Political Rights: 1
Civil Liberties: 2
Status: Free
Population: 11,000,000
GNI/Capita: $11,430
Life Expectancy: 78
Religious Groups: Greek Orthodox (98 percent), Muslim (1.3 percent), other (0.7 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Greek (98 percent), other, including Macedonian, Turkish (2 percent)
Capital: Athens


The trial of several people suspected of being members of the November 17 urban guerrilla group dominated the news in Greece during 2003. The country improved its relations with Turkey over, among other things, the situation between Greek and Turkish Cyprus. Greece also amended its law on trafficking in human beings, adding a provision that gives assistance and protection to the victims of trafficking crimes.

Modern Greece began in 1830, when the country gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire. The ensuing century brought continued struggle between royalists and republican forces. During World War II, Greece fell to Germany in 1941 after a failed invasion by Italy the year before. From 1942 to 1944, local Communist and royalist forces put up a strong resistance against the Nazis, which were eventually defeated with the help of British forces in 1944. National solidarity broke down in the early postwar period when royalists won national elections and eventually defeated the Communists in a civil war. In 1967, a group of army officers staged a military coup, suspending elections and arresting hundreds of political activists. A referendum in 1974 rejected the restoration of the monarchy, and a new constitution in 1975 declared Greece a parliamentary republic.

During parliamentary elections in 2000, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) won more than half of the seats, while the more conservative New Democracy party came in a close second. Other parties winning seats include the Communist Party of Greece and Synaspismos, a coalition of smaller left parties. Of those eligible to vote, 89 percent turned out at the polls.

High security and heavy media attention were prevalent during the start of the trial of 19 suspected members of an urban guerrilla group, called November 17, that were caught last year. Four of the suspects were found guilty of committing a number of murders, bombings, and robberies during a 28-year-long terrorist campaign that claimed 23 lives.

Relations between Greece and Turkey improved in 2003 over Cyprus when the Turkish Cypriot leader opened the border on the island with the Greek side, allowing thousands of people to visit. In October, the Turkish foreign minister, Abdulla Gul, visited Athens and declared tensions with Greece a thing of the past. Both Greece and Turkey made progress toward joining the international Mine Ban Treaty.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Greeks are free to change their government democratically. All 300 members of the unicameral parliament are elected according to a system of proportional representation. The president is elected by parliament to a five-year term. Greece generally has fair electoral laws and equal campaigning opportunities. However, during the last election, an all-party committee decided to ban all outdoor posters and banners and to reduce the parties' radio and television advertising by 50 percent. Greece has a system of compulsory voting, but it is weakly enforced. Some representatives of the Roma (Gypsy) community complain that certain municipalities failed to register Romanies who did not fulfill basic residency requirements.

Corruption is a serious problem in Greece, which has ranked lowest of all west European countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for two years running. According to a U.S. State Department human rights report released in March 2003, some police officers are on the payroll of organized crime groups and have facilitated human trafficking by these groups.

Although the constitution provides provisions for freedom of speech and the press, there are a number of limits. The constitution forbids speech that incites fear, violence, and disharmony among the population. Publications that offend religious beliefs, are obscene, or advocate the violent overthrow of the political system can be seized by the state. Groups that oppose the system also threaten the press. A gasoline bomb was lobbed at the house of Anna Panayotarea, a journalist who has been covering the trial of the suspected members of the November 17 terrorist group. Sympathizers of the group maintain that the national press follows the government's official line too closely and have attacked several other journalists since the capture of suspected group members in 2002.

Freedom of religion is generally respected, although there are cases of religious discrimination. Because of their religion, non-Orthodox members of the military, police and fire-fighting forces, and civil service face discrimination and career limits. Academic freedom is not restricted.

Although the Greek constitution allows for freedom of association, ethnic and religious minority groups face a number of barriers. The government does not officially recognize the existence of any non-Muslim minority groups, particularly Slavophones. The Greek government, further, does not recognize Macedonian as a language as officials fear the secessionist aspirations of this group. Roma, who may be either Greek Orthodox or Muslim, are not recognized as a minority but rather as a "socially excluded" or "sensitive" group. Moreover, using the term Turkos or Tourkikos ("Turk" and "Turkish," respectively) in the title of an association is illegal and may lead to persecution. The capture and trial of several suspected leaders of the November 17 group has weakened but not eliminated a major source of political terror in the country. Workers are free to organize into trade unions and bargain collectively.

The judiciary is independent, and the constitution provides for public trials. However, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) raised concerns in a 2002 report about the ill-treatment of detainees by law enforcement officials, especially toward immigrants, and the overcrowding of prisons. In 2003, Amnesty International issued a report critical of Greece's treatment of conscientious objectors, who are frequently not given proper civil service options. In June, a conscientious objector, Lazaros Petromelidis, was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment, suspended for three years, for failing to report to alternative civilian service. His civil service would have brought him far away from his wife and child.

Immigrants and ethnic minorities face discrimination and unequal treatment under the law. The European Commission's Committee to Prevent Torture reports that in 2001 the police mistreated immigrants. The Roma community faces systematic discrimination in all spheres of social life and is often the target of abusive police raids based on racial profiling. Although the Greek constitution guarantees equal treatment to any person legally on the territory of the country, there is a lack of effective legislation to ensure this right.

Women lack specific legislation to deal with domestic violence and, in addition, face sex-based discrimination in the workplace, where they get paid about three-quarters less than men for equal work. Women hold only 8.7 percent of the seats in parliament. According to the U.S. State Department, the government of Greece was not fully complying with minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking in 2003 and not making significant efforts to do so. Around 18,000 people – mainly women and children – were trafficked to Greece in 2002. Greece did, however, pass a law in 2002 that outlaws trafficking in human beings and imposes penalties for the sale of human organs, the exploitation of labor, the economic exploitation of sex, and the exploitation of minors for the purpose of armed conflict and pornography. In 2003, parliament went further in combating human trafficking by providing assistance and protection to the victims of these crimes.

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