|General background: Greece achieved its 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
with Greek-speaking populations. Following the defeat
of Communist rebels 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. Democratic elections in 1974 and a
referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished
the monarchy; Greece joined the European Community or
EC in 1981 (which became the EU in 1992).
comparative: Slightly smaller than Alabama
Climate: Temperate; mild, wet winters; hot, dry
Terrain: Mostly mountains with
ranges extending into the sea as peninsulas or chains
Population: 10,645,343 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Greek 98%, other 2%
Religions: Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1.3%,
Language: Greek 99% (official), English, French
Government type: Parliamentary republic; monarchy
rejected by referendum 8 December 1974
Legal system: Based on codified Roman law; judiciary
divided into civil, criminal, and administrative courts.
Economic overview: Greece has a mixed capitalist
economy with the public sector accounting for about
half of GDP. Tourism is a key industry, providing a
large portion of GDP and foreign exchange earnings.
Greece is a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about
3.3% of GDP. The economy has improved steadily over
the last few years, as the government tightened policy
in the run-up to Greece's entry into the EU's Economic
and Monetary Union (EMU) on 1 January 2001. Major challenges
remaining include the reduction of unemployment and
further restructuring of the economy, including privatizing
several state enterprises, undertaking social security
reforms, overhauling the tax system, and minimizing
bureaucratic inefficiencies. Economic growth is forecast
at 3%-3.5% in 2002.
Communication/Telephone system: Adequate, modern
networks reach all areas; good mobile telephone and
Places of interest: Hot sun and limpid seas conspire
to make Greece a compelling place to relax.