Insights related to Government Structure
The president is elected by parliament every five years and is the head of state. Conservative New Democracy party-veteran Prokopis Pavlopoulos was appointed in March 2015 with a term expiration of 2020. In a landmark move, high court judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou was elected Greece’s first female president in January 2020 with an overwhelming majority of parliamentary votes. She is set to take up the position in March.
The presidency is largely a ceremonial post as most power lies with the prime minister and the government. The president’s duties include formally appointing the prime minister, on whose recommendation he/she also appoints or dismisses other members of government. He/she represents the state in its relations to other countries and proclaims referendums, among holding other responsibilities.
The Hellenic Parliament is the supreme democratic institution that represents Greek citizens through an elected body of Members of Parliament (MPs). Their core activity is legislative work and the exercise of control over the government.
The body consists of 300 deputies elected for a term of four years, by citizens who are eligible to vote, through a direct, secret, and simultaneous ballot. Voting is compulsory. The parliament is headed by the speaker.
The Bank of Greece (BoG) is the country’s central bank. Yannis Stournaras, Governor of the Bank of Greece, was appointed in June 2014.
Since January 2001, the BoG has been an integral part of the Eurosystem, which consists of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central banks of all other EU member states participating in the euro area. This implies that the BoG contributes, through its activities, to the achievement of the objectives and the performance of the tasks of the Eurosystem, which defines and implements monetary policy in the euro area.
The ECB is also involved in setting interest rates at which it lends to commercial banks in the eurozone, thus controlling the money supply while also managing the eurozone’s foreign currency reserves.
In the performance of its tasks, the BoG is independent and accountable to the Greek Parliament.
In Athens, the commercial banking system is dominated by four lenders, Piraeus Bank, National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, and Eurobank. In the run-up to Greece’s adoption of the euro, a wave of consolidation activity took place in the sector, leading to its concentration. Today, the top four banks control more than 90% of Greece’s banking market.
The Constitution of Greece is the fundamental Charter of the State. It was created by the Fifth Revisionary Parliament of the Hellenes in 1975 after the fall of the Greek military junta. The Constitution has been revised four times: in 1986, 2001, 2008 and, most recently, in 2019.
Greece’s Constitution firmly establishes the independence of the justice system and specifies three categories of courts: civil, penal, and administrative.
The basic courts in the country’s justice system are the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. The Council of State is the supreme administrative court of Greece, while the Court of Audit has jurisdiction on the audit of the expenditures of the state, local government agencies, and other legal entities.
Regions and Municipalities
At the local government level, Greece is divided into 325 municipalities grouped into 13 regions. The regions are: Eastern Macedonia, Thrace, Central Macedonia, Western Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, Central Greece, Ionian Islands, Western Greece, Peloponnese, Northern Aegean, Southern Aegean, and Crete.
The local government went through a large reform in 2011 with the Kallikratis Programme. This programme focused on restructuring local government and reducing the number of municipalities (from 1,034 to 325), as well as transferring new functions to the councils. The previous major reforms programme to affect local government took place in 1997. Local government elections for councils and regions were held on May 2019.