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The Change-over – Athens since 1974

In the midnight of the 23rd of July 1974, the personal aircraft of Valery Giscard d’ Estaign, then president of France, took off from Paris and a few hours later was landing to Athens bringing back to Greece Constantinos Karamanlis who was enthusiastically received by the people of Athens gathered all the way long from the airport to the city center. Once arrived, Karamanlis, in presence of the Archbishop Serafem and of general Gizikis, the “president of Greek republic” appointed by the junta, swore in as Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity. The Council of Ministers was formed in the same day, the 24th of July, and was completed on the 27th. The new government took several urgent measures, in order to take control of the situation, both in the interior and on the international ground; one of the most important problems it faced was to negotiate about the problem of Cyprus within the frame of the decisions of the United Nations. Also, once established, the government immediately liberated all the political prisoners, took measures against the restoration of the junta and tried to secure the newly founded democratic regime.

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It was a period full of important political events, with continuous open meetings, the revival of political parties, among which that of the Communist Party of Greece who became legal on September 1974, after 27 years of illegality. Also, several open concerts full of political color took place in big stadiums of Greece. The first free elections after seven years of junta took place on the 17th of November 1974; the party of Constantinos Karamanlis was by far the winner in these elections, as it had obtained the majority both of votes and of the seats of the Parliament. Next week it took place the most considerable manifestation for the first anniversary of the revolt of Polytechnic School on November 1973; thousands of people participated to this unsurpassed manifestation. A bit later, in December 1974 a referendum about the form of the regime abolished monarchy and established republic in Greece, signaling the end of a long conflict and division of the Greeks that lasted since 1915.

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The next few years until early 1980s were a period of reconstruction of the state and of economy, which resulted in the accession of Greece to the European Community, officially signed at Zappeion on May 1980. However, social conflicts did not cease throughout this period, as several strikes and manifestations against the government took place.

The elections of October 1981 gave the country a new government, as people voted for the party of PASOK presided by Andreas Papandreou, a politician who enjoyed high popularity. During its first years on power PASOK seemed to be pretty radical, but as time passed its policy assimilated almost all the principles of the European Community (the European Union since 1990). Thus, the last two decades are characterized by the alteration in power of two parties: PASOK and Nea Dimokratia, the party founded by Constantinos Karamanlis. Both parties follow approximately the same political lines.

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Several events have taken place in this period: Andreas Papandreou and Constantinos Karamanlis died, several elections brought on power various governments and Greece won the Eurobasket in 1987 and the UEFA Euro 2004. One of the most important targets of the country was to organize the Olympic Games, which achieved to do in 2004. Ever since, Athens has changed a lot: it has a new International Airport (El. Venizelos), the highway of “Attiki Odos”, two new Metro lines, as well as a lot of modern amenities. The most recent among them is the New Acropolis Museum, inaugurated in 2009 which, despite the reactions of a part of the population and of scholars, is a very important architectural and cultural feature of Athens.

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Several more works aiming to facilitate every day life in the city are in progress: expansion of the Metro and a new road network, although this latter raise scepticism, as many people consider that it will destroy more the landscape of Attica, that already has suffered a lot from the conflagrations of the 1990s and of last years. Any way, at the beginning of the 21st century the city of Athens goes forward, having to face big problems, but also endowed with a lot of potential thanks to its position as the capital of Greece and to its glorious cultural heritage.

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