International Relations > Specific Countries
Greece is a small country with a population of 10.7 million people, but its international situation is quite complex.
Its existence as an independent state is relatively recent, as Greece was officially recognized in 1832 after a 11-year-long struggle against the occupying Ottoman Empire. During the rest of the 19th and the early 20th century, amid financial and political troubles, Greece expanded its territory until achieving its current form. Having abandoned the project to retake the lands once belonged to the Byzantine Empire following the defeat in the war with Turkey (1919-1922), Greece adopted a defensive stance. After WWII and the German occupation, Greece became one of the first battlegrounds of the Cold War, as the US and the UK supported the governmental forces in defeating the communists backed by the USSR during the 1946-1949 Civil War. In 1952 Greece joined NATO, and entered in the European Community in 1981. It was among the original countries that adopted the Euro In 2001; however, it did so largely on the basis of misreported figures on its respect of the economic requirements needed to join the Eurozone.
Nowadays, Greece is gradually recovering from the severe economic crisis started in 2009. Its causes are the result of a combination between the global financial shock of 2007-2008 (which provoked a credit crunch on the international markets) and long-standing unwise economic policies (based on excessive expenditures that resulted in a considerable debt accumulation). Even though it managed to avoid bankruptcy, Greece had to accept several bailout plans demanding it to implement strict austerity measures (reduction of government expenditures, privatizations, downsizing of the public sector); and that resulted in a sensible economic contraction (26% GDP loss in 2013, compared to 2007 levels).
These harsh policies, while necessary, had a tough impact on the population. Moreover, they caused a widespread anti-EU sentiment as well as violent protests and social turmoil. To add further problems, the immigration crisis started in the wake of the war in Syria put further pressure on Greece in both economic and social terms, due to a considerable flow of refugees from the conflict zones. Now the situation is slowly improving, but it remains troubling.
At the international level, Greece has problematic relations with most of its neighbors. Apart from the disagreements with the EU and some of its member states (notably Germany) over the debt crisis, Greece is involved in disputes with Albania and FYROM (Macedonia). The former involves the territory of Norther Epirus, located in Albania but inhabited by a significant Greek minority; still, bilateral relations have greatly improved in recent years. The latter is over the use of the name “Macedonia”, as Greece does not accept its use by FYROM and refuses Skopje’s claim of being the modern inheritor of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia and its cultural legacy, that Greece considers part of its history.
But with no doubt the most troublesome situation is with Turkey. Even though they are both members of the NATO alliance, their bilateral relations remain tense due to a series of issues. Apart from a centuries-long historical rivalry between the two populations, the most important matters are maritime disputes, the frequent violations of Greece’s airspace and territorial waters by the Turkish military, Athens’ opposition to Ankara joining the EU, and the Cyprus question. The island, an independent state having close political and cultural ties with Greece but that also hosts an important Turkish minority, is de facto divided in two; as the northern part (under the name of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Ankara) is under Turkey’s military occupation since 1974. Cyprus’ problem also has an economic dimension, since it affects the possibility of exploiting the hydrocarbon fields in the Eastern Mediterranean. The difficult relations with Turkey are largely the reason why Greece maintains a relatively high military budget, being among the few NATO countries spending the required 2% of GDP on defense. As such, the Greek Armed Forces remain a quite powerful military force; even though the recent economic crisis has hampered the modernization program.
Being located at the southernmost tip of the Balkans and being close to the Black Sea and the Middle East, Greece attracts the attention of foreign powers as well. Through NATO, Greece maintains close relations with the US, who has a military base in Crete. Russia also has interests in the country: apart from long-standing historical ties based upon the common Orthodox faith and shared interests, Moscow plans to build a pipeline passing through Greece. Finally, the most recent presence is that of China, who considers Greece as the gate to the EU in the context of its ambitious “One Belt, One Road” initiative aimed at connecting Europe and the Far East. Because of this, Beijing is making significant investments in the country, especially in infrastructures such as ports or railways.
On its part, Greece has interests in the Eastern Mediterranean due to security and economic reasons (namely hydrocarbon exploitation, a relevant issue considering the country’s lack of energy resources) and in the Balkans, and in spite of the recent difficulties it remains an important investor in both areas. Greece also play a significant role in maritime trade, having one of the biggest merchant fleets in the world.
As such, after the severe economic recession and the social troubles it experienced, the situation is improving. Much remains to be done before the situation comes back to pre-crisis level; but a rebound is possible, and the international context offers opportunities in this sense. However, Greece needs to carefully manage the situation to ensure a firm recovery and avoid a new stagnation or excessive dependence from foreign countries in financial and political terms.
The reports focusing on Greece will be posted below.
The Myth of Sacrifice: The Basis of the Greek National Identity
Greece is a country with an ancient history, and the national identity of the Greek people is deeply rooted in it.
In this paper, I apply the Chosenness-Myths-Trauma complex to examine a central element of the Greek national spirit: the "Myth" of Sacrifice. I show how this particular "Myth" originated and evolved throughout the centuries, and I show some of its most significant manifestations in History; so to explain why it constitutes a fundamental part of the Greek national identity and why it is essential for understanding it.
A special thanks to my father and my aunt who helped me revising the text in Greek.
A reenactor armed as a Hoplite lays a laurel wreath in front of King Leonidas' statue in Sparta.
Photo credit: Notospress.gr