers and climbers. Moreover, northeastern Greece features yet another high-altitude mountain range, the Rhodope range, spreading across the periphery of East Macedonia and Thrace; this area is covered with vast, thick, ancient forests. The famous Dadia forest is in the prefecture of Evros, in the far northeast of the country.

Expansive plains are primarily located in the prefectures of Thessaly, Central Macedonia and Thrace. They constitute key economic regions as they are among the few arable places in the country.Rare marine species such as the Pinniped Seals and the Loggerhead Sea Turtle live in the seas surrounding mainland Greece, while its dense forests are home to the endangered brown bear, the lynx, the Roe Deer and the Wild Goat.

Phytogeographically, Greece belongs to the Boreal Kingdom and is shared between the East Mediterranean province of the Mediterranean Region and the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature and Digital Map of European Ecological Regions by the European Environment Agency, the territory of Greece can be subdivided into six ecoregions: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests, Balkan mixed forests, Rodope montane mixed forests, Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests and Crete Mediterranean forests.

Climate

Greece enjoys a typical sunny and warm Mediterranean Climate (View from Fira, the capital of Santorini).
Greece enjoys a typical sunny and warm Mediterranean Climate (View from Fira, the capital of Santorini).

The climate of Greece can be categorised into three types (the Mediterranean, the Alpine and the Temperate) that influence well-defined regions of its territory.The Pindus mountain range strongly affects the climate of the country by making the western side of it (areas prone to the south-westerlies) wetter on average than the areas lying to the east of it ( lee side of the mountains).The Mediterranean type of climate features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete, Eastern Peloponessus and parts of the Sterea Ellada region are mostly affected by this particular type of climate. Temperatures rarely reach extreme values although snowfalls do occur occasionally even in the Cyclades or the Dodecanese during the winter months.

The Alpine type is dominant mainly in the mountainous areas of Northwestern Greece ( Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia) as well as in the central parts of Peloponnese, including the prefectures of Achaia, Arcadia and parts of Laconia, where extensions of the Pindus mountain range pass by). Finally, the Temperate type affects Central Macedonia and East Macedonia and Thrace; it features cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. Athens is located in a transitional area featuring both the Mediterranean and the Temperate types.The city's northern suburbs are dominated by the temperate type while the downtown area and the southern suburbs enjoy a typical Mediterranean type.

Economy

Greek 2 euro coin in commemoration of the 2004 Olympic Games.
Greek 2 euro coin in commemoration of the 2004 Olympic Games.

Greece operates a mixed economy that produced a GDP of $305.595 billion in 2006. Its principal economic activities include tourism and shipping industries, banking and finance, manufacturing and construction and telecommunications. The country serves as the regional business hub for many of the world's largest multinational companies.

The people of Greece enjoy a high standard of living. Greece ranks 24th in the 2006 HDI, 22nd on The Economist's 2005 world-wide quality-of-life index, and, according to the International Monetary Fund it has an estimated average per capita income of $35,166 for the year 2007, comparable to that of Germany, France or Italy and approximately equal to the EU average.

Greece's present prosperity is largely owed to the post-World War II " Greek economic miracle" (when GDP growth averaged 7% between 1950 and 1973), the implementation of a number of structural and fiscal reforms, combined with considerable European Union funding over the last twenty-five years and increasing private consumption and investments. The latter facts have contributed to a consistent annual growth of the Greek GDP that was surpassing the respective one of most of its other EU partners.

The island of Mykonos is one of the top European tourism destinations.
The island of Mykonos is one of the top European tourism destinations.

Today, the service industry (74.4%) makes up the largest, most vital and fastest-growing sector of the Greek economy, followed by industry (20.6%) and agriculture (5.1%). The tourism industry is a major source of foreign exchange earnings and revenue accounting for 15% of Greece’s total GDP and employing (directly or indirectly) 659,719 people (or 16.5% of total employment). Additionally Greek banks have invested heavily in the Balkan region: most notably the National Bank of Greece in 2006 acquired 46% of the shares of Finansbank in Turkey and 99.44% of Serbia's Vojvođanska Bank.The manufacturing sector accounts for about 13% of GDP with the food industry leading in growth, profit and 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. Construction (10%GDP) and agriculture (7%) are yet two other significant sectors of the Greek economic activity. Greece is the leading investor in all of her Balkan neighbors.

Maritime industry

Aerial view of Thessaloniki's central districts. Thessaloniki is Greece's second largest city and a major economic, industrial, commercial and cultural center.
Aerial view of Thessaloniki's central districts. Thessaloniki is Greece's second largest city and a major economic, industrial, commercial and cultural centre.

The shipping industry is a key element of Greek economic activity dating back to ancient times. Today, shipping is one of the country's most important industries. It accounts for 4.5% of GDP, employs about 160,000 people (4% of the workforce), and represents 1/3 of the country's trade deficit.

During the 1960s the size of the Greek fleet nearly doubled, primarily through the investment undertaken by the shipping magnates Onassis and Niarchos. The basis of the modern Greek maritime industry was formed after World War II when Greek shipping businessmen were able to amass surplus ships sold to them by the United States Government through the Ship Sales Act of the 1940s. According to the BTS, the Greek-owned maritime fleet is today the largest in the world, with 3,079 vessels accounting for 18% of the world's fleet capacity (making it the largest of any other country) with a total dwt of 141,931 thousand (142 million dwt). In terms of ship categories, Greece ranks first in both tankers and dry bulk carriers, fourth in the number of containers, and fourth in other ships. However, today's fleet roster is smaller than an all-time high of 5,000 ships in the late 70's.

Science and technology

The Rio-Antirio bridge near the city of Patras is the longest cable-stayed bridge in Europe and second in the world. It connects the Peloponnese with mainland Greece.
The Rio-Antirio bridge near the city of Patras is the longest cable-stayed bridge in Europe and second in the world. It connects the Peloponnese with mainland Greece.

Because of its strategic location, qualified workforce and political and economic stability, many multinational companies such as Ericsson, Siemens, SAP, Motorola and Coca-Cola have their regional R&D Headquarters in Greece.

The General Secretariat for Research and Technology of the Hellenic Ministry of Development is responsible for designing, implementing and supervising national research and technological policy.

In 2003, public spending on R&D was 456,37 million Euros (12,6% increase from 2002). Total research and development (R&D) spending (both public and private) as a percentage of GDP has increased considerably since the beginning of the past decade, from 0,38% in 1989, to 0,65% in 2001. R&D spending in Greece remains lower than the EU average of 1,93%, but, according to Research DC, based on OECD and Eurostat data, between 1990 and 1998, total R&D expenditure in Greece enjoyed the third highest increase in Europe, after Finland and Ireland.

Greece's technology parks with incubator facilities include the Science and Technology Park of Crete (Heraklion), the Thessaloniki Technology Park,the Lavrio Technology Park and the Patras Science Park.Greece has been a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 2005. Cooperation between ESA and the Hellenic National Space Committee began in the early 1990s. In 1994, Greece and ESA signed their first cooperation agreement. Having formally applied for full membership in 2003, Greece became ESA's sixteenth member on March 16 2005. As member of the ESA, Greece participates in the agency's telecommunication and technology activities, and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security Initiative.

Demographics

The Hermoupolis port in the island of Syros is the capital of the Cyclades.
The Hermoupolis port in the island of Syros is the capital of the Cyclades.

The official Statistical body of Greece is the National Statistical Service of Greece (NSSG). According to the NSSG, Greece's total population in 2001 was 10,964,020. That figure is divided into 5,427,682 males and 5,536,338 females. As statistics from 1971, 1981, and 2001 show, the Greek population has been aging the past several decades. The birth rate in 2003 stood 9.5 per 1,000 inhabitants (14.5 per 1,000 in 1981). At the same time the mortality rate increased slightly from 8.9 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1981 to 9.6 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2003. In 2001, 16.71% of the population were 65 years old and older, 68.12% between the ages of 15 and 64 years old, and 15.18% were 14 years old and younger. In 1971 the figures were 10.92%, 63.72%, and 25.36% respectively. Greek society has also rapidly changed with the passage of time. Marriage rates kept falling from almost 71 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1981 until 2002, only to increase slightly in 2003 to 61 per 1,000 and then fall again to 51 in 2004. Divorce rates on the other hand, have seen an increase – from 191.2 per 1,000 marriages in 1991 to 239.5 per 1,000 marriages in 2004. Almost two-thirds of the Greek people live in urban areas. Greece's largest municipalities in 2001 were: Athens (745,514), Thessaloniki (363,987), Piraeus (175,697), Patras (161,114), Iraklio (133,012), Larissa (124,786), and Volos (82,439).

Minorities

Traditional non-Greek language zones in Greece. Note: Greek is the dominant language throughout Greece; inclusion in a non-Greek language zone does not necessarily imply that the relevant minority language is still spoken there, or that its speakers consider themselves an ethnic minority.
Traditional non-Greek language zones in Greece. Note: Greek is the dominant language throughout Greece; inclusion in a non-Greek language zone does not necessarily imply that the relevant minority language is still spoken there, or that its speakers consider themselves an ethnic minority.

The only minority in Greece that has a specially recognized legal status is the Muslim minority (Μουσουλμανική μειονότητα, Mousoulmanikí meionótita) in Thrace, which amounts to approximately 0.95% of the total population. Its members are predominantly of Turkish, Pomak and Roma ethnic origins. Other recognized minorities include approximately 35,000 Armenians and 5,500 Jews.

There are also a number of linguistic minority groups, whose members speak a non-Greek language in addition to Greek and generally identify ethnically as Greeks. These include the Arvanites, who speak a form of Albanian known as Arvanitika and the Aromanians and Moglenites, also known as Vlachs, whose languages are closely related to Romanian.

In northern Greece there are also Slavic-speaking groups, whose members identify ethnically as Greeks in their majority. Their dialects can be linguistically classified as forms of either Macedonian (locally called Slavomacedonian or simply Slavic), or Bulgarian (distinguished as Pomak in the case of the Bulgarophone Muslim Pomaks of Thrace).

Immigration

Due to the complexity of Greek immigration policy, practices and data collection, truly reliable data on immigrant populations in Greece is difficult to gather and therefore subject to much speculation. A study from the Mediterranean Migration Observatory maintains that the 2001 Census from the NSSG recorded 762,191 persons residing in Greece without Greek citizenship, constituting around 7% of total population and that, of these, 48,560 were EU or EFTA nationals and 17,426 Cypriots with privileged status.

The greatest cluster of non-EU immigrant population is in the Municipality of Athens –some 132,000 immigrants, at 17% of local population. Thessaloniki is the second largest cluster, with 27,000, reaching 7% of local population. After this, the predominant areas of location are the big cities environs and the agricultural areas. At the same time, Albanians constituted some 56% of total immigrants, followed by Bulgarians (5%), Georgians (3%) and Romanians (3%). Americans, Cypriots, British and Germans appeared as sizeable foreign communities at around 2% each of total foreign population. The rest were around 690,000 persons of non-EU or non-homogeneis (of non-Greek heritage) status.

According to the same study, the foreign population (documented and undocumented) residing in Greece may in reality figure upwards to 8.5% or 10.3%, that is approximately meaning 1.15 million - if immigrants with homogeneis cards are accounted for.

Religion

Stavronikita monastery, a Greek Orthodox monastery in Athos peninsula, northern Greece.
Stavronikita monastery, a Greek Orthodox monastery in Athos peninsula, northern Greece.

The constitution of Greece recognizes the Greek Orthodox faith as the "prevailing" religion of the country, while guaranteeing freedom of religious belief for all. The Greek Government does not keep statistics on religious groups and censuses do not ask for religious affiliation. According to the State Department, an estimated 97% of Greek citizens identify themselves as Greek Orthodox.

In the Eurostat - Eurobarometer poll of 2005, 81% of Greek citizens responded that they believe there is a God, whereas 16% answered that they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force, and 3% that they do not believe there is a God, spirit, nor life force. Greece's percentage of respondents asserting that they believe there is a God was the third highest among EU members behind Malta and Cyprus.

Estimates of the recognised Muslim minority, which is mostly located in Thrace, range from 98,000 to 140,000, (between 0.9% and 1.2%) while the immigrant Muslim community numbers between 200,000 and 300,000. Albanian immigrants to Greece are usually associated with the Muslim faith, although most are secular in orientation.

Judaism has existed in Greece for more than 2,000 years. Sephardi Jews used to have a large presence in the city of Thessaloniki, but nowadays the Greek-Jewish community who survived the Holocaust is estimated to number around 5,500 people.

Greek members of Roman Catholic faith are estimated at 50,000 with the Roman Catholic immigrant community approximating 200,000. Old Calendarists account for 500,000 followers. The Jehovah's Witnesses report having 30,000 active members. Protestants including Evangelicals stand at about 30,000. Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost and other Pentecostals denominations are about 12,000. Mormons can also be found with 420 followers. The ancient Greek religion has also reappeared as Hellenic Neopaganism, with estimates of approximately 2,000 adherents (comprising 0.02% of the general population).

Education

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.">The building of the Faculty of Education at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
The building of the Faculty of Education at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Compulsory education in Greece comprises primary schools (Δημοτικό Σχολείο, Dimotikó Scholeio) and gymnasium (Γυμνάσιο). Nursery schools (Παιδικός σταθμός, Paidikós Stathmós) are popular but not compulsory. Kindergartens (Νηπιαγωγείο, Nipiagogeío) are now compulsory for any child above 4 years of age. Children start primary school aged 6 and remain there for six years.Attendance at gymnasia starts at age 12 and last for three years. Greece's post-compulsory secondary education consists of two school types: unified upper secondary schools (Ενιαίο Λύκειο, Eniaia Lykeia) and technical- vocational educational schools (Τεχνικά και Επαγγελματικά Εκπαιδευτήρια, "TEE"). Post-compulsory secondary education also includes vocational training institutes (Ινστιτούτα Επαγγελματικής Κατάρτισης, "IEK") which provide a formal but unclassified level of education. As they can accept both Gymnasio (lower secondary school) and Lykeio (upper secondary school) graduates, these institutes are not classified as offering a particular level of education. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks the Greek secondary education as the 38th in the world, being significantly below the OECD average.

Public higher education is divided into universities, "Highest Educational Institutions" (Ανώτατα Εκπαιδευτικά Ιδρύματα, Anótata Ekpaideytiká Idrýmata, "ΑΕΙ") and "Highest Technological Educational Institutions" (Ανώτατα Τεχνολογικά Εκπαιδευτικά Ιδρύματα, Anótata Technologiká Ekpaideytiká Idrýmata, "ATEI"). Students are admitted to these Institutes according to their performance at national level examinations taking place after completion of the third grade of Lykeio. Additionally, students over twenty-two years old may be admitted to the Hellenic Open University through a form of lottery. The Capodistrian university of Athens is the oldest university in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Greek education system also provides special kindergartens, primary and secondary schools for people with special needs or difficulties in learning. Specialist gymnasia and high schools offering musical, theological and physical education also exist.

Some of the main universities in Greece include:

National and Capodistrian University of Athens • National Technical University of Athens  • University of Piraeus • Agricultural University of Athens  • University of Macedonia (in Thessaloniki)  • University of Crete  • Technical University of Crete  • Athens University of Economics and Business  • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki  • University of the Aegean (across the Aegean Islands)  • Democritus University of Thrace  • University of Ioannina  • University of Thessaly  • Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences  • University of Patras  • Charokopeio University of Athens • Ionian University (across the Ionian Islands)

Armed forces

Hellenic Navy Frigates HS Spetsai (Meko class) and HS Bouboulina (S class).
Hellenic Navy Frigates HS Spetsai (Meko class) and HS Bouboulina (S class).
Hellenic Air Force F-16.
Hellenic Air Force F-16.

The Hellenic Armed Forces are overseen by the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (Γενικό Επιτελείο Εθνικής Άμυνας - ΓΕΕΘΑ) and consists of three branches:

  • Hellenic Army
  • Hellenic Navy
  • Hellenic Air Force

The civilian authority for the Greek military is the Ministry of National Defence. Furthermore, Greece maintains the Hellenic Coast Guard for law enforcement in the sea and search and rescue. Greece currently has universal compulsory military service for males while females (who may serve in the military) are exempted from conscription. As a member of NATO, the Greek military participates in exercises and deployments under the auspices of the alliance.

International Rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 2006
Human Development Index 2004
Human Development Index 2000
24 out of 177
24 out of 177
24 out of 177
International Monetary Fund GDP per capita ( PPP) 18 out of 180
The Economist Worldwide Quality-of-life Index, 2005 22 out of 111
Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom 57 out of 157
Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006
Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2005
Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2004
32 out of 168
18(tied) out of 168
33 out of 167
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2006
Corruption Perceptions Index 2005
Corruption Perceptions Index 2004
54 out of 163
47 out of 158
49 out of 145
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 47 out of 125
Yale University/ Columbia University Environmental Sustainability Index 2005 67 out of 146
Nationmaster Labor strikes 13 out of 27
A.T. Kearney / Foreign Policy Globalization Index 2006
Globalization Index 2005
Globalization Index 2004
32 out of 62
29 out of 62
28 out of 62

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