Greece - Introduction
1. Geographic and Climate
Greece, historically also known as Hellas, is a country in Southern Europe; Greece is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Situated on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, it shares land borders with Albania to the northwest, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the northeast. Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin at 13,676 km in length. Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, with Mount Olympus being the highest peak at 2,918 meters. Athens is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Thessaloniki.
The climate of Greece is primarily Mediterranean, all coastal locations featuring mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers; the mountainous areas of Northwestern Greece feature an Alpine climate with heavy snowfalls. The inland parts of northern Greece feature a temperate climate with frequent thunderstorms. Snowfalls occur every year in the mountains and northern areas.
2. Political and Legal Systems
Greece is a unitary parliamentary republic. The nominal head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected by the Parliament for a five-year term. Legislative powers are exercised by unicameral Parliament. Statutes passed by the Parliament are promulgated by the President of the Republic. Parliamentary elections are held every four years. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises three Supreme Courts: the Court of Cassation, the Council of State and the Court of Auditors.
Meanwhile, Greece is a member of numerous international organizations, including the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the Union for the Mediterranean, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organization international de la Francophonie (OIF).
3. Demographics, Language and Religion
According to the official statistical body of Greece, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the country's total population in 2016 was approximately 11 million. The Greek Constitution recognizes Eastern Orthodoxy as the "prevailing" faith of the country, while guaranteeing freedom of religious belief for all. The official language of Greece is Greek, spoken by 99% of the population. The most common foreign languages learned by Greeks are English, German, French and Italian.
4. Economy and Tourism
Greece is a developed country with an economy based on the service (82.8%) and industrial sectors (13.3%). The agricultural sector contributed 3.9% of national economic output in 2015. Important Greek industries include tourism and shipping. Greece was the 7th most visited country in the European Union and 16th in the world in 2013.
In terms of total number of ships, the Greek Merchant Navy stands at 4th worldwide, in terms of ship categories, Greece ranks first in both tankers and dry bulk carriers, fourth in the number of containers, and fifth in other ships. Additionally, the country is also a considerable agricultural producer (including fisheries) within the union. Greece is the largest economy in the Balkans, and an important regional investor.
Tourism in Greece has been a key element of the economic activity in the country, and is one of the country's most important sectors. Conference tourism, targeted at academic, business, or cultural markets, is a cornerstone of the Greek national tourism policy. Greece has been a major tourist destination and attraction in Europe for its rich culture and history, which is reflected in large part by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the most in Europe and the world as well as for its long coastline, many islands and beaches. The Egremnoi sand beach in the Greek island of Lefkada, noted for its blue crystal waters, is a popular tourist destination.
Greece has attracted millions of visitors, making Greece one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world and contributing 18% to the nation's Gross Domestic Product, with its capital city Athens, as well as Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Corfu, Crete and Chalkidice being some of the country's major tourist destinations.
5. Education and Healthcare
Greeks have a long tradition of valuing and investing in education. The Greek educational system is mainly divided into three levels: primary, secondary and tertiary. Children start primary school aged 6 and remain there for six years. Attendance at gymnasia starts at age 12 and lasts for three years. Higher Tertiary education is provided by Universities, Technological Universities (T.E.I.) and Academies which primarily cater for the military and the clergy.
Healthcare in Greece consists of a universal health care system provided through national health insurance, and private health care. In a 2000 report by the World Health Organization, the Greek healthcare system was ranked 14th worldwide in the overall assessment, above other countries such as Germany (25) and the United Kingdom (18), while ranking 11th at level of service.