The geographical location of Greece has made the country a natural hinge between Western Europe and the Near East, making it vulnerable to conflict and severe periods of crisis. Throughout the Cold War period, Greece was the southwestern embankment of the Atlantic bloc in the containment policy of Soviet expansionism. During the 1990s, however, it played a leading role in the stabilization effort in the Balkans. With the beginning of the twenty-first century, the centrality assumed by the international fight against terrorism and the transnational networks of organized crime has once again highlighted the importance of a state like Greece, on the border between the Christian and Muslim worlds and placed as a garrison of a strategic territory also for the traffic along the Mediterranean routes.
Although the very serious economic crisis of recent years has led to fears of an exit from the euro and despite the country being crossed by strong anti-Europeanist instances, Greece is part of the European Union. It has participated in the European integration process since 1981 with its entry into the European Economic Community (Eec). Greece has been a member of NATO since 1952, except for a brief departure from the integrated command structure following the Cypriot crisis between 1974 and 1980, and is active in terms of regional cooperation, especially through the Organization for Economic Cooperation. in the Black Sea.
On a bilateral level, the most intense and often controversial political relations are those that Greece has developed with neighboring countries. With Macedonia, for example, there is a bitter and twenty-year dispute related to the legitimacy of Skopje’s use of the constitutional name of ‘Republic of Macedonia’: according to Athens, the adoption of this name would imply claims on the territories of Greek Macedonia.. On the question, Greece has taken positions that weigh on the multilateral level: Athens has bound its consent to the entry of Macedonia both in NATO and in the EU to the shared resolution of the controversy. Relations with Albania are also characterized by latent tensions, mainly linked to the conditions of the Greek minority based in the southern regions of the country and to the presence of numerous Albanian irregular immigrants in Greece. However, it is with Turkey that the most relevant and dated disputes exist: from the Cypriot question, which developed after the Second World War, to the delimitation of territorial waters in the Aegean Sea and air spaces, from the demilitarization of the islands under Greek control near the Turkish coast up to treatment reserved by Ankara and Athens to their respective minorities.
Domestic politics also suffered from the particular geopolitical position of the Hellenic peninsula, especially during the years of the Cold War, when the bipolar opposition and the interests of the Western bloc, of which Greece was a part, greatly rigidified the climate and national political dynamics. The end of the Second World War coincided with the outbreak of the civil war. On the one hand, the Greek right, placed in charge of the country at the end of the Nazi occupation and supported by the United States and the United Kingdom, on the other, the Communist Party, which had led the resistance movement and was in favor of the abolition of the monarchy.. Lasting three years, from 1946 to 1949, the Greek civil war ended with the defeat of the left and its political and social marginalization. The tensions and divisions between the two sides would however remain a constant in the Greek political landscape throughout the second half of the twentieth century, exacerbated by the seven years of the colonels’ dictatorship, which from 1967 to 1974 interrupted the democratic life of the country. On 8 December 1974 a popular referendum was pronounced for the abolition of the monarchy and on 7 June 1975 a new Constitution was adopted which sanctioned the institution of the parliamentary republic. Head of state is the President of the Republic, who mainly performs ceremonial and representative functions. Legislative power is instead exercised by a single-chamber parliament made up of 300 members. Deputies are elected for a four-year term under a proportional system, which provides for a 3% barrier and a majority award of 40 seats to be assigned to the party that gets the most votes. Since the resumption of democratic normality in 1974, Greek domestic politics has mainly revolved around two parties and their alternation at the head of the country: one Social Democrat, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement orPasok, the other liberal-conservative, the New Democracy.
The serious economic, but also political and social crisis that Greece is experiencing seems to have irremediably changed these balances. In October 2009 the elections were won by Pasok led by George Papandreou, who inherited the government of a country with a debt of 367 billion euros, accumulated over decades of unbridled public spending and adjusted budgets. In November 2011, when Papandreou returned from the G20 summit in Cannes, forced to reveal the cards, he revealed that the country was one step away from default. A national emergency technical government was launched, entrusted to the hands of Lucas Papademos, former vice president of the European Central Bank (Ecb). Papademos was given the difficult task of negotiating loans with major international organizations to save the country. In the parliamentary elections of May 2012, New Democracy won a relative majority, not enough to form a government. The return to the vote, in June of the same year, entrusted the government of the country to a coalition formed by New Democracy, Pasok and Dimar, a small party of the Democratic Left, who left the coalition in June 2013. On the one hand, the critical conditions of the Greek economy, on the other hand the institutional stalemate created following the non-election in December 2014 of the new President of the Republic, led the country to new elections anticipated that they saw the clear victory of Syriza, led by the young leader Alexis Tsipras. Not enjoying an absolute majority for only two seats, Syriza had to ally itself with the party of independent Greeks (Anel), a formation of the nationalist right. Although seemingly unnatural, the new ruling coalition has remained united by the common desire to interrupt or at least revise the aid plan imposed by the troika on Greece since 2010.
If the objective of the conservative government led by Samaras had been to launch structural reforms necessary to improve the bad public finances and obtain the tranches of the loans granted by the troika, the new prime minister Tsipras, in discontinuity with the recent past, had initially marked a ” political agenda aimed at partially redefining the previous agreements and the conditions for the disbursement of the last tranche (2 billion euros) of the 240 billion bailout that the European Union countries and the International Monetary Fund had disbursed to Greece, The clash with international creditors reached its peak in June 2015, when the Greek premier decided to submit the measures proposed by the troika to a popular referendum., European Commission and European Central Bank for the approval of a new agreement. The clear ‘No’ victory in the referendum, held on 5 July 2015, seemed to have given the premier new strength to continue negotiating his positions in Brussels. On the contrary, the result of the consultation hardened the position of creditors, and in particular of Germany. For the new tranche of loans, even stricter conditions were therefore required than initially foreseen.
The package of reforms envisaged by the new agreement affects practically all the main areas of the country’s economic policy: from the VAT reform to that of the pension system, passing through that of the national statistical agency, the banking sector and the judicial and tax system.. While many of the reforms included in creditors’ demands could be positive for the economy in themselves, in an already severely depressed system the short-term impact risks being counterproductive, reducing domestic demand and undermining the already weak economic recovery. Implementing the reforms could also be extremely costly from a political point of view, reinforcing the growing Euroscepticism in the country. The exceptional austerity measures and the reduction of public spending, together with the increase in the tax burden, have in fact already put a strain on the financial and social stability of Greek citizens.
Following the obtaining in August 2015 of a new loan worth 86 billion euros in total for the next three years – in the face of an extremely rigorous reform plan – some members of the Syriza party have abandoned the governing coalition and founded a new party, the Popular Unity Front (Le). Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras formally resigned on August 20 and Greek voters returned to the polls again in September 2015, confirming Syriza and Tsipras in power, with 35.5% of the vote. Syriza also confirmed the ruling coalition with independent Greeks (Anel), thus ensuring control of 155 seats out of the 300 in the Greek parliament. The newborn Popular Unity Front, on the other hand, did not exceed the 3% threshold.
At the latest electoral consultations, the far-right Golden Dawn party – formed by Nikos Mihaloliakos in 1980, then registered in 1993 – confirmed itself as the country’s third largest political force, after Syriza and New Democracy. Golden Dawn won 18 seats, as happened in the 2012 elections, which had sanctioned its entry into parliament. Another worrying fact of the last elections was the strong abstention rate (with a participation equal to 56.5%).