International Relations Greek Crisis
Stella Ladi, Vivian Spyropoulou
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 August 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0268


The Greek crisis started in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis of 2008, and it officially ended in August 2018 when Greece exited the Third Economic Adjustment Programme that it had signed with its international lenders to avoid default. Greece had to seek help from international lenders, including the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and, in the last program, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), three times (2010, 2012, and 2015). The crisis soon spread to other European Monetary Union (EMU) countries—namely Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Cyprus—and it was transformed into a Eurozone crisis, with some commonalities but with different characteristics in each case. The Greek crisis was a sovereign debt crisis that resulted from a continuous aggravation of the national economic indicators, such as growth, inflation, and unemployment, serious long term structural shortcomings, and the pressure from the global financial crisis. The economic crisis was soon translated into a political crisis that shook the Greek party system and strengthened more radical parties such as the left-wing Syriza and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn. Strong one-party governments became a memory of the past and were replaced by short-lived coalition governments. The economic pressure also led to a serious social crisis with rising poverty levels, unprecedented numbers of homeless, and a welfare system unable to cope with the increasing demands. It posed questions about the shape of Greece’s political and social institutions, its legal system and Constitution, and its public administration’s capability to cope with the crisis and implement the conditionality attached to the three economic adjustment programs. Last but not least, the Greek crisis brought into fore the weaknesses and discrepancies of the EMU and was the motive behind important structural reforms, such as the creation of new financial assistance and surveillance mechanisms, including the ESM, as well as the strengthening of informal institutions such as the Euro summits. The discussion was soon extended to a questioning of the viability of the European Union (EU) project, the role of Germany, and the changing Europeanization mechanisms. The bibliography about the Greek crisis developed quickly and covers economic, political, social, and legal issues concerning not only Greece, but also the EU as a whole, taking the case of Greece as a starting point.

General Overview

A few books and edited volumes have taken a holistic view of the Greek crisis, mainly focusing on domestic institutions, politics and policies, how they led to the crisis, and how they were transformed by the crisis, often attempting to offer some policy propositions for the post-crisis era. Kalyvas 2015 offers a historical account of Greece, touching upon the political and institutional weaknesses of the Greek modern state and putting into historical perspective the contemporary Greek crisis. Alivizatos 2013 focuses on the institutional deficiencies and the Greek Constitution, and how they contributed to the severity of the crisis. Pappas 2014, on the other hand, explains the Greek crisis in light of the literature on populism and advances a historical and institutional perspective of the causes of the crisis. The edited volume Karyotis and Gerodimos 2015 is a first interpretation of the impact of the crisis upon the political system and public policies, putting Greece in a comparative perspective.

  • Alivizatos, Nicos. What Kind of Democracy after the Crisis? (Ποια Δημοκρατία για την Ελλάδα μετά την κρίση). Athens: Polis Publishers, 2013.

    An exploration of the role of institutions and democracy as causes of the Greek crisis, providing alternative proposals for recovery. In Greek.

  • Kalyvas, Stathis N. Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    This book is about the modern history of Greece. It argues that Greece is a very early “late modernizer” and its study sheds light in key trends in world politics. The last chapter of the book focuses on the Greek crisis.

  • Karyotis, Georgios, and Roman Gerodimos, eds. The Politics of Extreme Austerity: Greece in the Eurozone Crisis. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

    This is one of the early edited volumes offering a comprehensive coverage of austerity and the Greek crisis. It includes chapters on the changing Greek political discourse, public policies, and political system, as well as chapters comparing Greece with other cases, such as Argentina, Turkey, Spain, and Ireland.

  • Pappas, Takis S. Populism and Crisis Politics in Greece. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

    This study presents Greece’s political and economic failures by using populism and its negative effects as an explanatory factor. It argues that the sovereign debt crisis only exacerbated the already malfunctioning political system.

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