Greece

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Joined: EU 1981 Eurozone 2001 Schengen 2000 Greece, and more particularly the city state of Athens, is seen as the cradle of European democracy. At the time of the European Economic Community’s first expansion in 1973 it was not a democracy, but coming towards the end of a military dictatorship that lasted from 1967 until 1974. Greece joined the European Economic Community in 1981 and were founder members of the Eurozone in 2001. Since the crash of 2008 Greece has struggled financially and being part of the Euro has prevented devaluing their currency as an economic strategy. As its debts got out of control Greece has come close to defaulting on its loans and has been bailed out three times by the European Union. The treatment of Greece by Germany during the negotiations on its loan was a largely hidden aspect of the United Kingdom referendum. Although the United Kingdom is outside the Eurozone the treatment of a struggling country by the most powerful member carried negative resonances. This negativity is not helped by the history of Greece being under German occupation in World War Two and British soldiers had moved into Greece as the Germans retreated in 1944 due to Winston Churchill’s fear that the cradle of democracy would fall under Soviet rule. The consequence of that wartime history is that when Greece joined the European Union its only land border with a non-communist country was with its bitter enemy Turkey. Indeed until the Eastern European expansion in 2004 Greece was the only continental European Union country to lack a land border with another member, although it shared the Adriatic Sea with founder member Italy. Just as the loan negotiations were approaching a deadlock Greece was experiencing a migrant crisis as 50000 refugees landed on its northern Aegean Sea island of Lesbos. Germany took a lead in finding a resolution to this first by opening its own borders to allow the refugees in Greece to travel north and then by arranging a deal with Greece’s neighbour Turkey. Prior to Bulgaria’s entry to the European Union in 2007 Greece did not share a land border with the European Union, but there is now a continuous land route from Greece to any other European Union country. Greece is part of the Schengen visa free travel area, but Bulgaria is not, so refugees travelling by land from Greece require a visa to continue their journey by land to another European Union state.

© Mercia McMahon. All rights reserved

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