Greece, according to figures released by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), spent around 2.4% of its GDP on defence in 2015 and 2016, a 7.2% increase in defence spending over that of 2014 (or some an additional 0.2% of the GDP). Overall in terms of this measure, Greece ranks 2nd out of the 28 NATO members, behind only the US and being one of the few member states that achieves the NATO’s target of 2% of the GDP spending in military expenditure.

Greece is a European state, situated in the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, in the Eastern part of the European continent. Greece shares land borders with Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey and FYROM. Athens is the capital and biggest city of Greece. The most recent official estimate for the population of Greece, is the 2011 Census conducted by the Greek government. The census indicated a population of approximately 10.8 million people. The largest ethnic group in Greece, are native Greeks (over 97% of the population). The main spoken language of the country is Greek and over 97% of the population practices the Greek Orthodox religion.

The Greek economy in recent times was heavily hit by what one can be fairly characterized, as the worst economic crisis of its modern history. Nevertheless, the standard of living of the Greek society has not been affected in the same way as the country’s economy, which has shrunk by approximately 25% in the last 7 years (2008-2014). This is highlighted by the fact that the Greek Human Development Index (HDI), still remains high. HDI is a rather acknowledged indicator for evaluating the socio-economic progress of a country, and is published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The factors that are taken into consideration in order to form the aforementioned index are life expectancy, education (measured by adult literacy and gross enrolment in education) and standards of living (measured by purchasing power parity (PPP) income). The prices of the index fluctuate from 0 to 1. Countries with index below 0.5 are characterized as “under developed”; countries with index between 0.5 and 0.8 are characterized as of “medium development”; and countries with an index higher than 0.8, are characterized as “highly developed”. In 2014, the Greek HDI value was 0.865, which gives the country a rank of 29th out of 188 countries and territories considered, and places the country is the “very high” human development category. Since 1980, the HDI value of Greece has been significantly increased from 0.714 to 0.865. Also the country has recorded a substantial progress in each of the HDI indicators, over the same period. Life expectancy at birth increased by 7.2 years, mean years and expected years of schooling increased by 3.7 years and 5.9 years respectively, while the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, increased by 15%.  

The sun and the sea are Greece’s principal resources and have been so since antiquity. As a result, its two main industries, shipping and tourism, are directly related to them. The bases of the current development of the Greek maritime economy, were established in postwar Greece. In the 1940s up to the 1960s, Greek shipping operated from centers outside Greece, mainly New York and London. This created a different mentality and culture amongst Greek ship-owners, who learnt to operate in an extremely demanding environment. From the mid-1960s, the operational centre of Greek shipping, slowly moved to the biggest port of the country, namely Piraeus. Nevertheless, its dynamism and international stimuli continued and always triggered the innovative spirit of Greek shipping. According to latest data provided by Clarksons, one of the world’s biggest shipbrokers, currently (2016) Greek ship-owners control 18% of the global fleet in terms of capacity, or approximately 333 million deadweight tons.

Greece General informationOn the other hand, tourism is regarded as one of the most important pillars of growth for Greece. The country’s scenic beauty, magnificent outdoors, sunny climate, and cultural, as well as historical richness, have made Greece one of the world’s most established travel destinations. Currently, Greece has a total of 18 “World Heritage” sites, and a relatively big number of museums (161 in 2015), archaeological sites (136 in 2015) and other places of religious and cultural significance. The Greek tourist industry is characterized by ‘seasonality’, with its ‘high’ season being from May through to October. The responsible organization for tourism in Greece, is the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO). Notably, the annual visitors to the country, significantly increased from 22 million in 2014, to 23.6 million in 2015. The vast majority of these tourists, typically come from European countries (some 20.7 million in 2015). Tourists from Asia (about 1.5 million), the Americas (about 1 million), Oceania (around 212 thousand) and Africa (some 61.7 thousand) follow.  

Greece is located in a rather unstable and strategic geo-political region. Residing on the Balkan Peninsula, an area that has been associated with more than a few political disputes in the last few decades, Greece has to be prepared to tackle a considerably complicated and potentially precarious environment. Additionally, Greece has to take into consideration the new type of threats that had been introduced globally and are related to the notion of uncertainty that the nations and the international community are called to confront and which are usually referred to as “asymmetrical threats”. Furthermore, Greece is one of the few EU members that still has open disputes with one of its neighbour countries, namely Turkey. Moreover, the geographic location of Greece renders it extremely exposed to the waves of immigrants and refugees arising from the generalised instability in the region, something that is further reinforced by the particularities of the country (extended sea borders and a vast number of islands, islets and rock-islets).  Over one million people, in search of sanctuary, had traveled through Greece, since the beginning of 2015, up to the end of the 1st quarter of 2016. Greece has managed to accumulate experience in the management of such crises and can definitely provide a viable platform for country dialogue, coordination, cooperation and guidance. Finally, Greece has an open issue centered over the use of the name “Macedonia” by FYROM, formerly a federal unit of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Greece is a member of several international organizations. This Balkan country is an EU member state since the 1st of January 1981 and a Eurozone member since the beginning of 2001, which has so far held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU, 5 times in total. Additionally, Greece became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1959, but withdrew its forces from the Alliance in 1974, as a result of the Greco-Turkish tensions of 1974 related to Cyprus. In 1980, Greek Prime Minister Mr. Georgios Rallis, signed the re-entrance of the county to the military part of NATO.