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Country profile (Greece)

What distinguishes the country?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Dec 2010


Greece has a Mediterranean climate with mild and rainy winters, relatively warm and dry summers and many hours of sunshine almost all year. The coldest months are January and February, with mean minimum temperature ranging between 5-10 0C near the coasts and 0-5 0C in mainland areas, and lower values (below freezing) in the northern part of the country. The warm season lasts from April until September. The warmest period is in July and August, with mean maximum temperatures in the range 29.0-35.0 0C. Precipitation is concentrated in the cold period, with almost no precipitation in the warmest months. The amount of rainfall is approximately halved in the eastern part compared to the western part of the country (HNMS, 2009).

Geographic and demographic data

Greece is situated in the southernmost extension of the Balkan Peninsula. The surface area of Greece is 130 100 km2 of which 20 % is distributed on its 3 000 islands. Two‑thirds of the Greek territory is hilly or mountainous with steep slopes. More than 40 % of the land is over 500 metres in altitude (peaks >2 000 m). Greece has the longest coastline in Europe (14 000 km length), of which 5 % belongs to areas of unique ecological value. The coastline is equally distributed between the mainland and 3 000 islands. Over 70 % of the coastline is rocky (EEA, 2009).

The national population reaches 11 million with a density of 84 inhabitants/km2. About one third of the Greek population concentrates along the coastline. The national population is ageing as 16.7 % is over 65 years (Census 2001 (NSSG, 2007; 2008)).


There are two levels of Government: State and local self-government. In Central Government, Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change is responsible for the development and implementation of environmental policy at the national and regional level. Furthermore, a number of government agencies and ministries develop and maintain datasets to estimation of GHG emissions, including National Statistical Service of Greece, the Ministry of Development, the Ministry of Rural Development and Food and the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The 13  Regions represent the second level of local self of government and are responsible for the administration of local matters at regional level. The responsibilities of Regions include planning and programming, economic development, social development, culture and quality of life. The 325 municipalities constitute the first level local self-government and are responsible for the administration of local matters.

Economic features

Over the last three years, the Greek economy has been expanded at an average annual rate of 4 %, one of the highest rates in the Eurozone (in EU?). In 2007, the GDP at market prices was 228.949 billion euros. The public sector accounts for about 40 % of GDP. Tourism provides 15 % of GDP. In the period 2004–2007, the public deficit was reduced by 4 % (Table 1). In the period 2005-2007, total investment was increased by 14 % (in constant terms). High private and public investment inflows reinforce the production and export potential of the country. Exports of goods went up by 23.7 % in constant terms in the period 2005-2007. Unemployment fell from 11.3 % in the first quarter of 2004 to 7.4 % in 2008 (MNEC, 2008a;b). Factsheets about the Greek economy can be found in MNEC (2009).


Table 1. The progress of the Greek economy in key numbers (MNEC, 2008a;b)






General Government Deficit (% of GDP)





General Government Debt (% of GDP)





Real GDP Growth Rate in Greece





Unemployment Rate






What have been the major societal developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Greece had an impressive rate of economic and social development from the early 1950s to mid-1970s, with an average rate of economic growth of 7 %. For many years in the 1960s, industrial production grew annually by 10 %. Growth (at least initially) widened the economic gap between rich and poor, intensifying political divisions. Due to the high rates of economic development in the 1960s and 1970s, the country experienced relatively low unemployment rates.

The rapid recovery of the Greek economy after the Second World War was assisted among others by a number of measures, including attraction of foreign investments, significant development of the chemical industry, development of tourism and the services sector, and a massive construction activity related to infrastructure projects and rebuilding of the Greek cities. After exploding in the 1970s, the rate of urban growth has slowed significantly in recent years. Today, Greece is relatively urbanised with about 50 % of the urban population living in the country's two metropolitan areas of Athens (3.8 million inhabitants) and Thessaloniki (1 million). Also, around 80 % of the urban population lives in the 11 largest cities, while 20 % live in the 72 cities with a population of between 10 000 and 50 000 inhabitants (Economou et al, 2007).

Following the restoration of Democracy in 1974, the most important political development that affected all aspects of the Greek society was Greece’s entry into the European Union (EU) in 1981. This led to continuous economic growth and improvement of living standards. A significant reduction of poverty and inequality was seen in the period 1974-1982, while at the end of the 1990s increasing tendencies appear again. Poverty, like inequality, is more likely to be found within, rather than between, groups (Tsakloglou and Mitrakos, 2006).

The way that the work is organised follows traditional patterns, despite the introduction of new and flexible forms of employment. Female participation in the labour market remains relatively low (37.7 %, Census 2001), despite legislation and regulations from 1990 onwards that promote equal opportunities (Charalambis et al., 2004).

Consistent with recent social trends in other western societies, Greek society has become more tolerant and permissive, with more diverse and flexible moral norms. However, the prevailing family model remains traditional and the Greek Orthodox Church continues to have a strong influence on many aspects of Greek social, political and cultural life (Charalambis et al., 2004).

Since the early 1990s, Greece has evolved from migrant-exporting to migrant-receiving country. Greece is migrants' gateway to Europe. The number of migrants and ethnic returnees in Greece is estimated to be more than a million, which is equivalent to 9 % of the population and 12 % of the labour force of the country (ELIAMEP, 2009). As all European States, Greece has adopted the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum (2008), seeking a fair, balanced and effective policy to deal with all aspects of immigration at the same time. The country needs migrants in certain sectors and regions in order to deal with economic and demographic needs. However, a number of measures must be adopted within EU to fight illegal immigration, targeting especially traffickers and smugglers.

What are the main drivers of environmental pressures?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Climate change, demographics and human activities act as drivers that place pressure on environmental resources (air, biodiversity, soil and water) and people. Human activities include urbanisation, transport, energy, agriculture and tourism. More specifically:

Climate Change

Climate change directly affects weather conditions. Since the end of the 1990s, the temperature in Greece has been increasing, especially during summer. There is a decreasing trend of precipitation mainly during the period 1980–2000, with increasing trends over the following years. Extreme weather conditions, including flooding, drought, heatwaves and storms, also occur (NCESD, 2009). The impacts of climate change may be environmental, economic and social (e.g. biodiversity loss, increased insurance in flood-risk zones, changing holiday patterns).


Two demographic features are relevant in terms of environmental impacts: ageing and migration. The average annual population growth rate in Greece is estimated to decrease from 0.326 % in 2005 to 0.065 % in 2020, reflecting ageing of population (NSSG, 2008). Ageing people have specific lifestyle and consumption patterns that are associated with increasing environmental impacts. Migration can exacerbate environmental pressures on the receiving local environments due to the increased population density.


Urbanisation has been a strong driver of land use change over the post-war period in Greece. Eight million people live in urban areas. Urbanisation exacerbates some local environmental problems, such as air and noise pollution, traffic congestion and urban waste disposal. Inappropriate waste disposal and management practices may lead to the degradation of surface and ground waters, air pollution and forest fires.


Transport affects climate change and urban air quality. The contribution of transport to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has increased since 1990, due to the increase of vehicles fleet and transportation activity. The transport emissions of acidifying substances and particulate matter remained the same between 1990 and 2007. Finally, transport emissions of ozone precursors substantially decreased, as a result of great decreases in CO and NMVOC emissions from this sector, due to the increase of passenger cars with catalytic converters.


The improvement of living standards due to the economic development, the important growth of the services sector and the introduction of natural gas in the Greek energy system represent the basic factors affecting energy emissions. In 2007, they accounted for 81.99 % of total GHG emissions and increased by 37.9 % compared to 1990 levels.


Agriculture, the most significant water consumer in Greece, accounted for 8.57 % of GHG emissions in 2007. Agricultural production has been intensified in productive areas and, in combination with bad land management, can be a threat for the soil. The implementation of the revised CAP and the introduction of good agricultural practices are expected to improve the soil condition in Greece (EEA, 2009).


Tourism may affect coastal areas and islands causing pressure on biodiversity and high population density. The associated pressures are related to irrational energy and water consumption during dry periods, high production of solid waste, inadequate wastewater treatment capacity and transport. However, the tourism business represents 18 % of GDP, contributing significantly to employment (700 000 jobs) and regional development (GNTO, 2009).

What are the foreseen developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The foreseen main developments are related to the General Framework for Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development in Greece, which was approved by the Parliament in 2008. This was followed by the approval and issue of the following thematic frameworks at national level:

  • The Special Framework for Renewable Sources of Energy, which aims at the creation of an effective mechanism for the spatial planning of installations of Renewable Sources of Energy; 
  • The Special Framework for Industry, which aims at the transformation of the territorial structure of industry to the direction of sustainable development;
  • The Special Framework for Tourism, which formulates a realistic action plan for the next 15 years through the territorial structure, development and organisation of tourism in Greece.

This planning is being implemented for the first time in Greece and constitutes one of the most important structural changes over the last decades. The National Spatial Planning is expected to contribute to territorial development, within the framework of sustainability, based on a synthetic and balanced review of the parameters that promote the protection and improvement of the natural and cultural environment and strengthen social and economic cohesion and competitiveness.





The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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