Greece is the cradle of European culture and
bore the seed of democracy. Athens' historical heritage,
Europe's longest coast and thousands of islands are
among the world's most popular destinations. Between
2008 and 2017, Greece was in a deep economic crisis that
significantly lowered the standard of living for most
Brief profiles of Greece, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Greece is located on the southern tip of the
Balkan Peninsula in the southeastern corner of Europe.
On the surface, the country is just under a third the
size of Sweden. Almost one fifth of the land area
consists of about 2,000 islands, of which fewer than one
in ten are inhabited.
Greece has Europe's longest coast - over 1,500 miles
- and is surrounded in the west by the Ionian Sea, in
the east by the Aegean and in the south by the
Mediterranean. The coast has many deep bays that cut
into the country. This means that most resorts have less
than ten kilometers to the sea.
The long, narrow Corinthian bay almost cuts off the
Peloponnese peninsula in the south from the rest of the
mainland. Through the narrow headland connecting the
peninsula with the mainland, the Corinthian canal runs.
The Greek island world is divided into the Ionian
Islands in the west, the Cyclades in the southern Aegean
Sea, the Tolevans (Dodecanese) in the southeast, the
Sporades in the North Aegean Sea and the islands in the
Northeast Aegean Sea. Crete with surrounding small
islands at the far south forms an area in itself.
Almost all of Greece is mountainous. Most mountain
ranges run in a north-south direction. Pindos mountains
in the west have peaks over 2,500 meters. The largest
plains are along the coast in the regions of Macedonia,
Thessaly and Attica.
Nearly half of Greece consists of grass and bush.
Almost a fifth of the country is covered by forest -
oak, chestnut and beech, and at higher altitudes spruce
and pine. One quarter consists of cultivated land. There
are few lakes and rivers.
Earthquakes are relatively common.
Most of Greece has a Mediterranean climate with mild,
humid winters and dry, hot summers. The large
differences in altitude affect the climate.
In the mountainous areas in the north and northwest,
winters can be quite severe with plenty of snow. Most
precipitation falls during the winter (October –
January), especially in the west. During the high
summer, the east coast and islands of the Aegean Sea are
often hit by a northern wind, melt emi, which can
quickly reach storm strength.
FACTS - GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
131 957 km2 (2018)
Swedish +1 hour
Adjacent country (s)
Albania, Northern Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey
Capital with number of inhabitants
Athens 3 100,000, including the port city of Piraeus
Other major cities
Thessaloniki 790,000, Patras 215,000, Iraklion (Heraklion)
173,000, Larisa 163,000 (Census 2011)
Olympos (2 917 m asl)
Average Precipitation / year
Aten about 400 mm
Average / day
Athens 27 °C (July), 10 °C (Jan)
High-ranking Pasok politicians are excluded
Pasok excludes former Finance Minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou for allegedly
stripping relatives from a list of Greek citizens with bank accounts in
Switzerland. The list is used in investigations of possible tax evasion by
"Unworthy refugee management"
Amnesty International criticizes Greece's refugee management as unworthy of
the EU Nobel Prize. Refugees are imprisoned under inhumane conditions, and lives
are put at risk when refugees are sent back in boats without life jackets,
according to the human rights organization.
Debt amortization decision
The Eurozone finance ministers and the IMF decide to reduce Greece's debt by
EUR 40 billion by 2020. They also open to a payment of EUR 43.7 billion of the
support package of close to EUR 130 billion. The money gives the government the
opportunity to pay public salaries and pensions.
The number of suicide attempts is increasing
Official statistics show that suicide attempts in Greece increased by over a
third during the economic crisis years 2009–2011.
Parliament approves the budget
A budget for 2013 is adopted, where almost half of the EUR 9.4 billion
austerity is paid for with pension reductions and salary reductions. Eurozone
finance ministers and international lenders agree to give Greece another
two-year deadline, until 2016, to reduce its budget deficit. But Greece may have
to wait for eurozone countries' decisions on the next disbursement of crisis
Another crisis package is approved
The government presents a crisis package with tax increases, reduced wages
and pensions, raised retirement age, accrued employment rights and more (see
Finance). The goal is to get out € 31.5 billion in crisis loans. Outside
Parliament demonstrates close to 100,000 people, and fire bombs are met by
police tear gas. The crisis package is approved by Parliament with only 153 out
of 300 votes, then several
Editor is prosecuted after disclosure of tax evasion
An editor has been arrested and prosecuted for violating the Personal Data
Act after publishing a list of just over 2,000 Greeks, including well-known
politicians and entrepreneurs, who placed large sums on bank accounts in
Switzerland to avoid taxes in Greece. The editor risks imprisonment but is later
acquitted in court. The government is accused of failing to attack the tax
evasion, as the list was much earlier handed over by current IMF chief Christine
Racially motivated attacks are increasing rapidly
According to the UNHCR, racist attacks have increased alarmingly during the
year, but no perpetrators have been punished. 87 attacks have been reported
between January and September, but the cases are feared to be more as emigrants
do not report police for fear of being rejected.
Violent protests against the EU
Nearly 15,000 people protest in Thessaloniki against the government's planned
budget cuts. Protesters are burning the EU flag in protest of the EU and IMF
savings requirements for Greece to receive emergency loans. Later, a one-day
general strike is held, when tens of thousands of people participate in
demonstrations that lead to violence and police action with tear gas.
Sky-high youth unemployment
Unemployment exceeds 25 percent and in the 15-24 year age group, 58 percent
go without a job.
The border guard is sharply sharpened
Greece triples the surveillance of the border with Turkey to stop refugees
from the civil war in Syria. A few thousand undocumented immigrants are arrested
in Athens for rejection. The police describe the action as necessary for the
nation's survival and explain that Greece cannot afford hospitality. It is
estimated that there are approximately 350,000 paperless immigrants in the
New billions will be saved
The government decides on budgetary tightening of EUR 11.5 billion to meet
the lenders' conditions.
Greece appeals for deadline
The new government wants the EU, IMF and ECB to give Greece a two-year
deadline to meet the savings requirements of EUR 237 billion for the support
loans. The government also wants to limit the budgetary tightening and increase
the compensation to the unemployed. At the same time, privatizations are planned
to generate revenue for the Treasury. The new Finance Minister is appointed
economist Giannis Stournaras.
New democracy wins in the second new election
The second new election in just over a month will be a victory for New
Democracy, which will receive 30 percent of the vote. Syriza gets 27 percent and
Pasok 12 percent. New Democratic leader Antonis Samaras is commissioned to form
a new government and is supported by Pasok and the Democratic Left,
in addition to his own party. Together, they have 179 seats out of 300 seats.
Samaras will take over as prime minister three days after the election.
Temporary government and new election
All attempts to form a new government fail and another election must be
called for. For now, the country is ruled by an expedition minister led by Judge
The big parties back in the new election
Both Pasok and New Democracy are punished by the electorate in the recent
parliamentary elections. Their joint results are more than halved compared to
the 2009 elections. New democracy receives 19 percent of the vote and Pasok only
13 percent. That together gives 149 of the 300 seats. In second place, the left
alliance Syriza comes with 17 percent. The highly xenophobic Golden Dawn is
entering Parliament with just under 7 percent of the vote.
Suicide evokes strong emotions
An outspoken pensioner takes his life outside the Athens Parliament after
writing in a statement that he is no longer on the cusp of looking for something
to eat. The tragedy focuses on how the crisis is affecting the Greek people (see
also November 2012).
Pasok changes party leader
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos succeeds Giorgos Papandreou as leader of
Lowest credit rating
Credit rating agency Moody's lowers Greece's credit rating to C, which is the
lowest possible for a country. The reason is that lenders will not get back
money borrowed to Greece.
Large sums leave the country
According to the finance minister, many elected officials have spent large
sums of money out of the country, while Greeks are generally urged not to
withdraw their money so as not to damage the banking system and aggravate the
New elections will be held in May
Eurozone finance ministers say yes to new crisis loans of EUR 130 billion
following the assurance that the savings decision remains firm even after the
new election announced in May and private banks pledged to write off Greece's
debts with over EUR 100 billion. The loans will be used to pay off earlier and
more expensive debts.
Greece is approaching the state bankruptcy
The government is forced to decide on reduced minimum wages, reduced
pensions, 150,000 fewer public servants over three years, privatization and
liberalization of the labor market. Several ministers leave the government in
protest of the savings package. The decision is met by strong popular protests.