Greece achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it gradually added neighboring islands and territories, most with Greek-speaking populations. In World War II, Greece was first invaded by Italy (1940) and subsequently occupied by Germany (1941-44); fighting endured in a protracted civil war between supporters of the king and Communist rebels. Following the latter's defeat in 1949, Greece joined NATO in 1952. A military dictatorship, which in 1967 suspended many political liberties and forced the king to flee the country, lasted seven years. The 1974 democratic elections and a referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished the monarchy. In 1981 Greece joined the EC (now the EU); it became the 12th member of the euro zone in 2001.
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds
name: Athens geographic coordinates: 37 59 N, 23 44 E time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time) daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
chief of state: President Karolos PAPOULIAS (since 12 March 2005) head of government: Prime Minister Konstandinos (Kostas) KARAMANLIS (since 7 March 2004) cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister elections: president elected by parliament for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 8 February 2005 (next to be held by February 2010); according to the Greek Constitution, presidents may only serve two terms; president appoints leader of the party securing plurality of vote in election to become prime minister and form a government election results: Karolos PAPOULIAS elected president; number of parliamentary votes, 279 out of 300
unicameral Parliament or Vouli ton Ellinon (300 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: elections last held 16 September 2007 (next to be held by 2011) election results: percent of vote by party - ND 41.8%, PASOK 38.1%, KKE 8.2%, Synaspismos 5%, LAOS 3.8%, other 3.1%; seats by party - ND 152, PASOK 102, KKE 22, Synaspismos 14, LAOS 10
Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) [Alekos ALAVANOS]; Communist Party of Greece or KKE [Aleka PAPARIGA]; New Democracy or ND (conservative) [Konstandinos KARAMANLIS]; Panhellenic Socialist Movement or PASOK [Yiorgos PAPANDREOU]; Popular Orthodox Rally or LAOS [Yeoryios KARATZAFERIS]
chief of mission: Ambassador Alexandros P. MALLIAS chancery: 2221 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 telephone:  (202) 939-1300 FAX:  (202) 939-1324 consulate(s) general: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Tampa consulate(s): Atlanta, Houston
nine equal horizontal stripes of blue alternating with white; there is a blue square in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a white cross; the cross symbolizes Greek Orthodoxy, the established religion of the country
Greece has a capitalist economy with the public sector accounting for about 40% of GDP and with per capita GDP at least 75% of the leading euro-zone economies. Tourism provides 15% of GDP. Immigrants make up nearly one-fifth of the work force, mainly in agricultural and unskilled jobs. Greece is a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about 3.3% of annual GDP. The Greek economy grew by nearly 4.0% per year between 2003 and 2007, due partly to infrastructural spending related to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, and in part to an increased availability of credit, which has sustained record levels of consumer spending. Greece violated the EU's Growth and Stability Pact budget deficit criteria of no more than 3% of GDP from 2001 to 2006, but finally met that criteria in 2007. Public debt, inflation, and unemployment are above the euro-zone average, but are falling. The Greek Government continues to grapple with cutting government spending, reducing the size of the public sector, and reforming the labor and pension systems, in the face of often vocal opposition from the country's powerful labor unions and the general public. The economy remains an important domestic political issue in Greece and, while the ruling New Democracy government has had some success in improving economic growth and reducing the budget deficit, Athens faces long-term challenges in its effort to continue its economic reforms, especially social security reform and privatization.
euro (EUR) note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries
general assessment: adequate, modern networks reach all areas; good mobile telephone and international service domestic: microwave radio relay trunk system; extensive open-wire connections; submarine cable to offshore islands international: country code - 30; landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-3 optical telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to Europe, Middle East, and Asia; a number of smaller submarine cables provide connectivity to various parts of Europe, the Middle East, and Cyprus; tropospheric scatter; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean), 1 Eutelsat, and 1 Inmarsat (Indian Ocean region)
total: 2,571 km standard gauge: 1,565 km 1.435-m gauge (764 km electrified) narrow gauge: 961 km 1.000-m gauge; 22 km 0.750-m gauge dual gauge: 23 km combined 1.435 m and 1.000-m gauges (three rail system) (2006)
total: 824 ships (1000 GRT or over) 33,654,384 GRT/57,898,789 DWT by type: bulk carrier 246, cargo 66, carrier 1, chemical tanker 52, combination ore/oil 1, container 43, liquefied gas 6, passenger 11, passenger/cargo 109, petroleum tanker 269, roll on/roll off 19, specialized tanker 1 foreign-owned: 49 (Belgium 16, Cyprus 5, Italy 1, South Korea 2, UK 15, US 10) registered in other countries: 2,324 (Antigua and Barbuda 3, Bahamas 214, Barbados 11, Belgium 4, Bermuda 3, Cambodia 5, Cayman Islands 23, China 1, Comoros 8, Cyprus 292, Denmark 4, Dominica 8, Egypt 8, Georgia 7, Gibraltar 8, Honduras 1, Hong Kong 30, Isle of Man 48, Italy 13, Jamaica 8, Lebanon 2, Liberia 311, Maldives 1, Malta 448, Marshall Islands 226, Norway 6, Panama 505, Philippines 3, Portugal 4, Russia 1, Sao Tome and Principe 1, Saudi Arabia 2, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 14, Slovakia 4, St Kitts and Nevis 2, St Vincent and The Grenadines 81, UAE 3, UK 6, Uruguay 1, Venezuela 3, unknown 8) (2007)
18 years of age for compulsory military service; during wartime the law allows for recruitment beginning January of the year of inductee's 18th birthday, thus including 17 year olds; 17 years of age for volunteers; conscript service obligation - 12 months for the Army, Air Force; 15 months for Navy; women are eligible for voluntary military service (2007)
Greece and Turkey continue discussions to resolve their complex maritime, air, territorial, and boundary disputes in the Aegean Sea; Cyprus question with Turkey; Greece rejects the use of the name Macedonia or Republic of Macedonia; the mass migration of unemployed Albanians still remains a problem for developed countries, chiefly Greece and Italy
a gateway to Europe for traffickers smuggling cannabis and heroin from the Middle East and Southwest Asia to the West and precursor chemicals to the East; some South American cocaine transits or is consumed in Greece; money laundering related to drug trafficking and organized crime