Greece 2


Greece 2 Essay, Research Paper

For Greece, the twentieth century has been a period full of violence and uncertainty. The last years of the century, however, have brought the potential for political stability in a slowly maturing democratic system, and for economic prosperity as a part of a European continent undergoing unprecedented unification. Democracy, the basis of government since the foundation of the modern Greek state in 1832, has had it s longest and most consistent application in the era that began with the toppling of the military in 1974. Economic growth, which virtually stopped in the 1980 s, showed signs of revival in the early 1990 s, helped by substantial aid programs and strict economical guidelines from Greece s partner nations in the European Union (EU). On the negative side, Greece s traditionally difficult relations with neighbor Turkey remained extremely tense as a series of territorial issues were still unresolved in the mid – 1990 s. And the violently unstable regions of the former Yugoslavia, just to Greece s north, renewed the threat that the wider Balkan turmoil of the earlier decades might begin a new chapter.

In the next few pages, I will talk about the social, political and economical aspects of past and current events that have occurred in Greece and I will give my take on it all. I will briefly touch upon World War II, The Civil War and the government under Papandreou, as well as current issues facing Greece.

I – Historical Setting:

The decade of the 1940 s was the most devastating and deadly in Greek history. In that period, the horrors of foreign military occupation were followed by the ravages of the Civil War. The events of this decade left wounds that remain unhealed almost sixty years later.

Initially, the war against Germany and Italy went very well for Greece. The nation rallied behind General Metaxas, and men of all political persuasions joined the military. Under the leadership of General Tsolakoglou, the Greek army in Epirus drove the Italians out of Greece and through most of Albania. For many Greeks, this campaign was an opportunity to liberate their countrymen across the Albanian border in Northern Epirus . The campaign stalled in cold weather, then it lost its leader, Metaxas, who died in January 1941. The British, who at this time had no other ally in the region, provided air and ground support but poor coordination between the allied forces made Greece vulnerable to a massive German attack in the spring of 1941, which was intended to secure the Nazi land in preparation for the invasion of Russia. Under the German blitzkrieg, the Greek and British forces fell quickly. Most of the British force escaped, but Tsolakoglou, trapped between the Italian and the German armies, was forced to surrender. Athens fell shortly afterward. King George II, his government, and the remainder of the Greek army fled to Crete. Crete fell the next month, however, and George established a government-in-exile in Egypt. By June 1941, Greece had been divided among Bulgaria, Germany and Italy. The Germans controlled the most critical points: Athens, Crete, the Thracian border zone with Turkey, and a number of the Aegean Islands. The Bulgarians were given Thrace and most of Macedonia. The Italians occupied the rest of Greece. From the outset, the Germans effectively controlled the country, ruling harshly though the governments of Tsolakoglou and later Ioannis Rallis. The German plundering of the nation s resources for the war effort combined with a British naval blockade to cause food shortages, massive inflation, and finally a devastating famine that killed as many as 100,000 people in the winter of 1941-2.

Civil War -

In December 1946, Markos Vafiadis announced the formation of a communist Democratic Army of Greece (DAG). The DAG never exceeded 28,000 fighters, compared with about 265,000 troops in the national army and national police force at the end of the war. The Civil War commenced during the winter of 1946- 7. Vafiadis adopted a strategy of guerilla warfare, utilizing hit and run tactics to harass the army. DAG forces scored some notable successes, but they were unable to capture any major towns. Like almost all international conflicts, the Civil War was marked by brutality on both sides. Villages were destroyed and civilians killed. The atrocities of the war left lasting scars on the nations consciousness.

By the spring of 1947, Britain no longer was able to meet Greece s escalating demands for money and supplies, so the roles of external patron was assumed by the United States. With the Greek case specifically in mind, Harry Truman set out in March 1947 a policy of containment of communist expansion that came to be known as the Truman Doctrine. Truman pledged United States support to all free peoples under the threat of communist takeover. Under that policy, the United States made $400 million in aid and military assistance available to Greece. United States advisers and military personnel under General James van Fleet came to Greece to train and supply the national army and the security forces.

Based on this information I believe that although the disproportionate size of the forces had made the outcome of the Civil War inevitable, the DAG s mistakes quickened its fall. After Vafiades was ousted by KKE (Communist Party of Greece) chief Nikos Zahariadis in mid-1947, the DAG made a disastrous shift from guerilla tactics to conventional battles. Outgunned and outmanned, the DAG was pushed into the mountains and eventually defeated. The Civil War ended when the last DAG mountain fell at the end of August. Thus, in addition to the more than 500,000 killed in WWII, during the Civil War 80,00 more Greeks lost their lives, 700,000 more became refugees and the national economy was left in ruins.

II – Society

In the mid – 90 s, the population of Greece was 10,264,156, an increase of 524,000 since 1980. In 1995, the population of Athens, the largest city, was 748,000, but the population of Greater Athens, including its port city of Piraeus, was 3.1 million. The second largest city, Thessaloniki, had 396,000 people in 1995, but only 4 other cities, Patras, Heraklion, Volos, and Larisa had populations over 100,000.

The family is the basic social unit of all strata of Greek society. For an individual not to marry or to remain separate from his or her family is viewed as unusual behavior. Sons and daughters still live with their families until they marry, as opposed to the Western tradition of living independently between those two stages. Families play a large role in the selection of a mate, although the traditional arranged marriage is now less frequent than in previous generations. The basic household includes a husband, wife, and their unmarried children. This unit may also include a parent or another family relative, and in some cases a young married couple may live with the parents of one spouse until they can gain financial independence. The primary purpose of marriage is thought to be to produce children, without whom the couple would not be happy. The second goal is preservation of the family property from the previous generation.

An estimated 97 percent of the country s population identifies itself as belonging to the Greek branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ, commonly known as the Orthodox Church of Greece. The largest non – Orthodox religious groups in Greece are Roman Catholic, Protestant and Muslim. Greece recently celebrated the holiest holiday of the Greek Orthodox Church under awkward circumstances. To the north Yugoslavia is under fire and hundreds of thousands have become refugees as a result of what I believe is an irrational war. The fear that war could spread has severely affected Athenians during Easter. People are unwilling to spend money in fear that they will need it for food and shelter if they are to be attacked. Salaries remain low, while prices of ordinary items always seem to be going up. This is my take on the situation – Greeks have learned how to live under adversity, they have survived wars and famines; they have coped with numerous deaths and threats. Throughout all of this Greeks remain united. This is the attitude they need when preparing for the holiest celebration of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Greece is linguistically homogeneous; only an estimated 2 to 3 percent of the population does not use Greek as the primary language. Modern Greek is spoken on the mainland, on most of the surrounding islands, in most of Cyprus and in some villages in Southern Italy. The most frequently used other languages are Turkish, Slavic Macedonian and Albanian. Greek is a direct descendent of an Indo – European language spoken by civilizations in the northeastern Mediterranean for centuries before Christ.

III -Economy-

Greece is a small country with not many more than 10 million people. Its territory, which is dominated by large mountain ranges and an extensive coastline, offers the natural resources on which the traditional economic activities of agriculture, herding and fishing were based. In the era after World War II, the Greek economy underwent significant transformation. Manufacturing and services emerged as major areas of economic activity that in the mid – 1990 s combined to account for 85 percent of the gross national product. The transformation is also reflected in the composition of the Greek population. Whereas in 1940 over 50 percent of the population lived and worked in agricultural areas, only about 25 percent of the population remained rural in the mid – 1990 s.

Per capita income in Greece has grown substantially in the postwar decades. From about $500 in 1960, it had increased to about $6,500 in 1995. By international standards, Greece can be characterized as a country of medium level development. Its per capita income places Greece above only Mexico and Turkey among the member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD).

The Greek American recently had an article that basically said economic growth in Greece is expected to slow slightly in 1999. Despite some positive outlooks, the OECD said the global economy isn t out of the woods yet. The group forecast that economic growth in OECD countries will slow to 2.1 percent in 2000. Overall, inflation will be subdued in the next 18 months. Growth in world trade was expected to show a recovery in the second half, helped by stabilizing domestic demand. However, world trade growth as a whole will slow to 3.9 percent in 1999 from 4.5 percent in 1998 before recovering to 5.6 percent in 2000, the OECD said. This current situation can be looked at in a positive way. Economy is slowly on the rise and by the year 2000 there should be no problems with it.

Another story has been in the news recently and will greatly affect economy. Greek government finance ministers and the business community are shuddering over the anticipated trading and tourism losses that have evolved out of the Kosovo crisis. Amidst all these problems, a near incident with Turkey nearly occurred. The fight was over islets on the Aegean Sea. This time, unlike past times, both countries showed some maturity and allowed the incident to fizzle out. The potential military threat from Turkey has long been a key concern of public opinion and the topic of constant debate among Greek security planners. The issue s urgency is rooted in the 1974 Cyprus crisis, which can be regarded as a turning point in post World War II Greek security. The alarm caused in Greece by the Turkish military intervention was the stimulus for a general reevaluation of national security. Greece military planners envision that the Turkish threat might take one of several forms: a Turkish attempt to extend its Cyprus occupation zone; to take over Greece s easternmost islands in the Aegean Sea, control of whose continental shelf is a major issue; and to protect the Muslim minority in Thrace. In this case the Turkish threat was over the Aegean Sea. Based on this current situation I believe maybe Greece and Turkey have finally put their problems in the past, where they belong. I m sure all involved parties were glad they settled the incident without resorting to violence. There s no need for any more innocent people to die over it.

There was some economical news involving the European Union(EU) recently. EU leaders wrapped up two years of negotiations on Friday, March 26, agreeing on a financial overhaul that would pave the way for new members to join the trade bloc in the coming decade. The agreement came after 20 hours debate over priorities for the EU s $92 billion annual budget through 2006. The leaders determination to defend national interests left a package that fell short of the sweeping overhaul originally foreseen. EU officials say the deal will ensure farm spending does not spin out of control when poor, farm intensive nations like Poland join the EU. They hope it will also answer criticism from their trading partners including the US and Argentina, which have long complained their exports of farm products suffer unfair competition from the products enjoyed by EU farmers. Greece said it was fully satisfied with the deal on EU funding. Greece is set to receive nine trillion drachmas from structural funds over the 2000-2006 period, a 13 percent increase over allocations for the 1993-1996 period. I believe this final result is a positive one because inflows to Greece from the Common Agricultural Policy are expected to be higher in the next seven years, while profits from the structural funds will be significantly higher. The promised funds will ensure Greece will be able to build on developmental and social policies, including tax reform among other things.

IV -Government and Politics -

The twentieth anniversary of the fall of the military junta dictatorship, in July 1994, afforded Greeks an opportunity to assess their country s progress since that event. Most political observers found that concrete gains had been made and that democracy had been consolidated. Although the political system of Greece still includes serious flaws, the democratic transition of 1974 – 1999 has often been cited for the efficiency with which it has dealt with political problems lingering from the tumultuous past and put in place checks and balances that should resolve any future dilemmas.

Foremost among the past problems were the final disposition of the monarchy and the legalization of the communist party. By resolving both of these questions within one year after the junta s fall in 1974, Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis removed two of the major deficiencies of the post World War II political atmosphere that had made the accession of a military dictatorship possible in 1967. The immediate result of World War II had been the three year Civil War that left Greece with a stunted parliamentary system characterized by a meddling monarch and foreign allies throughout the 1950 s and early 1960 s.

Preparing Greece s political system for long term stability was a formidable task. After seven years of political isolation ended in 1974, the government of Karamanlis s party, New Democracy(ND), tried to recover the economic momentum that had propelled a rapid political evolution in the late 1950 s and made possible the liberal agenda of Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou in the mid 1960 s. The junta had separated Greece from the successful path being followed by its European neighbors, leaving the capitalist system that emerged from the early 1970 s unprepared for the upcoming social and political demands that it encountered.

Greek political parties were traditionally based largely on personal connections and personalities, lacking real organization with membership and tending to appeal to narrow segments of the electorate. Greeks pursued their own contacts to promote their individual interests, rather than developing and pursuing common interests through mass political organizations or groups. PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) was the first mainstream party to apply discipline and organizational work to the process of party politics. Early in its first term, the PASOK government also enacted a law to provide state subsidies to the parties to minimize the undue influences that private funding exerted on the operation of political parties. In the 1980 s, the other parties, most notably the New Democracy(ND), were somewhat successful in emulating the PASOK s organizational techniques. By the mid 1990 s, Greek parties generally had become more issue oriented as they moved toward the model of West European political systems. This evolution was eased by the industrialization that Greece had experienced for the previous forty years.

In recent news, Greece is bringing to top US officials its call for a pause in NATO bombing of Yugoslavia to encourage Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to respond positively to tough demands for settlement of the Kosovo conflict. Foreign Minister Papandreou says he is convinced international mediation could end the conflict swiftly. Secretary of State Albright and other US officials will hear him out while trying to keep Greece in line with NATO s military campaign. Of the 19 NATO nations, Greece is probably the most skeptical that all out bombing will bring Milosevic to his knees. Mr. Papandreou is proposing a 48 hour pause in the bombing to give Milosevic some calm to consider a response to the NATO demands for withdrawal of all Serb troops.

In conclusion, the future of Greece looks bright. Economy is on the rise and problems with Turkey and other nations are on the decline. Since Greece occupies such an important location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia it faces its share of problems. But membership in a unified EU market brings a chance in the coming decades for new trade opportunities foreign investment and economic growth.

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