Centre d'Information sur les Institutions Européennes

Centre d'Information sur les Institutions Européennes (CIIE)


  • Accession to the EU: 1981
  • Accession to the Council of Europe: 1949
  • Surface area: 131 957 km2
  • Population: 10.99 million inhabitants (2014)
  • Capital city: Athens (3,2 million inhabitants)
  • Official languages: Greek
  • Listen to Greek
  • Main religion: Orthodox
  • Currency: Euro
  • Political system: Republic
  • Head of state: Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou elected the 22th january 2020
  • Head of government: Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister since July 8th, 2019.
  • International code: +30
  • National holiday: 25 March
  • The Greek members of the European Parliament

Greek history dates back more than 4,000 years. Much coveted by the Ottoman Empire, Greece has endured several confrontations with the Turks.

Le Parthenon, Athens © Tourist Office of Greece

  • 1828 Following their defeat at the battle of Navarino, the Turks are forced to recognize Greek independence.
  • 1830 The London Protocol confirms the existence of an independent Greek State.
  • 1863 King George I inherits the throne (1863-1913).
  • 1912 Greece joins forces with Serbia, Bulgaria and Montenegro to form the Balkan Alliance. It is victorious against Turkey (1912-1913).
  • 1914 First World War breaks out, Greece declares its neutrality.
  • 1917 The Allies force the King to abdicate in favour of his son Alexander, who appoints Venizelos to govern. Greece enters the war on the side of the Triple Entente.
  • 1919 The Treaty of Neuilly awards Greece a slice of Bulgarian territory, Thrace, the territory of Smyrna, and several Aegean islands.
  • 1923 Greece and Turkey ratify the Treaty of Lausanne. This agreement formally acknowledges the borders between the two countries and above all includes a compulsory exchange of populations. Almost a million and a half Greeks leave Turkey to set up home in Greece.
  • 1924 Proclamation of the Republic (March 25th).
  • 1935 Following a military coup, power passes to George II. A dictatorial regime is set up.
  • 1940 The country is attacked by Mussolini’s armies. The Italian troops are pushed back into Albania.
  • 1941 Invasion by German troops.
  • 1944-1949 Civil war between Communists and Royalists.
  • 1952 Greece joins NATO.
  • 1967 A group of army officers led by Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos organizes a coup d’état. Beginning of the dictatorship known as the “colonels’ regime”.
  • 1975 A new Constitution sets up a democratic Republic.
  • 1981 Greece joins the EEC.
  • 2004 Victory of the right (“New Democracy”) during the parliamentary elections, following eleven years of socialist government.
  • 2007: the party “New Democracy” of the former prime minister Kostaas Karamanlis wins the Greek legislative elections. 
  • 2009: the snap elections are won by the social-democtratic party PASOK under George Papandreou.
  • 2010: Karolos Papoulias is confirmed in his office. 

This capital city owes its name to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge. As a major Mediterranean port and a commercial hub, Athens accounts for a major percentage of the country’s economic activity, chiefly thanks to its port of Piraeus. Home to a third of the Greek population, Athens is a dynamic city. It is the headquarters of a large number of engineering, iron and steel, chemical, textiles, and food product companies. Inhabited since Neolithic times, the city of Athens is rich in historical features. Great monuments such as the Acropolis, the Agora, the Parthenon, the temple of Athena Nike, and the sanctuary of Dionysos have made Athens world-famous. The city also includes a large number of monuments from its more recent past, including mosques dating from the time of the Ottoman occupation, and Byzantine churches. This is a city of contrasts, which offers tourists a huge range of historical periods, styles, and traditions waiting to be discovered.

Athens © Tourist Office of Greece

Greece is famous for having created the Olympic Games, which have today become a genuine worldwide sports festival. The games date back to 776 BC, the date on which the first competitions were held in honour of Zeus. For approximately 1,200 years, the games were held in Olympia, where they were a shining example of the Greeks’ philosophy of life, with the emphasis on the body and spirit. A number of sporting competitions were held including the discus, javelin, jumping, running, wrestling, and horse riding. Only Greek men were invited to take part. Women and slaves were not allowed in the stadium. The athletes trained in advance in training camps, in which they underwent intensive physical preparation. At the end of the competition, only the most valiant among them would win prizes. These Olympic champions were then granted a large number of privileges. In 1896, the modern version of the Olympic Games was revived in Athens by Pierre de Coubertin. Chosen to organize the Olympic Games in 2004, Athens has continued this long and proud tradition, bringing the games back to their country of origin.

Olympic Games in Athen 2004 © CIO

The word “Europe” is derived from a character in Greek mythology. The daughter of King Agenor, King of Phoenicia, Europa was taken away by Zeus, who had fallen madly in love with her while she was playing along the seashore. Disguised as a white bull to escape the jealousy of Hera, Zeus took the young princess to Crete. The couple produced three sons, Rhadamanthus, Sarpedon, and Minos, the future King of Crete. The geographical name Europe, which appeared for the first time in a hymn to Apollo, refers to the continent to which the young woman was taken, and where she became “the mother of noble sons”. This mythical tale, illustrated by the Greek two-Euro coin showing a bull and a princess, remains as fascinating today as ever. It bears witness to the importance attached to mythology in this country.


Until recently, Greece had no common border with any of the Member States of the European Union, not even following the enlargement of the Union in May 2004. It was only when Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007 that the Greeks finally gained European neighbours.
Greece made football history and provided more than a few surprises by winning the European cup final in 2004. By beating Portugal, the host nation and the main favorite, the Greek team confounded all forecasts and completed an amazing string of victories.


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