The Greek population (10,600,000 residents in 1998, according to an estimate) shows, year after year, demographic growth rates increasingly similar to those of other Western European countries. The slowdown of the natural dynamics has made the migratory flow towards foreign countries very modest, which for some time has been equalized or overtaken by returns and immigration. On the other hand, internal movements remain lively, as a result of which the less favored regions, such as western Macedonia, the Peloponnese and part of the smaller islands, are losing population to the advantage of the more dynamic and more urbanized areas. The Greater Athens agglomeration firmly maintains its overall population share at around 30% of the total; also Thessaloniki, Iraklion (Candia) and Patras, the only other cities that exceed 100,000 residents, have seen their respective urban areas grow. However, saturation phenomena are beginning to be more than evident, especially in the Athenian area, where a drastic ban on private car traffic for the whole summer was already necessary in 1995, in order to contain the effects of pollution. atmospheric.
The concentration of the population corresponds to that of economic activities, including heavy industries, so that congestion and pollution are exasperated. The growing internationalization of the Greek economy, primarily as an effect of joining the EEC and the activation of Community support interventions, is at the origin of the strong increase in infrastructures on the territory of Greece, which, moreover, are lacking both within and for connections with the rest of the European Union.
The long crisis of the former Yugoslavia, which in fact lasted throughout the 1990s, preventing transit by land, has accentuated the dependence of Greek trade (in particular those to and from Italy) on maritime transport. The strengthening of this southern route (Italy-G.-Turkey) aims to start (in 1996) the construction of a long motorway section (the Greece has just over 200 km of motorways) that will connect Iegumenítsa, a port for traffic of passengers and motor vehicles quickly grew by virtue of its proximity to the Italian coast, with Alexandrúpolis, near the border with Turkey. However, if this intervention remains isolated, it risks aggravating the marginalization of the southern (Peloponnese) and in any case peripheral regions.
Different problems, and not easily solved, present the many smaller islands. In particular, those of the Eastern Aegean are severely affected by the distance from the mainland and cannot count on other forms of development than those linked to tourism (over 10.5 million visitors in 1997, in the whole country) or, in future, to the possible exploitation of hydrocarbon fields. At the same time, these islands were affected by the state of tension between Turkey and Turkey for the rights of exploration and exploitation of the seabed and for the rights of transit.
Other political and territorial problems were posed, in the first half of the nineties, both by the birth of a sovereign Macedonian republic and by the Albanian crisis. However, in neither case was the current territorial structure called into question, even if the Macedonian border was blocked (1994) and a state of acute tension along the Albanian one.
Greece found itself hosting a large number of refugees (perhaps half a million, including illegal immigrants) from the crisis areas of the Balkans and immigrants from all the countries of the former Soviet area and the Near East, giving evidence of a considerable capacity for economic absorption, but also of an instrumental use of hospitality, as occurred in 1993, when thousands of Albanians were expelled in conjunction with the controversy that arose with Albania regarding Epirus and the pro- Serbs hired by Greece in the Kosovo question (see below: History). The worsening of this issue and the war events that followed in the first months of 1999have re-posed the problem of the pressure of refugees and their reception.
The Greek economic structure is still far from the typical structures of European Community: the number of employees in the primary sector and the contribution of this to the GDP are remarkably high, without agriculture having adapted to fully competitive production models; the share relating to services remains very modest; industrial reconversion is proceeding with difficulty and is exposed, in the consumer goods sectors, to competition from the production of other EU countries. Dependence on tourism is very marked and suffers the repercussions of fluctuations in annual flows; on the other hand, the excessive tourist pressure has produced environmental damage in many areas of strong attraction (Cretan coasts, Ionian Islands, Argolis). The product of% of total GDP.
Nonetheless, the domestic product is constantly increasing and that per resident has registered a spectacular surge, as has trade exchange (but still heavily in deficit). Greek investments abroad grew suddenly in many countries of South-Eastern Europe and the Near and Middle East (G. is the first foreign investor in Romania and Bulgaria, and one of the first in Albania and Yugoslavia), restoring the traditional Greek economic presence in these areas. The economy of Greece thus appears to depend on the evolution of the country’s international politics and on how it will be able to regulate relations with the European Union and with the states that occupy the area from the Balkans to the Caspian, starting with Turkey..
On 7 September 1999 the urban area of Athens was hit by a disastrous earthquake (magnitude 5.9) which caused about 140 victims and considerable material damage.