Greece – officially the Hellenic Republic – is a southern European country with a population of around 11 million people (in 2016) of which Athens is the capital and largest city. Greece sits on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula and is bordered by Albania (northwest), the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria (north), and Turkey (northeast); to the east of the mainland is the Aegean Sea, with the Ionian Sea to the west and the Cretan Sea and Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the 11th-longest coastline in the world at 8,498 miles in length and has 227 inhabited islands in its territory. Mount Olympus dominates the terrain of Greece at 9,573 feet high, with the country being 80 per cent mountainous. Greece is divided into nine regions: Macedonia, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, the Aegean Islands (including the Dodecanese and Cyclades), Thrace, Crete, and the Ionian Islands.
Greece is a sovereign state with a unitary parliamentary system. It’s a developed country with a strong economy, high quality of life, and very high standard of living. Greece is a middle power and a founding member of the United Nations, and has been part of the Eurozone since 2001; it is also a member of the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
How is government structured?
The Cabinet of Greece is appointed by the president based on the recommendation of the prime minister.
The Greek Parliament comprises 300 members who are elected for a four-year term from 48 multi-seat constituencies, as well as 8 single-seat constituencies and a nationwide list. Of the 300 seats, 288 are determined through a system of voting – the remaining 12 seats are filled from party lists.
Under Greece’s current electoral law, a party must have at least a 3% nationwide vote tally in order to elect Members of Parliament. The largest party receives a 50-seat bonus to ensure elections produce usable majorities.
Who’s in charge?
Parliament elects the President of Greece for a five-year term, with each president holding a maximum of two terms in office. After each presidential term, Parliament votes to elect the next President.
The president retains a number of executive powers, such as the power to declare war, to grant pardons and to ratify peace and alliance agreements, as well as leading Greece in participation in international organizations. However, the president still requires a parliamentary majority to confirm actions on an international scale. The president also has the right to execute emergency powers (countersigned by a cabinet minister) but cannot dissolve parliament, dismiss the government, suspend constitutional articles, issue a proclamation, call a referendum, or declare a state of siege without a counter-signatory.
The prime minister is the most powerful individual in the Greek political system and is normally the leader of the majority party in Parliament, elected by the people. It is his duty to safeguard the unity of the government and provide direction for it. The Prime Minister recommends the appointment or dismissal of ministers to the President.
How is justice done?
Greece’s judicial branch is split into civil and administrative courts. Civil courts are responsible for judging civil and penal cases, while administrative courts judge administrative cases between citizens and the State.
The judicial system of Greece features three Supreme Courts: the Court of Cassation, the Council of State, and the Chamber of Accounts. Presidents and the vice-presidents of the Supreme Courts are selected by the Cabinet of Greece.
The highest civil and penal court is the Court of Cassation is the supreme civil and penal court, while the Council of State is the highest administrative court. The Chamber of Accounts passes judgement over specific administrative areas and its decisions cannot be overturned.
Greece has a prominent geopolitical role, due to where it is politically and geographically situated. France, Italy, Bulgaria, the United States, countries in NATO and the European Union are all allies of Greece, while it also maintains good relations with Cyprus, Albania, Russia, Serbia, Armenia and Israel.