Priding on the past, struggling with the present

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Greece is located in southeastern Europe, on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula (Haemus peninsula); it lies at the meeting point of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa. To the West Greece is washed by the Ionian Sea, to the South by the Mediterranean Sea and to the East by the Aegean Sea.

The total area of Greece is 131,957 km2 and consists of three main geographic areas: a peninsular mainland (that extends from the region of Central Greece on the South to the region of Thrace on the North), the Peloponnese peninsula that is separated from the mainland by the canal of the Corinth Isthmus, and around 6.000 islands and islets, scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Sea, most of them grouped in clusters, that constitute the unique Greek archipelago.

Yet, despite it is washed against by three surrounding seas, eighty percent of the country consists of mountains or hills, making Greece one of the most mountainous countries of Europe; furthermore, it has 16,000 kilometers of coastline of which 7,500 are found around the thousands islands of the Greek archipelago, a truly unique fact on the European continent.

Considered the cradle of all Western civilization, Greece is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, political science, scientific and mathematical principles and drama, such as tragedy and comedy. The cultural and technological achievements of ancient Greece greatly influenced the world. The rich legacy of Greece is partly reflected by the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites found here, ranking it 6th in Europe and 13th in the world.

Politics

Since the beginning of the government-debt crisis in 2009, the two major parties, New Democracy and PASOK, have seen a sharp decline in the share of votes in opinion polls.

In November 2011, the two major parties joined the smaller Popular Orthodox Rally in a grand coalition, pledging their parliamentary support for a cabinet of national union headed by former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos.

The coalition government led the country to the parliamentary elections of May 2012. As PASOK and New Democracy popularity decreased mostly due to the austerity measures, the leftist party of SYRIZA became the second major party, with an increase from 4% to 16%. No party could form a sustainable government, which led to the second parliamentary elections of June 2012 resulting in the formation of a coalition government consisting of New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left.

Alexis Tsipras led Syriza to victory in the general elections held on 25 January 2015, falling short of an outright majority in Parliament by just two seats. The following morning, Tsipras reached an agreement with the right-wing populist Independent Greeks party to form a coalition, and he was sworn in as Prime Minister of Greece.

Financial crisis

The financial crisis of the late 2000s hit Greece particularly hard, leaving the country with a crippling debt burden.

In the spring of 2010, amid fears of an imminent default on debt payments and of the debt contagion spreading to other countries, Greece’s fellow Eurozone countries agreed an unprecedented 110bn euro package to rescue its teetering economy. The main condition attached to the loan – drastic cuts in public spending and tax hikes – prompted protracted social unrest.

In 2011 it became apparent that the bail-out would be insufficient and a second bail-out amounting to EUR 130 billion (USD 173 billion) was agreed in 2012, subject to strict conditions, including financial reforms and further austerity measures. As part of the deal, there was to be a 53 percent reduction in the Greek debt burden to private creditors and any profits made by Eurozone central banks on their holdings of Greek debt are to be repatriated back to Greece. Greece achieved a primary government budget surplus in 2013.

Greece returned to growth after six years of economic decline in the second quarter of 2014, being the Eurozone’s fastest-growing economy in the third quarter.

In April 2014, Greece returned to the global bond market as it successfully sold EUR 3 billion worth of five-year government bonds at a yield of 4.95 percent. (Wikipedia, Greek media combined sources)

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