Foreign relations of Greece

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(Redirected from Enosis)

Prominent issues in Greek foreign policy include a dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the enduring Cyprus problem, Greek-Turkish differences over the Aegean, and relations with the USA.


The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Greek refusal to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) under its chosen name of "Republic of Macedonia" has been an important issue in Greek politics since 1992. Greece was adamantly opposed to the use of the name "Macedonia" by the government in Skopje, claiming that the name is intrinsically Greek and should not be used by a foreign country.

Furthermore, Greece believes that an independent "Republic of Macedonia" bordering the Greek region of Macedonia would fuel irredentist tensions in FYROM. The dispute led to a Greek trade embargo against FYROM. in February 1994. Mediation efforts by the UN, U.S., and EU brokered an interim solution to some of these differences in September 1995, leading to the lifting of the Greek embargo.

The republic agreed to be recognised internationally as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) while retaining "Republic of Macedonia" as its constitutional name, as well as changing aspects of its national symbols and constitution to address Greek concerns that they laid claim to Greek cultural symbols and territory.

Since the signing of these interim accords, the two governments have concluded agreements designed to facilitate the movement of people and goods across their common border and improve bilateral relations. Talks on remaining issues are still being held under UN auspices in New York.

Greece's stance on the naming issue has come under increasing pressure in recent years. At least 20 countries have recognised the Republic of Macedonia, rather than FYROM. These include the United States (in November 2004), the Philippines, Iran, Estonia, Malaysia, Russia, Pakistan, the People's Republic of China, Bulgaria, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and others. The European Union, however, has publicly stated that it has no plans to recognise the FYROM as the Republic of Macedonia.

In the spring of 2004, FYROM substituted its army on the Greek border with police patrols, as part of its general border demilitarization framework.

Greek foreign policy supports FYROM's integration into NATO and the European Union. Greece is the first among foreign investors in FYROM, having invested a total of more than 460 million euros. It is expected that the relations between the two countries will improve significantly when FYROM is accepted as part of the European Union.


Greece restored diplomatic relations with Albania in 1971, but the Greek government did not formally lift the state of war, declared during WWII, until 1987. After the fall of the Albanian communist regime in 1991, relations between Athens and Tirana became increasingly strained because of widespread allegations of mistreatment by Albanian authorities of the Greek ethnic minority in southern Albania and of the Albanian minorities in northern Greece. A wave of Albanian illegal economic migrants to Greece exacerbated tensions. On April 10, 1994, there was an attack on an Albanian military post near the Greek border by Greek commandos that left two Albanian soldiers dead and three wounded. The crisis in Greek-Albanian relations reached its peak in late August of 1994, when an Albanian court sentenced five members (a sixth member was added later) of the ethnic Greek organization "Omonia" to prison terms on charges of undermining the Albanian state. This was in retaliation for the border attack. Greece responded by freezing all EU aid to Albania and deporting 115,000 Albanians working in Greece, most as illegal immigrants but some with valid residence permits, and sealing its border with Albania [1] ( In December 1994, however, Greece began to permit limited EU aid to Albania, while Albania released two of the Omonia defendants and reduced the sentences of the remaining four.

Today, relations between the two countries are relatively good, and, at the Albanian Government's request, about 250 Greek military personnel are stationed in Albania to assist with the training and restructuring the Albanian armed forces. There are still many Albanian workers in Greece that have not received legal papers despite promises by the Greek government. The Greek border police recently fired upon Albanian illegal immigrants as they passed the border, killing one and wounding another. This is the gravest incident among many abuses by the border police inflicted upon Albanian citizens that is raising tensions. Furthermore, many Greeks believe the large in-flux of Albanians into Greece to be responsible for the rapid rise of crime in Greece.


Greece and Turkey carried out a population exchange in the 1920s in an attempt to reduce tensions between the two countries. It was not a complete exchange of minorities, as significant Greek communities remained in Istanbul and Turkish communities stayed in Western Thrace. Nevertheless, the strategy worked, and the two sides enjoyed good relations in the 1930s. They began to deteriorate in the mid-1950s, however, mainly because of Cyprus. Relations have been steadily improving again since the turn of the century.

The decade of 1950s were marked by the action of EOKA, a nationalist group fighting for the unification with Greece and against any Turkish residence in the island. The July 1974 coup against Cyprus's President Makarios, inspired by the Greek military junta in Athens caused the Turkish military intervention which helped bring about the fall of the Greek military dictatorship. It also led to the de facto division of Cyprus. This invasion was justified by the guarantorship agreement between Turkey, Greece and Britain.

EOKA does not exist any more. However, the Turkish troops remains in the island after the failure of the coup and the recovery of the constitutional democracy in the island (i.e. the reasons supposed to explain the Turkish military engagement). The separate state of northern Cyprus was proclaimed in 1975 under the name Turkish Federated State of Northern Cyprus. The name was changed to Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on 15 November 1983. This state is only recognized by Turkey.

(disputed) Since then, Greece has strongly supported Greek-Cypriot efforts, calling for the removal of Turkish troops and the restoration of a unified state. The Republic of Cyprus has received strong support from Greece in international forums. Greece has a military contingent on Cyprus, and Greek officers fill some key positions in the Greek Cypriot National Guard, as permitted by the constitution of Cyprus.

Other issues dividing Greece and Turkey involve the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Aegean Sea, territorial waters and airspace, and the condition of the Greek minority in Turkey and the Muslim minority in Greece. Greek and Turkish officials held meetings in the 1970s to discuss differences on Aegean questions, but Greece discontinued these discussions in the fall of 1981. In 1983, Greece and Turkey held talks on trade and tourism, but these were suspended by Greece when Turkey recognized the illegal Turkish-Cypriot declaration of an independent state in northern Cyprus in November 1983.

After a dangerous dispute in the Aegean in March 1987 concerning oil drilling rights, the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey exchanged messages exploring the possibility of resolving the dispute over the continental shelf. Greece wanted the dispute to be decided by the International Court of Justice. Turkey preferred bilateral political discussions. In early 1988, the Turkish and Greek Prime Ministers met at Davos, Switzerland, and later in Brussels. They agreed on various measures to reduce bilateral tensions and to encourage cooperation. New tensions over the Aegean Sea surfaced in November 1994, precipitated by Greece's claims that the Law of the Sea Treaty states that it reserved the right to declare a 12 nm territorial sea boundary around its Aegean islands as permitted by the treaty. Turkey stated that it would consider any such action a cause for war. New technical-level bilateral discussions began in 1994 but soon fizzled-out.

In January 1996, Greece and Turkey came close to an armed confrontation over the question of which country had sovereignty over an islet in the Aegean. In July 1997, on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, Greek and Turkish leaders reached agreement on six principles to govern their bilateral relations. Within a few months, however, the two countries were again at odds over Aegean airspace and sovereignty issues. Tensions remained high for months, although various confidence-building measures were discussed to reduce the risk of military accidents or conflict in the Aegean, under the auspices of the NATO Secretary General.

Relations between the two countries began to improve steadily since a devasting earthquake in Kocaeli on August 17 1999. Greece was among the first countries to send aid and rescue teams to the region, and Turkey returned the gesture when a smaller earthquake shook Athens later that year. Since then, Greece has come out in support of Turkey's bid for EU membership, and there has been greatly increased co-operation between the two countries to resolve the Cyprus issue.

On May 6 2004, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the first Turkish premier to visit Greece in sixteen years. Two days later, he became the first PM in 52 years to visit the Greek Muslim minority in Western Thrace, a community which has been at the centre of rifts between Greece and Turkey for decades. He said, "I'm specially addressing my brothers. You will, without doubt, protect your special identity. Nobody is telling you to lose or give up your Turkish identity. But don't forget you are citizens of Greece." His words were a clear indication of how much relations had improved.


See also

The Middle East

Greece has a special interest in the Middle East because of its geographic position and its economic and historic ties to the area. Greece cooperated with allied forces during the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War. Since 1994, Greece has signed defense cooperation agreements with Israel and Egypt. In recent years, Greek leaders have made numerous trips to the region in order to strengthen bilateral ties and encourage the Middle East Peace Process. In July 1997, December 1997, and July 1998 Greece hosted meetings of Israeli and Palestinian politicians to contribute to the peace process.

United States

The United States and Greece have long-standing historical, political, and cultural ties based on a common heritage, shared democratic values, and participation as Allies during World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Cold War. The U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Greece; U.S. foreign investment in Greece was about $1.5 billion in 1994.

About 1.1 million Americans are of Greek ancestry. The Greek-Americans are a well-organized community in the U.S., and they help cultivate close political and cultural ties with Greece. Greece has the seventh-largest population of U.S. Social Security beneficiaries in the world.

During the Greek civil war of 1946-1949, the U.S. proclaimed the Truman Doctrine, promising assistance to governments resisting communist subjugation, and began a period of substantial financial and military aid. The U.S. has provided Greece with more than $11.1 billion in economic and security assistance since 1946. Economic programs were phased out by 1962, but military assistance has continued. In fiscal year 1995, Greece was the fourth-largest recipient of U.S. security assistance, receiving loans totaling $255.15 million in foreign military financing.

In 1953, the first defense cooperation agreement between Greece and the United States was signed, providing for the establishment and operation of American military installations on Greek territory. The current mutual defense cooperation agreement (MDCA) provides for continued U.S. military assistance to Greece and the operation by the U.S. of a major military facility at Souda Bay, Crete.

However, there is also much anti-American sentiment in Greece as a result of the United States meddling in Greece's affairs a number of times with negative results. The United States intervened in the Greek civil war, taking the side of the right extremists against the left National Liberation Army (ELAS), the organization that carried out most of the resistance during the Nazi occupation of Greece, and ELAS' successor in the civil war, the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE). The extreme right won and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA helped create a new internal security agency in 1953, KYP (now renamed EYP). Before long, KYP was carrying out systematic torture and other human rights violations commonly associated with secret police.

Furthermore, the United States CIA assisted in the 1967 coup. The military coup took place in April 1967, just two days before the campaign for national elections was to begin, elections which appeared certain to bring the veteran liberal leader George Papandreou, senior back as prime minister. Papandreou had been elected in February 1964 with the only outright majority in the history of modern Greek elections. The successful machinations to unseat him had begun immediately, a joint effort of the Royal Court, the Greek military, and the American military and CIA stationed in Greece.

The 1967 coup was followed immediately by martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, torture, and killings, the victims totaling some 8,000 in the first month. This was accompanied by a declaration, considered predictable and laughable by some leftists, that this was all being done to save the nation from a "Communist takeover". The new conservative regime decided to remove influences in Greek life it considered corrupting and subversive influences, including miniskirts for women, long hair for men, and foreign newspapers; church attendance for the young would be compulsory.

James Becket, an American attorney sent to Greece by Amnesty International, wrote in December 1969 that "a conservative estimate would place at not less than two thousand" the number of people tortured, usually in the most gruesome of ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States.

Becket reported the following:

Hundreds of prisoners have listened to the little speech given by Inspector Basil Lambrou, who sits behind his desk which displays the red, white, and blue clasped-hand symbol of American aid. He tries to show the prisoner the absolute futility of resistance: "You make yourself ridiculous by thinking you can do anything. The world is divided in two. There are the communists on that side and on this side the free world. The Russians and the Americans, no one else. What are we? Americans. Behind me there is the government, behind the government is NATO, behind NATO is the U.S. You can't fight us, we are Americans."

The occupation of Iraq and the 2004 recognition of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name by the United States has only expanded the view of the United States as belligerent in the eyes of many Greeks living in Greece.

Illicit drugs

Greece is a gateway to Europe for traffickers smuggling cannabis and heroin from the Middle East and Southwest Asia to the West, and precursor chemicals to the East. Some South American cocaine transits or is consumed in Greece.

Plane spotting of military aircraft

Plane spotting of military aircraft (collecting their code numbers and signs) is illegal in Greece as in many other countries across the globe. The hobbyist activity of plane spotting itself is not unknown to the Greek public but it is favoured by few. In the past, few foreign tourists from countries where this activity is not illegal per se have been arrested and prosecuted in Greece. Though such incidents did stir international attention, the arrested tourists were not jailed.


Some terms have or used to have significant importance to Greek foreign policy:

Eastern Thrace

A name for the European part of Turkey, west of Istanbul. This name is usually used by the Greeks, mostly by Greek families that were forced out of that region between 1912 - 1923.

Northern Epirus

Northern Epirus is the historical region of what has become southern Albania where there is a Greek minority. The government of Greece claims that this territory is inhabited mostly by Greeks, whereas the government of Albania maintains that it is Albanian territory with Greek minorities. There are villages in the south of Albania where Greek is the predominant language. There have been many small incidents between the Greek minorities and Albanian authorities over issues such as alleged interference in local southern Albanian politics by the Government of Greece, the raising of the Greek flag on Albanian territory, the language taught in school, etc, however the issues have for the most part been non-violent.

The region is mostly Orthodox in religion.

Former CIA director George J. Tenet is a Greek from Northern Epirus.


Smyrna (most correctly Smyrni, Σμύρνη) is the Greek/Latin name for the city of Izmir, Turkey.


The word Ένωσις (enosis) is Greek for union. During the time when Britain ruled Cyprus (1878-1960), and since Cypriot independence, the word has referred to a proposed union in which Cyprus would become a part of Greece. Enosis became an international issue in the 1950s when the United Nations began to debate the issue. It has been advocated by some Cypriots of Greek ethnicity and opposed by those of Turkish ethnicity. Archbishop Makarios, who was president of Cyprus from the time of its independence (1960) until his death 17 years later (1977), advocated enosis. During the presidential campaign for the 1968 elections, Makarios said that enosis was "wishable" whereas independence was "possible". This differentiated him from the hardline pro-enosis elements which formed EOKA-B and participated in a coup against him in 1974.

Great Greece

Megali Ellas or Megali Ellada (Μεγάλη Ελλάς or Μεγάλη Ελλάδα) -- literally "Great Greece" -- refers to Southern Italy and was used by Ancient Greeks. The Romans used the term "Magna Graecia". This is a historical term, referring mostly to the era of the ancient Greek colonization of the area, and does not apply to modern diplomacy.


The Greeks often refer to Istanbul with its older name of Constantinople (Κωνσταντινούπολη), although they also use "I Poli" (The City) colloquially. Greek "εις την Πόλη" (read "iss tin poli") means "to the City" and is the phrase "Istanbul" derives from.

Black Sea

Black Sea (Μαύρη Θάλασσα), or Euxine Sea (Εύξεινος Πόντος), is the Greek name of Pontus. (Turkish Karadeniz)

Megali Idea

See Megali Idea for a concept that was related to Greek foreign relations in the 20th century.

External links


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