Greek Constitutions

The current Constitution of Greece was created by the Fifth Revisional Parliament of the Greeks and entered into force in 1975.

It has been revised twice since, in 1986 and in 2001.

The Constitutional history of Greece goes back to the Greek War of Independence, during which the first three “revolutionary” Greek constitutions were adopted.

Syntagma Square in Athens is named after the constitution.

The Greek Constitution consists of 120 articles and it is set out in 4 parts:

  • The first part (articles 1-3), Basic provisions, establishes Greece as a parliamentary presidential republic, and confirms the prevalence of the Orthodox Church in Greece.
  • The second part (articles 4-25) concerns individual and social rights, whose protection has been reinforced after the Revision of 2001. The new provisions regulate subjects such as the protection of personal data and the competence of certain independent authorities.
  • The third part (articles 26-105) describes the organization and function of the State. Article 28 formally integrates international laws and international conventions into Greek law.
  • The fourth part (articles 106-120) comprises special, final and transitory provisions.

Read about the Constitutions in Greece throught political changes.

The Constitution of the Revolution (The First Greek Republic)

The first Constitution of Greece came into being during the First National Assembly of Epidaurus, which voted, on January 1st, 1822, the “Temporary Constitution of Greece”. The Constitution of 1822 consisted of 110 short paragraphs, broken down into “titles” and “sections”, according to the French model. It was entitled “Temporary Constitution of Greece” because the authors were afraid of the reaction of the Holy Alliance.

The Temporary Constitution of Epidaurus was revised a year later, on April 13th, 1823, by the Second National Assembly, which convened in Astros of Kynouria. The new Constitution, “The Epidaurus Law”, as it was named, to stress its continuity with the one of 1822, was legally more articulate as compared to its predecessor, and it allowed a slight superiority to the Legislative power as opposed to the Executive, given the fact that the latter’s veto power was circumcised from an absolute to a suspending one.

The Third National Assembly initially convened in Piada in 1825 and subsequently in Troizena in 1827, and after unanimously electing John Capodistrias as “Governor of Greece” for a seven-year term, it voted the “Political Constitution of Greece”. The Assembly wanted to give the country a stable government, modeled on democratic and liberal ideas, and for this reason it declared for the first time the principle of popular sovereignty: “Sovereignty lies with the people; every power derives from the people and exists for the people”. This key democratic principle was repeated in all the Greek Constitutions after 1864.

The Constitution of Troizena attempted to combine the need for a powerful central authority with the existence of democratic structures, but it was suspended shortly after the arrival in Greece of John Capodistrias, in January of 1828.

The Constitution of 1864

The Second National Assembly of Greece took place in Athens (1863-1864) and dealt both with the election of a new sovereign as well as with the drafting of a new Constitution, thereby implementing the transition from constitutional monarchy to Crowned Democracy. The Constitution of 1864 was drafted following the models of the Constitutions of Belgium of 1831 and of Denmark of 1849, and established in clear terms the principle of popular sovereignty, since the only legislative body with reversionary powers was now the Parliament.

The Constitution of 1927

On January 2nd, 1924, the Fourth National Assembly convened and decided on the abrogation of the dynasty as well as on the abolition of the crowned democracy .

Whilst the Fourth Constitutional Assembly was working towards the completion of the new Constitution, the coup d’etat of General Th. Pangalos took place. After the fall of his dictatorship in 1926, the “Parliament of the First Term” was elected, which, finally, voted through the Constitution of 1927.

This Constitution was particularly interesting both for its provisions on social rights and for the new political institutions it introduced in its organizational section. The most significant characteristic of the new Constitution of Greece was that it provided for an elected head of state, chosen by the Parliament and the Senate for a five-year term. The President of the Republic was politically unaccountable, he did not possess legislative authority and he could dissolve the Parliament with the approval of the Senate.

The Constitution of 1952

Due to the unusual socio-political conditions in effect during its drafting, the Constitution of 1952 in Greece was conservative and remained to a great extent faithful to the constitutional texts of 1864/1911 and 1927. Its basic innovation was the explicit introduction of the parliamentary system within a regime of Crowned Democracy. The responsibilities of the King remained the same as described in the previous Constitution of Greece in 1911.

The Constitution of 1975

After the reinstatement of Democracy in the Country in July 1974, the National Unity government, led by C. Karamanlis, set forth as its first goal to strengthen democracy and to obliterate the traumatic experiences of the civil war. It reinstated the Constitution of 1952, with the exception of the clauses relating to the King.

The Constitution of 1975 was composed using as a basis those of 1952 and 1927, as well as the revision proposal of 1963. Numerous clauses were also based on the West German Constitution of 1949 and the French constitution of 1958. Despite the significant disagreements caused by the original constitutional draft (which had then been prepared by the Cabinet of C. Karamanlis) the final draft gradually secured the largest possible assent of the significant political powers in the country.

The Constitution of 1975 included an array of individual and social rights, tailored to the needs of that time. It introduced a presidential parliamentary republic form of government, wherein the head of the state maintained the right to interfere in political life. The Rule of Law was effectively protected, and there was a provision for the participation of the country in international organisations and – indirectly – to the European Economic Community.

The Revisions of 1986 and 2001

On March 6, 1986, pursuant to article 110 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the provisions of the Constitution are subject to revision except for those which determine the form of government as a Parliamentary Republic as well as certain other provisions, eleven articles were amended and a vote was passed transposing the text of the Constitution into demotic Greek.

In the spring of 2001 a new, more extensive revision of the Constitution was voted in a consensual climate. It is noteworthy that, despite the fact that a total of seventy-nine articles of the Constitution were amended, in the majority of the cases the amendments was accepted by four fifths of all the parliamentarians, so the term “consensual revision” reflects the political reality.

The revised Constitution introduced new individual rights , it introduced new rules of transparency in political life, it reorganised the operation of the Parliament and it reinforced decentralisation.

Today Greece possesses a Constitution which enjoys political and historical legitimacy, is modern, it is adapted to international developments and, despite possible reservations on particular issues, provides a satisfactory institutional framework for Greece in the 21st century.

Read the Greek Constitution, translated in English language:

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