The history of Greece and the Greek-speaking people goes back to ca. 1600 before our time calculation. The Greek antiquity extends from 800 BCE. to 395 AD and was a period of political, philosophical, artistic and scientific innovations that constitute a cultural heritage that has exercised fundamental influence on Western civilization.
Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Greece was part of the Byzantine Empire, before the Ottoman Empire took control of the Late Middle Ages. After a war of freedom against the Ottoman Empire, in 1832 Greece was recognized as an independent state. During World War II, Greece was occupied by Nazi Germany. The liberation in 1944 was followed by unrest and civil war that lasted until 1949. A military junta seized power in the country in 1967 and kept it to 1974. After the restoration of democracy was Greece at a referendum declared republic in 1975. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Greece.
The Middle Ages
Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Greece was part of the Byzantine Empire. From the 500s an extensive Slavic immigration took place, but the slaves merged with the Greeks. From the 9th century, Norman knights began to settle in the country. As the Byzantine Empire fell apart during the Crusade, a number of small states were formed, including Epirus, the Principality of Akhaia, the Kingdom of Thessaloniki and the Duchy of Athens.
In the 1200s subjugated Venice itself Crete (Kandia), Evboia and several other islands in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, and also had periods sovereignty over parts of the Greek mainland.
In the first half of the 1400s, the Ottomans (Turks) occupied most of Greece north of the Peloponnese, and in the latter half also the rest of the country, with the exception of Crete and some of the other Venetian areas.
The Ottoman Lordship 1460-1828
This era was characterized by large movements of people groups. Many Greeks fled to Italy or the Ionian Islands to escape Ottoman rule. For political and economic reasons, the Turks settled throughout the Ottoman Empire.
In Greece, they mainly settled in cities or in fertile agricultural areas. Ottoman cavalrymen took over large lands owned by Greek peasants and then leased this land to the Greek peasants. This was called the timer system. Many Greek boys were also picked to become the Sultan’s slaves, including in the Janits army. When the cavalry gradually lost its importance, the Ottomans switched to cargo operation, and it was common for Greek peasants to be forced into a living.
A large part of the Greeks were financially exploited or persecuted because of their religion during the Turkish rule, but the Greeks still retained a degree of self-government, such as religious and linguistic freedom. This was done through the millet system, where the various religions within the book people were given a certain administrative direction to ensure loyalty to the Ottoman government.
The latter half of the 17th century was characterized by fierce fighting between the Ottoman Empire and Venice. The Ottomans invaded Crete in 1669, while Venice gained control of the Peloponnese and the islands of the Ionian Sea in 1699. Under Venetian rule, there was severe unrest in these areas, which helped the Ottoman Empire to easily take back the territories in 1718.
By the end of the 18th century, Greek trade and shipping had flourished, and economic progress promoted national sentiment and freedom. Greek merchants abroad helped create the “Freedom Association” Filiki Etairia, which was mobilizing on the freedom struggle. The Ottoman Empire was at that time weakened by the Russo-Turkish war in the late 18th century.
The Greek War of Independence 1821-1829
In 1821, a vicious revolt broke out against the Turkish rule of the Peloponnese. The rebels quickly spread to the islands and north, and in the summer of 1822 Athens was conquered. The Greeks’ struggle became a symbol of liberalism and national liberation. Both were important in the nation-state rebellion after the Napoleonic wars.
At the same time as there was a rebellion against the Ottoman rule, there were strong political contradictions within Greece. Liberals and conservatives, Republicans and monarchists fought against each other to win power.
The anti-Turkish struggle eventually developed into an international conflict. Egypt, which was an independent part of the Ottoman Empire, intervened in Greece in 1825 to defeat the Greek rebels. The Egyptian Pasha Ibrahim came to Peloponnese, and after hard fighting he took Mesolongion in 1826.
Then Britain, France and Russia intervened (London Protocol 1827) to support Greece, and the naval forces destroyed the Turkish-Egyptian navy at Navarino, October 20, 1827. The following year a war broke out between Russia and Turkey, and Russia won decisive victories the following year. Peace was made in Edirne (Adrianople), and the Ottoman sultan had to recognize Greece as an independent state.
By a new London protocol in 1830, the three great powers recognized Greece as an independent but not autonomous state. Count Kapodistrias (former Russian Foreign Minister) was appointed new regent. He led a pro-Russian foreign policy, and nationally he worked to introduce a centralized state power. In the provinces there was strong opposition to the policy of centralization. Kapodistrias’ opponents carried out a conspiracy against him, with support from France and England, and in 1831 Kapodistrias was assassinated.
The following year, Greece gained the status of an independent kingdom under the protection of the great powers of France, Russia and the United Kingdom, and Prince Otto of Bavaria was appointed king as King Otto 1. He introduced a strongly centralized regime and sought to conduct an independent foreign policy, without the influence of great powers. After a revolt, constitutional monarchy was introduced in Greece. Political life was largely characterized by a conflict between “radical” and “conservative” about constitutional development.
During the Crimean War (1853-1856), a British-French fleet forced Greece to remain neutral. In 1862 a provisional government deposed King Otto, and the great powers recommended Greece to take Prince William of Denmark as king. Prince Vilhelm took power in 1863 and took the royal name Georg 1. After this change of power, Greece received the Ionian Islands as a gift from the United Kingdom. King Georg 1 led an expansive foreign policy and his choice language was: From King of Greece to King of the Greeks. The expansionist policy, the so-called Megali Idea, came to dominate Greek politics for almost a hundred years. Efforts to achieve territorial enlargement have largely neglected internal social tasks.
A new and more democratic constitution was introduced in 1864 (among other things, universal suffrage was introduced for men), but political strife continued. As a “reward” for conducting a neutral policy during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, Greece was promised territorial enlargement at the Berlin Congress in 1878. Thessalia and part of Epirus became Greek territory in 1881. Nevertheless, the country continued to struggle to incorporate the remaining territories with Greek inhabitants of Europe and Asia Minor. Greece supported, among other things, the uprisings in Crete and Macedonia, and in 1897 a war broke out between Greece and the Ottoman Empire over the rights of Crete. Greece suffered defeat and was forced to withdraw from the island, but Crete was declared autonomous state by the great powers in 1898.
Greece demanded the whole of Macedonia, and this demand led to conflict with Romania in 1905, and in 1906 with Bulgaria. In 1908, after Austria-Hungary’s annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Crete’s Declaration of Independence, Greece remained passive.
After a time of great conflicts between politicians, a military league was established in 1909. In practice, this meant that the army assumed power. In 1910, the Cretaceous formed Eleftherios Venizelos The Liberal Party, Komma Fileleftheron, while the conservative nationalists gathered in an “anti-Venizelian” People’s Party, Komma Laikon. These were the first signs of party formation in Greece.
Venizelos removed the military league and took control of the country itself. The National Assembly elected in 1910 supported Venizelos, and the 1912 parliamentary elections gave him a large majority. He ruled for several years self-employed. The financial system was in order, the army was reorganized by French officers, but at the same time there was deep division and great turmoil in Greek politics at this time.
During the first Balkan war in 1912–1913, members of the new Balkan Alliance (Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece) fought against Turkey, securing almost all of the Ottoman Empire’s possessions in Europe. The peace was concluded in London on May 30, 1913.
The Second Balkan War of 1913 was a conflict between Serbia, Greece and Romania, on the one hand, and Bulgaria, on the other, over the distribution of the conquests. Bulgaria attacked Greece and Serbia, but was beaten and relinquished Macedonia to the opponents.
The result of the Balkan wars was that Turkey could only retain a small land area on the European continent, while Greece and Serbia in particular were allowed to expand their territories significantly. Greece’s land area increased by 56,000 km2 and nearly 2 million inhabitants.
In 1913, King Georg 1 was assassinated in Thessaloniki. His son and successor, Constantine 1, became very popular with the nationalists because he had won major military victories. This was the beginning of the battle between Venizelos (liberal) and Constantine (conservative).
World war one
At the beginning of the First World War, the entente powers tried to get Bulgaria and Greece into the fight against Turkey. Venizelos had plans to join the attack on the Dardanelles (Turkey), but this was not supported by the general staff. The king therefore deposed Venizelos in March 1915. Despite this, Venizelos got the majority in the elections that year, and he again became prime minister.
When Bulgaria mobilized against Serbia, Venizelos mobilized the Greek army and allowed French and British troops to land in Thessaloniki and operate from there. This was a violation of the policy of neutrality, and became an important issue in the struggle between liberal and conservative forces. The question of participation in the First World War was largely related to the so-called “national schism” (Ethnicos Dichasmos) in Greek politics: the fate of the Greeks who lived outside the country – primarily in Turkey.
When Bulgaria went to war against Serbia in 1915, the king again dismissed Venizelos. In 1916, the entente extended the Saloniki front to the Adriatic. Bulgarian troops were able to occupy any Greek fort east of Thessaloniki, without combat. Because this happened without fighting, the entente suspected the Greek government of having a secret deal with the enemy. The Entente therefore demanded demobilization of the Greek army. With the support of the entente, an unofficial pro-entente government was formed in Thessaloniki in 1916. Venizelos was among the leaders of this government.
In June 1917, Constantine 1 was forced to leave the country and left the government to his second oldest son, Alexander. He took Venizelos as prime minister and let him reign supreme. Greece then declared war on Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey. The Greek army was reorganized and fought in 1918 against the Bulgarians. At the peace in Neuilly-sur-Seine, November 27, 1919, Greece gained Bulgaria’s part of Thrace. Greek troops participated the same year in the entente’s occupation of Smyrna (Izmir) and the surrounding area. The peace agreement between the Entent, Greece and Turkey was signed in Sèvres on August 10, 1920. Greece took over almost all of eastern Thrace, in addition to the Smyrna area.
The interwar period
During the 1920 election, King Alexander died. There was a controversy over Constantine’s chances of becoming king again after his appearance during the First World War. In the 1920 election, Venizelo’s defeat suffered and he left the country. In December 1920 Constantine 1 returned to Athens, but he was not recognized by the Entent, and his return particularly changed France’s attitude towards Greece. France stopped providing financial support to Greece and decided to give Turkey better conditions than the Treaty of Sevres. This led to the Greek government going to war against Turkey to secure the rule of Asia Minor, and to incorporate the Greeks who lived there in Greece.
In 1922 the Greek troops were expelled from Asia Minor by the Turks, and Constantine I had to abdicate. He was succeeded by his eldest son Georg 2, and Colonel Nikolas Plastiras took over the government. At the Lausanne peace with Turkey in July 1923, Greece had to give up all that was won in Asia Minor and renounce part of Thrace. This was the definitive end to the Megali Idea (expansion policy).
The Peace Agreement (Lausanne Agreement) between Greece and Turkey entailed an exchange of Greek and Turkish peoples. Nearly 500,000 Turks (ie, Turkish-speaking Greeks) were relocated from Greece to Turkey, while around 1.5 million Greeks (ie Greek-speaking Christian Turks) were relocated from Turkey to Greece. A large part of the refugees who came to Greece settled in Macedonia. The Greek proportion of Macedonia’s population increased by 43% to 89%.
In the early 1920s, there was an ever-increasing demand from the Greek people for economic and social reforms. In 1924, a referendum was held in which the majority voted to introduce a Republican state form, and Georg 2 was deposed. Venizelos again became prime minister in June 1928 and ruled almost unanimously until October 1932. This period was marked by political instability and major financial problems. In 1932, Venizelos had to step down as prime minister when he was no longer able to deal with the country’s problems, especially the economic crisis.
After years of discontent and crisis, the Greek voters voted in November 1935 to reinstate the monarchy. King Georg 2 returned, but his attempt to implement a parliamentary regime was unsuccessful. General Ioannis Metaxas appointed himself head of government in April 1936. He suspended the constitution and served as a dictator. For four years he ruled Greece according to semi-fascist principles, with Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler as role models.
On October 28, 1940, Italy attacked Greece from Albania, but the attack was turned back. Metaxas died in January 1941. German forces attacked Greece on April 6 of that year. Despite some British support, all of Greece was occupied by Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. The king and the government had to leave the country. The government finally settled in Cairo, the King of London. Greece was among the countries most severely looted and injured as a result of World War II.
Greek resistance groups were at odds with the occupying power throughout Greece, but were divided among themselves. The strongest was the radical Republican National Liberation Front, EAM. The Front’s military units were organized in the Greek People’s Liberation Army, ELAS, which became its successor in the Communist DSE.
In April 1944, the Cairo government was transformed on a broader party political basis, with the centrist Georgios Papandreou as the head of government. Both the monarchist organization, EDES, and EAM were dissatisfied with the representation in the new government, and the opposition within the resistance movement was deepened.
In October 1944, the government returned from Cairo after the German troops left Greece. Papandreou ordered the dissolution of the liberation army ELAS. The organization refused to be disarmed, and there was a government crisis when seven EAM ministers left the government. Papandreou retired in December 1944.
There were demonstrations all over Greece, and around New Year 1944/1945 fighting broke out between British soldiers and ELAS forces. During the spring, the authorities gained control of the situation, and EAM supporters were removed from the administration.
In the elections to the National Assembly in March 1946, the monarchists prevailed, and in September of that year, a referendum was held on whether King Georg 2 should return. Since December 1944, Archbishop Damaskinos had served as regent. The vote showed a majority for the monarchy, and in September 1946, Georg 2 was able to return from exile for the third time.
Greece had major financial problems in the first post-war years. There was a shortage of food, housing and clothing, and this formed the basis for opposition to the sitting regime. In the fall of 1946 there was a powerful clash between guerrillas and police and military forces. Later in the fall, an “independent” Greek government was proclaimed under the leadership of Communist General Markos Vafiadis. Especially in Northern Greece there were serious battles between the government forces and the communist rebels. The authorities received technical and material assistance from the United States, and the rebels had to give up the fight against the government forces.
In 1949 the Markos forces ceased all organized resistance, and the parliamentary ‘right’ had prevailed. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the civil war, and major material destruction was done throughout Greece.
In the 1951 elections, a rally of right-wing parties, led by Field Marshal Alexandros Papagos, who had been at the head of the government troops during the Civil War, prevailed. Despite Papagos’ victory, the National Progress Party, led by General Nikolaos Plastiras, formed a minority government. It retained power until 1952, when a new constitution was passed and elections were introduced in one-man circles. Due to the new electoral system, a number of smaller parties lost their seats in the National Assembly. This led to a clearer division of the space between the Greek Assembly and the Democratic Union under Plastiras. Greek assembly won a superior victory, and Papagos again formed government.
In 1952, Greece joined NATO. The following year, the country entered into an agreement with Turkey and Yugoslavia on military cooperation. In 1954, the agreement was extended to the political, economic and cultural fields (the Balkan Pact). This cooperation agreement had no practical significance.
In 1954, anti-critical demonstrations broke out in Cyprus and in several Greek cities. The protesters objected to the British government refusing a request from Greece to negotiate Cyprus’ status. The UN General Assembly dealt with the matter without result. The situation on the island was aggravated and British nationals and Turkish Cypriots were attacked by Greek Cypriots. The problems in Cyprus caused Greece to have a tense relationship with both Turkey and the United Kingdom. In 1955 the British deported Archbishop Makarios, who was the Greek leader in Cyprus.
The Cyprus conflict was the dominant foreign policy issue in the late 1950s. General Georgios Grivas started a movement demanding that Cyprus be subject to Greece. In autumn 1960 supported 1/3 of National Assembly members this movement.
In 1955, Prime Minister Papagos died, and Konstantinos Karamanlis became new head of government. The Coalition Greek Assembly was reorganized as the National Radical Union. In the elections to the new National Assembly in 1956, the National Radical Union gained the most seats, although the Democratic Union got several votes. This was a result of the new electoral system. Women had the right to vote for the first time, and the election marked the beginning of a stable period in Greek politics, with Karamanlis serving as prime minister until 1963.
In June 1963, Karamanlis resigned, and various business ministries ruled the country until the election the same year, with Papandreous Center Union receiving the most seats in the National Assembly. Papandreou refused to form a government as he would then depend on the support of the Communists. The king was forced to print new elections to ensure the country’s stable government. In the 1964 election, the Central Union triumphed, and Papandreou was able to form a government. Shortly after the election, King Paul died, and his son Constantine 2 took over. Prime Minister Papandreou came into conflict with the young king on the issue of control of the military forces, and he resigned in July 1965.
Junta rule 1967–1974
In the spring of 1965, the king accused a group of officers of preparing a coup. The charges sharpened the political controversy. Throughout much of Greece there were demonstrations and unrest. In September 1965, King Stefanos Stefanopoulos from the right wing of the Central Union formed government. This was dropped as early as December 1966 and a Ministry of Business took over.
King Constantine 2 asked Panayotis Kanellopoulos, the leader of the opposition in parliament, to form a new government, instead of asking Papandreou, who had the majority behind him. Kanellopoulos dissolved parliament and wrote new elections. In April 1967, a group of colonels made state coups for fear that reforms in the armed forces would be introduced if the Center Union won the election.
The junta appointed Attorney General Konstantinos Kollias as prime minister, but retained real power himself. The Constitution was put into effect and 6,000 to 7,000 people, especially left-wing politicians and trade unionists, were arrested. Strict censorship was introduced, and the planned National Assembly elections were canceled. The population was largely passive to the coup, and the king’s position was long unclear.
A few months after the coup, General Grivas, who had become commander-in-chief of Cyprus, attacked Turkish villages on the island. Turkey reacted immediately, but due to pressure from Western powers they failed to go to military invasion of the island. General Grivas had to step down and a large number of Greek troops were withdrawn from Cyprus. Following this defeat, the King, together with Prime Minister Kollias, attempted a counter-coup on December 13. This was completely unsuccessful, and the king had to flee to Italy with his family and Collias.
In June 1967, the junta appointed Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos as head of government. He had been one of the leaders of the coup in April of that year. In addition to becoming prime minister, he became defense minister, later also education minister and foreign minister. In 1972 he also took over as regent.
In the spring of 1968, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, with the accession of the Netherlands to the European Commission on Human Rights, complained that Greece had breached the human rights convention and was successful. Greece thus lost its place in the Council of Europe.
Following disclosures of planned coup plans by Royal Navy officers, Greece was proclaimed a republic for the first time on June 1, 1973. A referendum approved the change in state form. Papadopoulos became president and appointed a civilian government, but the junta still had strong control over the country. Papadopoulos liberalized the economy, abolished the state of emergency and released political prisoners. At this time, the junta government was characterized by internal divisions, and there was strong social unrest in the country, due to an increasingly difficult economic situation.
In November 1973, students and workers demonstrated against the country’s economic policies, especially against high inflation. The student demonstrations outside Athens Polytechnic University were brutally beaten by security police and resulted in 24 people being killed. The demonstration on November 17, 1973, was seen as the beginning of the fall of the military junta, and is marked annually in Athens. A group of right-wing generals dismissed Papadopoulos because they believed his liberalist policies had gone too far. General Fedon Gizikis took over as president, introduced a state of emergency and postponed the scheduled election indefinitely.
The fall of the junta came in July 1974. The Greek government supported a coup d’état in Cyprus, and Turkey responded by invading the northern part of the island. The Greek General Staff declared that the country’s armed forces were not prepared for a new war, and the junta departed on July 23, 1974. Later that year, Greece regained its membership of the Council of Europe.
After the military state of emergency was abolished, Konstantinos Karamanlis returned from exile and formed a new government. In the November 1974 election, his party captured New Democracy, Neá Dimokratía (ND) 220 out of 300 seats in parliament. The second largest party was the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Panellínio Socialistikó Kínima (PASOK), led by Andreas Papandreou, son of Georgios Papandreou.
Greece was given a new Republican constitution in June 1975, after a referendum in December 1974 refused to reinstate the monarchy. In the autumn 1975 lawsuits, the junta leaders from 1967 to 1974 were convicted, along with a number of their supporters. Later, the sentenced death sentences were turned into life imprisonment. The opposition criticized the government for not going far enough in settlement with the past.
In 1975, Konstantinos Tsatsos, who was politically close to Karamanlis, was elected president. At the 1977 parliamentary elections, New Democracy gained an absolute majority, thus retaining government power. The government pursued a moderate policy, with particular emphasis on strengthening the economy and improving the country’s social conditions. Karamanlis served as prime minister until he was elected president in 1980. Georgios Rallis took over as prime minister.
At the election of a new National Assembly in 1981, the right side lost. PASOK got an absolute majority and Andreas Papandreou became prime minister. The party went to election with the slogan allaghi (change), and was presented as the heir to the Greek center. Papandreou pursued a leftist policy. In 1985, PASOK declined somewhat, but still retained an absolute majority.
That same year, Papandreou refused to support Karamanlis as president for a new five-year term. Karamanlis, in turn, withdrew from the election in protest of proposed amendments to the constitution, which was aimed at transferring the president’s executive power to parliament. In 1986 the amendments were adopted. The National Assembly elected Supreme Court Judge Christos Sartzetakis as new president.
In 1989, Greece entered a political crisis characterized by stagnation and unclear governance. PASOK struggled, especially as the government’s role in various economic scandals came into the spotlight. Papandreou and four other former government members were also charged with involvement in various corruption cases. A special tribunal was set up to deal with the situation. After the June elections, PASOK lost the majority and ND formed a government with a coalition party. A new election was held as early as November 1989, but neither party won a majority. In the period from October 1989 to April 1990 several different interim boards were put in power.
The conflicts with Turkey have largely dominated Greek foreign policy. When Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, the relationship tightened. The establishment of a Turkish-Cypriot Republic in 1983 did not make the relationship better. In 1984, Greece refused to participate in a NATO exercise because of this conflict. In addition, the question of sovereignty over the oil-rich continental shelf in the Aegean has led to conflicts between the states. There was almost a military conflict in 1987 because of this.
Right after Karamanlis returned from exile in 1974, he expressed that Greece should join the EC. The EF had played a prominent role against the junta, and in addition the EC could be a potential backer for Turkey. The Greek application was sent in 1975 and the negotiations ended in 1979. From 1981 Greece became a full member of the EC.
Greece joined NATO in 1952, but after the fall of the junta, Karamanlis wanted to distance Greece from the United States. In August 1974, he stated that the time period for US military bases in Greece had to be renegotiated. In 1983, however, the Greek government signed a five-year defense and economic cooperation agreement with the United States, which maintained the four US bases in the country. This despite the promises that the bases should be removed, and despite the fact that the US still wanted a close relationship with Turkey in NATO.
Greece in the 1990s
Party politics and elections
After the April 1990 elections, a pure Conservative government was formed, led by Konstantinos Mitsotakis. In the same year, former President Karamanlis was elected new president. The case against Papandreou came up before the Special Tribunal in 1991, and in January 1992 he was acquitted on all counts. After the acquittal, Papandreou demanded new elections because he believed the charges against him had played a major role in the Conservative election victory in 1990.
When two of the New Democrats in parliament left the party in favor of a newly formed center-right party in 1993, the ND lost the majority. Mitsotakis resigned and wrote new elections. The defiant prime minister was accused of exploiting the prime minister’s position for personal gain and corruption, but parliament withdrew the charge in 1994.
In the 1993 election, PASOK got 46.9% of the vote and a pure majority in parliament. Papandreou became prime minister, but illness forced him to resign in January 1996. In June of that year he died. After internal disputes and power struggles in PASOK, Kostas Simitis took over as prime minister. He also took over as party leader, and his entry as leader of PASOK led the party to approach the Social Democratic parties in other Western European countries.
In 1995, Parliament elected Konstantinos Stefanopoulos as president. The following year, Simitis wrote a new election to parliament to give the government a firm mandate to implement the economic reforms needed to achieve the goal of membership in the EU’s monetary union. In the September elections, PASOK received a majority.
Despite major demonstrations and general strikes, Simitis’ government continued to pursue the austerity and austerity policy needed to adapt to EU requirements. The right side made a relatively poor choice and Miltiadis Evert stepped down as the leader of ND. In 1997, Konstantinos (Kostas) Karamanlis, nephew of the former president of the same name, was elected a new leader in ND.
In June 1997, the Supreme Court approved that the estates of King Constantine 2 could be nationalized and that his family’s citizenship be revoked. The King presented his case to the European Court of Human Rights and was granted a hearing in November 2000.
In 1999, it became known that Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Öcalan had been given protection in the Greek embassy in Kenya before being taken by the Turkish authorities. Three ministers had to step down because of the handling of this matter.
Foreign policy in the 1990s was characterized by several conflicts. The old conflict with Turkey over the oil resources in the Aegean flared up again in 1994, and from 1996 to 1997 Turkey and Greece stood against each other in Cyprus and in connection with border issues in the Aegean. Relations between the two countries improved somewhat towards the end of the 1990s, and in 1999 Greece expressed its wish to welcome Turkey as a future EU member.
Another foreign policy conflict came to the surface in 1992, when Greece failed to recognize Macedonia in connection with the EU’s recognition of the new states of former Yugoslavia. Much of the former historic Macedonia is part of Greece, and the Greeks feared territorial demands from the new Macedonia. In 1994 Greece introduced a blockade of Macedonian goods. The Greeks reacted particularly to the country using the name Macedonia and an ancient Greek-Macedonian sun symbol in the flag. The case was provisionally resolved in 1995, when the sun symbol was slightly changed and the country’s official name became “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (English abbreviation: FYROM). The conflict flared up again in 2004, when the United States recognized the country as “Republic of Macedonia”.
The anti-American currents, which have been latent in Greek society ever since the junta era, ignited fiercely during NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999. Greece has traditionally had close relations with Serbia, and only reluctantly agreed to the use of weapons. Polls showed that over 95% of the population was against the bombing, and when Bill Clinton visited Athens in the fall of 1999, there were fierce demonstrations against the United States.
In the 1990s, several Greek groups targeted bomb attacks and assaults on political, military and commercial targets in Greece. The government launched a series of measures to combat the attacks in 1994, but the authorities failed to stop them. In June 2000, British defense attache Stephen Saunders was killed by the terrorist group on 17 November. The group justified the assassination with Saunder’s role in planning NATO’s bombing of Kosovo in 1999. The left-wing terrorist group was founded in the mid-1970s and has focused its actions on American and Turkish targets in particular. Saunders’ murder led to international concern that the Greeks would fail in the fight against the attacks. In July 2000, Britain and Greece agreed on a series of measures to combat terror.