Greece. The severely ill Prime Minister Andreas
Papandreou was forced to resign in January. He was replaced
somewhat surprisingly by his sharpest critic in the
Pan-Dutch socialist movement (Panellinion Socialistikon
Kinima, PASOK), Kostas Simitis. He had left the government a
few months earlier in protest against Papandreou's policies,
but now won the vote within the party.
Countryaah.com, Simitis had barely taken office until Greece got into a
serious conflict with the enemy Turkey over the ownership of
an uninhabited islet in the Aegean, called Imia in Greek and
Kardak in Turkish. The UN and NATO tried to mediate when
warships from both countries became dangerously close to
each other and there was a war atmosphere. Following the
intervention of US President Bill Clinton, the vessels were
withdrawn. Greece, however, continued the conflict by blocking EU aid and a loan from the European Investment Bank totaling
more than SEK 9 billion. to Turkey.
At the end of June, Papandreou passed away and was
followed to the grave by tens of thousands of followers.
However, his colorful leadership style was already a thing
of the past, and after the election of Simitis as party
leader, PASOK was given a new look. Simitis pledged to
quickly adapt G. to the EU and received support for its
policy in a quickly announced new election in September,
more than a year earlier than intended. PASOK's victory over
the conservative New Democrat (Nea Dimokratia) became quite
scarce as a percentage of votes but superior in terms of
mandate due to the design of the electoral system. After
all, there was widespread opposition to the harsh austerity
measures that the EU alignment would entail, as evidenced by
the fact that the three small left parties that most clearly
opposed these austerity measures were the only ones besides
the two dominant parties that passed the three-percent
blockade to Parliament.
The budget presented at the end of November was described
as the tightest in 15 years and entailed large reductions in
central government expenditure, but also large tax increases
for high-income and self-employed persons. The budget was
met by angry protests from mainly farmers, who for a large
part of December blocked roads and railways in central Greece to
get through their financial demands on the government, which
European integration and economic cooperation
In February 2000, Konstantinos Stefanopulos was
re-elected as President of Greece. He thus became the first
president to regain confidence. PASOK won the parliamentary
elections in April and Kostas Simitis continued as prime
Greece became a member of the Economic and Monetary Union
in Europe (EMU) in 2001 and thus part of the Eurozone. In
2002, Greece went from drachma to euro, but it would prove
to be difficult to integrate Greece into the EU internal
market. Greece has also had difficulties implementing
directives and orders from the EU, and the country has great
difficulty in approaching the criteria for membership in the
monetary and economic union.
Bomb explosions and assassination attempts have been a
major problem in Greece for several years. After September
11, 2001, political pressure against the authorities
increased to fight the dissident groups. In 2002, a number
of people from the November 17 group and the revolutionary
ELA were arrested. This led to a dramatic reduction in the
number of attacks.
In 2002, peace negotiations were underway between the
parties in Cyprus, which both Turkey and Greece supported.
But the negotiations were stranded, which threatened
relations between the states. The UN came on track in 2004,
and a plan was put forward by Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The Turkish part of the island supported the plan, but the
Greek Cypriot rejected it. The political environment in
Greece was positive to the plan as it would provide both
security and financial benefits for the state.
Greece signed the EU's new constitution in 2004. The
Greek government rejected a demand from the opposition for a
referendum on the law. It was justified by the tradition in
Greece that the Constitution could be ratified in the
National Assembly, as did about half of the EU states.
The 2004 elections
The March 2004 parliamentary elections were considered
one of the most important elections since the fall of the
military junta in 1974. PASOK, who had been in power for 19
of the last 22 years, could lose. The reunification talks in
Cyprus led to tensions in Greek society, and in addition
Greece was to host the Olympics in August, which was of
great importance for the country's international reputation.
PASOK lost the election and had to hand over power to the
conservative party New Democracy. Kostas Karamanlis became
new prime minister. He is the nephew of the prime minister
who led Greece out of the military dictatorship. Karamanlis'
counterpart was PASOK's Georgios A. Papandreou, son and
grandson of former prime ministers.
Summer 2004 Olympics
Athens hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 2004, but the
state had major problems getting the facilities completed on
time. When Prime Minister Karamanlis appointed the new
government, he appointed himself Minister of Culture and
thus took personal responsibility for the Olympic
facilities. PASOK supported Karamanlis in the work, which
ensured broad political support to solve the problems.
The Olympic Summer Games were used as a pretext to make
major improvements to Athens' infrastructure. The new
international airport, named after former Prime Minister
Eleftherios Venizelos, opened in 2001 and the metro lines
were expanded to better cope with a growing number of
tourists in addition to guests and participants of the
The 2004 Olympics cost more than Greece had budgeted for.
The Greek economy was in decline. In November 2004, Greece
admitted to cheating with the numbers to achieve EMU
membership in 2001.