Greece

Greece

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Greece has an area of 50,949 square miles and is located at the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. The area of Greece is approximately the same as that of England or the U.S. state of Alabama. Greece is located in Southern Europe between Albania and Turkey. The country is bordered to the west by the Ionian Sea, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea, and to the east by the Aegean Sea; only to the north and northeast does it have land borders. The basically Mediterranean climate of Greece is subject to a number of regional and local variations occasioned by the country’s physical diversity. The people of Greece usually experience mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. In all seasons, especially in summer, the quality of light is one of Greece’s most appealing attractions.
     The Greek landscape is conspicuous not only for its beauty but also for its complexity and variety. Greece is dominated by three elements: the sea, mountains, and the lowland. Arms and inlets of the sea penetrate deeply so that only a small, wedge-shaped portion of the interior mainland is more than fifty miles from the coast. Islands make up roughly eighteen percent of the territory of modern Greece. Approximately eighty percent of Greece is mountain terrain, much of it deeply dissected. A series of mountain chains on the Greek mainland enclose narrow parallel valleys and numerous small basins that once held lakes. The last dominant feature of the Greek landscape is the lowland. The lowland makes up about twenty percent of the land area and it has played an important role in the life of the country.
     Approximately eleven million people live in Greece today. All but a very small part of the population belong to the Church of Greece (Greek Orthodox Church). The Muslim minority, which constitutes most of the non-Orthodox group, is mainly Turkish. Roman and Greek Catholics account for the rest, except for a few thousand adherents of Protestant churches and of Judaism. In terms of ethnic composition, Greeks make up all but a small part of the total, the remainder being composed of Macedonians, Turks, Albanians, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Gypsies. Despite a rapid rate of growth in the post-World War II period, Greece’s economy is one of the least developed in the European Union (EU). Rates of productivity remain low in both the agricultural and industrial sectors, and the development of the country’s economy has lagged behind that of its EU partners.

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     Greece adopted its present constitution in 1975. This document officially eliminated the monarchy that had ruled Greece, and it made the nation a Parliamentary Republic headed by a President. The constitution was amended in 1986 to limit the powers of the President. The President serves as head of state but mainly performs ceremonial duties. The Prime Minister, who serves as head of government, holds the real power. The President is elected by the Parliament to a five-year term. The President appoints the Prime Minister, who must then win a vote of confidence from the Parliament. The Prime Minister is usually the leader of the party with the most seats in the Parliament. Executive power is exercised by the Cabinet, which consists of the Prime Minister and various departmental ministers. The Cabinet forms and directs general governmental policy. The President appoints the departmental ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Parliament, Greece's lawmaking body, is called the Vouli. It consists of a single house of 300 members, called deputies. Deputies are elected to four-year terms
     Greece has two major political parties: the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and the New Democracy Party. PASOK supports social welfare programs and government intervention in the economy to protect workers. The party has been critical of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its handling of conflicts in the nearby Balkan region. Greece is a member of NATO, which is a military alliance of Western nations. PASOK also opposes the continuing presence of United States military bases in Greece. The New Democracy Party favors a free market economy with limited government interference in private business. The party approves of the presence of U.S. military bases on Greek soil. Greece also has a number of smaller political parties, including the Communist Party of Greece. Greeks who are at least 18 years old can vote.
     Greece has a very tense relationship with the neighboring country of Turkey. The source of much of the conflict between Greece and Turkey is over the many disputed islands in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. This tension boiled over in January 1996, in a dispute over two small uninhabited islands in the Aegean Sea called Imia in Greece and Kardak in Turkey. The dispute started when a Turkish boat ran aground and refused help from a Greek coast guard ship, saying it was on Turkish territory. This story received attention in the Greek media and was further played up after Turkish journalists took down the Greek flag and put up a Turkish one. The dispute became an issue of national honor, and both sides moved warships into the area. It was only after President Clinton intervened that both Prime Ministers agreed to stand-down their forces. These kinds of territorial conflicts between Greece and Turkey are still going on today.
     It appears as though the citizens in Greece are satisfied with the government. Greece adopted a Parliamentary Democracy in 1975 and this form of government still exists today. This effective government has caused a steady increase in the population and this trend should continue in the future. The current regime has proven to be much more stable and effective than the monarchy that ruled Greece before 1975.
     

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