Capital Athens
Time Zone EET (GMT+2)
Country Code 30
Mobile Codes 690,693,694,695,697,698,699
ccTLD .gr
Currency Euro
Land Area 131,990 sq km
Population 11.3 million
Language Greek
Major Religion Orthodox Christianity

Issues and Insights


Legendary Greece conjures up a myriad of associations and meanings for outsiders, due to its storied past. This maritime gem, one of Europe’s most-visited and most beautiful countries, clings to its traditions – such as Orthodox Christianity – tenaciously. However, its people also display a forward-looking dynamism and have long been known for clever entrepreneurship. Today, this is becoming well and truly tested as the country endures its deepest economic crisis in decades.

Nevertheless, Greece’s stubborn traditionalism still defines the political scene; some key leaders belong to a few powerful families that ruled the country for much of the 20th century. One side effect of this tendency is the preservation of a nebulous power distribution system marked by nepotism, deceit, backroom dealings and patronage schemes.

The convergence of these detrimental characteristics with a global financial crisis in 2009 has now given Greece an unhappy prominence worldwide due to its financial woes, However following significant bailouts from Brussels, the country remained within the European single currency. This was a key goal of the controversial bailouts, but in subsequent years it encouraged a new generation of investors to snap up bargains in the Greek construction, retail, energy, real estate and other sectors.

Nevertheless, despite its perceived delinquency in European financial matters, and its continued impasse with Skopje over the ‘Macedonian name issue,’ Greece considers itself an integral part of Europe, a guardian of the continent’s eastern periphery, and the one Balkan country capable of drawing on the kind of financial and political resources accrued over time- in the form of its influential diaspora, global business reach and, of course, its historic image as the birthplace of European civilization.

With the February 2015 ascension of a left-wing government led by the SYRIZA coalition and right-wing junior partner, Independent Greeks (a pairing only united by their shared aversion to austerity measures), the long-feared possibility of a default and exit from the eurozone heated up. Negotiations continue, but anything remains possible, including possible referenda and even early elections should the situation deteriorate.

Since 2015, an unprecedented migrant crisis from Turkey has kept Greece in the headlines regularly and coping with this influx has caused significant economic problems and political enmity with Brussels, Berlin and countries not supporting migration. The leftist government has however benefited from close ties with ideologically sympathetic leaders and international institutions, bringing in additional funds and interest that will keep the issue a high priority in the future.

Outstanding Issues

Massive increases in illegal immigration from Turkey and North Africa; relations with the European Union, IMF and other global financial players over a possible Grexit; corruption in politics and business; a hardening of views and activities between violent leftist and anarchist groups and right-wing groups, some with underworld connections; diplomatic engagement in the Western Balkans; potential removal from Schengen Zone.

Forward Planning: Points of Interest

  • The potential for default, exit from the eurozone, and Schengen Zone due to bailout battles and the migrant crisis
  • Greece’s place on the ‘energy map’ between possible pipelines from Turkey, Russia and the Levantine Basin
  • Potential radicalization of segments of the population such as right- and left-wing groups, immigrants, and crime syndicates due to opposition to government policies, ideological differences and high youth unemployment
  • Economic opportunities for outside interests including China, Russia and Turkey in critical infrastructure and energy sector, among others, due to the financial upheaval affecting the state
  • Social cohesion amidst increasing poverty brought on by years of austerity
  • Relations with an assertive Turkey, strengthened alliances with Turkey, and the involvement of both with the Cyprus issue