Greece Recent History

By | June 16, 2021

First World War

Greece managed to stay out of the First World War quite successfully. Some bases were established by France and Great Britain on Greek soil. From 1941 the country was also partly occupied by Italian and German troops. Active acts of war on the Greek side did not take place until the country’s nationalists turned against Turkey, but they failed.

Danes and Germans on the Greek throne?

Greece received a lot of support from other countries in the expulsion of the Ottoman rulers from Greek territory. They supported Greece not only out of pity, but on the one hand because they fought against the Ottomans and on the other hand because they were able to influence Greece. It even went so far that they could choose a German and later a Danish king for Greece.

Monarchy or republic?

Meanwhile, there was an argument as to whether politics should develop more in the direction of monarchy or republic. This discussion inevitably ended when General Ionannis Metaxas established a dictatorship in 1936. In the background, however, a civil war continued between communists and those who favored monarchy.

In 1949 a monarchy was again established in Greece based on the western powers of Europe. But that only lasted until 1973. From then on the country was a so-called presidential republic. In 1974 free elections were held in Greece. The new government under Konstantions Karamanlis was western-facing and conservative.

The Cyprus conflict

A continually recurring point of contention between Turkey and Greece is the island of Cyprus. According to a2zdirectory, Cyprus changed “owners”. Sometimes the island belonged to Great Britain, then to Greece and every now and then to Turkey. In the 1950s there were first efforts to make the island independent. In 1960 independence was declared and Cyprus became an island state.

But the residents were still partly Turks and partly Greeks. Some of them wanted to assign Cyprus to the original homeland and the national aspirations caused a lot of controversy. Both the Turkish and Greek governments each supported their representatives in Cyprus. It was and is not only about political interests, but also about economic interests, because there are lots of valuable natural resources in the sea around Cyprus. If you want to know more about Cyprus and the history of Cyprus, you can read this.

The Cyprus conflict

The UN and especially Great Britain prevented a total escalation of the conflict, but could not bring about peace either. In 1974 part of Cyprus was conquered by Turkish Cypriots. They drove out the Greek Cypriots and managed to get the then President Denktash to declare the region independent. However, this was never recognized by the Greek side.

This created two distinct parts of Cyprus. This state of affairs continues to this day. Peace is not yet in place and there are still UN soldiers in Cyprus trying to avoid an escalation. For more information, see History of Cyprus.

Greece in the debt crisis

In the 1980s and 1990s, the explosive factor in Greece was not only the Cyprus conflict but also the war in Yugoslavia that was ongoing in neighboring countries. Disputes also continued with Turkey. However, improvements can be seen in this regard through diplomatic efforts. The two countries tried to get closer through mutual state visits, especially at the beginning of the 21st century.

However, political progress is now overshadowed by extreme economic problems, as Greece is in a debt crisis. The EU supports the country enormously and Germany also paid and is still paying a lot of money to overcome debts to Greece, which is heavily discussed here. In Greece at the same time attempts were made to implement an austerity program, which met with great resistance from the population.

The then head of state Papandreou became increasingly unpopular and was replaced by a transitional government in 2011. New elections were held in June 2012 and a coalition government was established. This achieved new aid loans and payments in 2012. The aim is for the Greek economy to stabilize again by 2020. In addition, savings are made. Opposition parties, however, are against this austerity policy. It is to be hoped that the Greek economy will recover as soon as possible, which would also benefit the country’s political situation.

Alexis Tsipras and Syriza

Alexis Tsipras became head of government in Greece in 2015. He is also the chairman of the SYRIZA party. He started his second term on September 21, 2017. He tries to lead Greece out of the debt crisis. He has to come to an understanding with those who have lent money to the country – the EU and others. But at the same time he has to convince the people that the austerity policy imposed on Greece will lead to success. There are very different opinions about this in both European countries and Greece itself. Corruption was and is a major problem in Greece.

The country has also failed to impose taxes on the wealthy, largely shipowners. That was a mistake that is still noticeable in the country’s treasury today. Many rich people no longer live in Greece and pay no or only very little taxes.

New elections in July 2019

In the elections on July 7, 2019, Tsipras was replaced and the opposition party Nea Dimokratia was chosen as the strongest party. Tsipras had brought forward the elections after heavy losses in the European elections in May 2019. The new Greek Prime Minister is called Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The right-wing extremist parties were unable to prevail in these elections. The new prime minister plans to cut taxes and, above all, to boost the Greek economy.

Even if Greece is doing a little better, the country is still struggling for economic survival. That is why Tsipras was voted out of office.

The new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Kyriakos Mitsotaki’s grandfather was already a member of parliament – by the way, his name was exactly the same as his grandson – and his father Konstantinos Mitsotakis was Prime Minister of Greece from 1990 to 1993. Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been chairman of the Nea Dimokratia party since 2016.

The country’s economy slowly recovered. However, as in many countries, the Corona crisis has caused serious damage to tourism in particular, but in Greece both the number of infections and the number of deaths remained low compared to other Mediterranean countries.