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Greece sees a special relationship with New Zealand stemming from World War II when New Zealand forces fought with great courage alongside the Greeks in continental Greece and on Crete, where an under-equipped force made up of largely New Zealand, Australian, British and Greek troops fought bravely to protect the island from invasion. The invasion of Crete by German paratroops began on 20 May 1941 and ended seven days later with the evacuation of 16,500 Commonwealth troops. Allied losses in the Battle of Crete numbered 15,743. New Zealand casualties were 671 killed and 967 wounded, while 2,180 were taken prisoner. Many Cretan civilians were executed as reprisals for partisan attacks.
Crete holds a special place in the public imagination of New Zealanders and the Battle of Crete is commemorated every year in both Crete and New Zealand. Prime Minister Helen Clark led a large party from New Zealand to Crete in May 2001 to attend the 60th anniversary of the battle. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Phil Goff, attended anniversary celebrations in May 2003 and Hon Annette King in May 2006.
The war was followed by a modest wave of Greek emigration to New Zealand. In the 2006 Census 2,547 people primarily identified themselves as being Greek. A bilateral Social Security Agreement came into force on 1 April 1994.
In May 2007, New Zealand hosted Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis for a short visit - the first-ever by a Greek Prime Minister to New Zealand.
Land Area 131,957 sq km
Population 10.7 million (2010)
Capital City Athens
Political system Unicameral: Parliament directly elected
for a four year term by a form of proportional representation. A President
is elected by the Parliament for a five year term but does not hold any executive
National government Council of Ministers responsible to the legislature, headed by a Prime Minister appointed by the President on the basis of ability to obtain the support of parliament. A Pasok government was elected in October 2009.
National legislature Unicameral Vouli (Parliament) of 300 members, which is directly elected by a form of proportional representation for a four-year term, although an early dissolution is possible
Last election March 2010 (Presidential), October 2009 (Parliamentary)
Next election 2015 (Presidential), September 2013 (Parliamentary)
Head of State President Karolos Papoulias
Head of Government Prime Minister George Papandreou
GDP US$301.1 billion
Real GDP growth - 4.1%
Exports US$21.8 billion
Imports US$45.1 billion
Main exports Food and beverages, manufactured goods, petroleum products, chemicals, textiles
Current account balance US-$14.8 billion
Unemployment rate 12%
NZ Exports (FOB) NZ$63 million
Main Exports Sheep meat, molluscs, wool, whey, casein, offal, machinery
NZ Imports (CIF) NZ$19 million
Main Imports Plastics, preserved vegetables, medicamentstop of page
The New Zealand Embassy in Greece was closed in 1991 as part of a reallocating of New Zealand's resources in Europe.
The New Zealand Ambassador in Rome is accredited to Greece [external link]. There is an Honorary Consul-General in Athens.
In 1999 the Greeks upgraded their representation in Wellington to an Embassy. There is a Greek Honorary Consul in Auckland.
The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Greece [external link].