Greece: the land of myth and legends and the birthplace of Western civilization. While Greece as a nation has only existed since the 1800s, the people, culture, religion, and cities of Greece have persisted for thousands of years. This ancient culture influences the politics and borders of modern Greece to this day. Greece used to border such nations as Persia, Rome, and other ancient empires. Today, the countries that border Greece include the Republic of Albania, the Republic of North Macedonia, the Republic of Türkiye (Turkey), and the Republic of Bulgaria.
After being conquered by the Roman Empire, the Greek city-states have been under almost constant foreign control. Greece finally emerged as a united, independent country for the first time in 1830 when it successfully fought and won against the Ottoman Empire with the aid of other Western nations. Greece has successfully and steadily increased the size of its borders through a number of wars, conflicts, and annexations. The unstable political nature of the region in the past has helped Greece expand (and arguably reclaim land) to the North and East.
Today, Greece controls a majority of the Aegean Sea. It now controls all of the traditional centers of Greek culture and history under one banner. These include Athens, Corfu, Thessaloniki, Thebes, Corinth, and the islands Lesbos, Rhodes, and more.
Republic of Albania
Albania borders Greece on its North-Western side, along the Mediterranean Sea. This is a mountainous region with a strong Mediterranean climate.
Despite rocky relations in the past, and racial and ethnic differences and issues, Albania and Greece enjoy positive and cooperative relations today.
One major diplomatic concern between the two bordering nations, however, is the treatment of Greek minorities in Albania. The Greek minority has been the target of several racial and ethnic hate crimes in the recent past. The Albanian Government has been slow to protect and defend the Greeks living within Albania. Greece continues to call for their rights to be protected.
Greece actually maintains a state of war against Albania. This state of war has continued ever since the Greco-Italian War in 1940. Greece’s refusal to end this official state of war is a constant political sore point for Albania, adding to the tension along the border. Despite this, there have been no recent border disputes or hostile actions taken by either country against the other. Albania and Greece cooperate on many domestic and international issues and support each other on the world stage. They are among each other’s largest investors.
Republic of North Macedonia
North Macedonia borders Greece to the north. Ever since Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, it refused to recognize the name of the country as Macedonia. The dispute was only resolved in 2018 when Greece agreed to recognize the nation as North Macedonia. Despite the name dispute, both countries enjoy positive and cooperative relations.
North Macedonia is the ancient home of Alexander the Great. While the land of Macedonia and its history stretch as far back as antiquity, the modern country has been under constant hostile and foreign control until the 1900s.
Macedonia began building a border barrier along the Greek border during the European Migrant Crisis in 2015. Before the construction of the fence, migrants would often clash with Macedonian police. After the construction of the fence, hundreds of migrants were stranded on the Greek side of the border. They attempted several times to break into Macedonia. One time they even used a battering ram!
Reuters reported that the erection of the fences, the border closure, and the refusal to aid the migrants resulted in the largest refugee camp in Europe on Greece’s side of the border. Over 10,000 migrants were living in the migrant camp at the time, which included mosques, businesses, and schools.
Republic of Turkey
Turkey borders Greece to the East. The border includes a long border to the north and many sea borders where the economic zones of the islands of Greece and the sea border off the coastline of Turkey overlap each other. The northern land border primarily follows the course of the Evros River. Where it does not, Greece has built a large border fence.
The border between Greece and Turkey is the furthest extent of the European Union. It represents the political division between Europe and the Middle East.
There are a number of ongoing disputes between Greece and Turkey regarding the borders within the Aegean Sea. Turkey refuses to recognize the existence of several legal boundaries or exclusive economic zones around the Greek Islands. Greece and Turkey disagree about the size of what waters they control, what airspace they have access to, and the economic rights of the sea extending to the continental shelf.
The size of Greece has expanded ever since they won their independence from the Ottoman Empire. It wasn’t until the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, however, that the final, current, border with Turkey was established. The two countries remain political rivals to this day. They have nearly entered into war with each other on a number of occasions. Greece and Turkey constantly battle for control of the region and the Aegean Sea. Greece vetoed Turkey’s application to join the European Union. This has further strained and delineated the border between the two countries.
During the European Migrant Crisis, a majority of migrants from the Middle East entered Europe by crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece. Greek police and military units defended their land border but were ineffective in preventing migrants from landing by sea. The treatment of migrants, including their treatment at sea and killings along the land border has been the focus of intense international media for years.
Republic of Bulgaria
Bulgaria borders Greece to the north. The two countries enjoy excellent political and cultural relations. Greece is one of Bulgaria’s largest trade partners, and the two nations regularly cooperate in domestic and international affairs.
Bulgaria and Greece share a history of occupation by the same foreign powers, including Rome and the Ottoman Empire. They fought on opposite sides of a number of wars, including World War I and World War II. Yet, their relations have remained strong and have flourished ever since the close of World War II. Particularly because of their shared culture and heritage.
The only major border incident occurred in 1925 with the War of the Stray Dog. During this time, Greece and Bulgaria were political and military rivals. They both stationed troops along their border. According to one story, a Greek soldier chased after a dog across the border into Bulgarian territory. A Bulgarian soldier shot the trespassing Greek, and war was subsequently declared. Greece quickly invaded Bulgaria, and hundreds of soldiers were killed on both sides after several days of conflict. Both nations agreed to retreat to their sides of the border after a few days. No changes to the border ensued.
These are the four countries that border Greece. While Greece is a relatively new modern state, it enjoys a unique position that its borders are comparatively peaceful when compared to the birth of other modern nations. With the support of Western countries and as a member of the European Union, we can expect the borders of Greece to stay strong for many years to come.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sven Hansche/Shutterstock.com
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