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Greece

Basic Information

Area: 131,990 km²

Calling code: +30

Population: 11,216,708

Official Language: Greek

Time zone: EET (UTC+2), Local time: 10:55

Overview

Greece is a parliamentary republic with a total population in the region of 11 million people. It is situated on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, in south eastern Europe, and incorporates thousands of islands largely concentrated in the Aegean Sea. Towards the north, the country shares borders with Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Turkey.

In 1981, Greece joined the European Community and in 2001 it became the 12th member of the European Union to join the euro zone, the benefits of which have been enormous. Membership of the EU has brought Greece considerable amounts of financial aid, most of which has been targeted at less developed rural areas, and, while further work is still needed, the measures adopted to meet the Maastricht convergence criteria have had a dramatic impact on the economy in terms of controlling inflation, cutting the budget deficit and encouraging steady growth. In recent years, the Greek economy has averaged a growth rate of approximately 4 per cent.

With about 10 million visitors a year and one of the largest merchant fleets in the world, tourism and shipping provide the backbone of the economy. The country also has a strong industrial sector, which accounts for about half of its export earnings. Agriculture has always played a large role in the economy and continues to employ a relatively large proportion of the workforce, compared with many of the other EU states. The main products of the agricultural sector include cotton, olives, raisins, tobacco, wheat, wine and wool.

The vast majority of the country’s trade takes place with EU member states, while outside of the EU Saudi Arabia, Japan and the USA are among Greece’s major trading partners.

There are five international airports and dozens of regional airports in the country. The principal airport, Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens, officially opened in March 2001 and is one of the most modern airports in Europe. Flights times between Athens and London are approximately 5 hours, with flights between Athens and New York and Athens and Singapore both taking about 13 hours. Sydney can be reached in just over 24 hours.
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