information on greece
Greece is a small country where European civilization started about 2,500 years ago. In those days, Greece controlled much of the land bordering the Mediterranean and Black seas. Athens is the capital and the largest city of Greece. In Athens and many other parts of Greece, magnificent ruins stand as monuments to the nation's glorious past.
About one-tenth of the workers in Greece earn their living by farming. Agriculture is an important economic activity. But mountains cover most of Greece. The land is rocky with little fertile soil. A Greek legend tells that God sifted the earth through a strainer while making the world. He made one country after another with the good soil that sifted through. God threw away the stones left in the strainer. According to the legend, these stones became Greece.
No part of Greece is more than 85 miles (137 kilometers) from the sea. The Greeks have always been seafaring people. About a fifth of Greece consists of islands. The mainland makes up the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula. The country extends into the Mediterranean Sea. Many ancient Greek legends, including those about Odysseus and Jason, center on sea voyages. Today, Greece has one of the largest merchant fleets in the world.
The ancient city-states of Greece were conquered by the kingdom of Macedonia in 338 B.C. In the 140's B.C., the Roman Empire took control of Macedonia and Greece. Greece remained part of larger empires until 1829. That year, it won its independence from the Ottoman Empire. Until the 1970's, Greece had many serious political problems, largely because of weak or undemocratic governments.
National government. Greece adopted its present constitution in 1975. This document officially eliminated the monarchy that had ruled Greece. 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. The prime minister 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. The Cabinet 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. The members, called deputies, are elected to four-year terms.
Local government. Greece is divided into 13 regions. The regions are further divided into 51 units called nomoi. Each of the nomoi is headed by an elected governor. Mount Athos, a self-governing community of monks, is an independent district that is not part of a region. Local municipalities and communities are governed by an elected chief executive—either a mayor or a president—and an elected council.
Politics. Greece's main political parties include the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), the New Democracy Party, and the Radical Coalition of the Left (SYRIZA). PASOK supports social welfare programs and government intervention in the economy to protect workers. The conservative New Democracy Party favors a free market economy with limited government interference in private business. SYRIZA, a leftist party formed in 2004, operates as an opposition group to both PASOK and the New Democracy Party. The three parties differ in their approaches to the economy and to Greece's role within the European Union, as well as to other issues. Smaller political parties include the Communist Party of Greece and the right-wing extremist group Golden Dawn. Greeks who are at least 18 years old are required to vote.
Courts. The Special Supreme Tribunal is the highest court in Greece. The court rules on the constitutionality of laws in some cases. It also decides election and referendum disputes. The regular court system consists of administrative, civil, and criminal courts; appellate courts; and a Supreme Court. Judges are appointed for life by the president
Armed forces. Greece has an army, navy, and air force. Because of tensions with its neighbors—particularly Turkey—Greece devotes a substantial portion of its national budget to defense. Greek men are required to serve up to 9 months on active duty in the armed forces. They become eligible for the draft at age 18. Greek women may volunteer for military service.