Training in Thessaloniki — U.S. Dept of Defense
All men between the age of 19 and 45* with Greek citizenship or those designated by Greek authorities as being of Greek origin, ancestry or descent — regardless of country of birth, current citizenship, passport or domicile — must serve mandatory military service of:
- Nine (9) months regular duty in the army; or
- 12 months in the navy or air force; or
- 17 months reserve duty in the army, navy or air force; or
- a reduced tour of duty, dependent on their status or proven eligibility for a permanent deferment or exemption.
Longer tours of 12-36 months were previously required.
Greek males between the ages of 18 and 60 who live in strategically sensitive areas (i.e., Samos) may be called and paid to serve part-time in the National Guard. A Parliamentary bill to draft females was considered but never passed. However, women meeting the minimum requirements of 1.60 meters height and 18-25 BMI are free to enlist on a voluntary basis after passing written and physical examinations.
In November 2012, reports circulated that the EU/ECB/IMF were seeking to abolish military conscription,when in fact they recommended Greece reduce its unnecessary military spending, as they did on several previous occasions.
* The law says “1st of January of the 19th year to 31st of December of their 45th year.”
In August 2009 before elections, New Democracy hurriedly passed a bill that said army conscripts only serve nine (9) months, and air force and navy recruits would be required to serve 12 months until 2010 or 2011. Government officials also discussed the possibility of assigning all conscripts to only the army and making military service mandatory at age 18. However, with the changeover in government, there was confusion amongst both military officials and the general public about the bill’s passage, parameters and requirements.
All articles on this site are regularly updated to reflect new information, which is indicated by the date shown. But in the ‘Comments’ section, please keep in mind that people share their real-life experiences according to the time they served, and questions and answers reflect whatever laws were in effect on the date posted.
* Please note that this article is in the middle of being updated, so certain sections are not current. This message will be deleted when finished.
Although many attempt or must delay military service, employers in both the private and public sectors of Greece will often not recruit anyone with outstanding obligations for long-term, permanent employment. It will clearly state this in the ad and is not considered discrimination.
Parliament passed a law in 2004 that allows men aged 35 and older to buy out their military obligation for 8,505 euros after attending 45 days of basic training. The amount is calculated as 810 euros/month (income of a professional soldier) less taxes. Critics rightfully argue that only the rich can afford this option since this is more than most ordinary citizens earn per annum.
The armed forces had aimed to be a completely professional military system, with mandatory military service reduced to six (6) months or abolished completely by 2008, according to New Democracy’s 2004 campaign promises. But due to severe shortages of voluntary conscripts, the mandatory length of service was shortened instead of abolished. Draft dodgers claiming a mental health exclusion or other reason for not enlisting are the current focus of government officials who are actively and publicly pursuing violators, regardless of fame or financial position.
Greek military officers speak Greek, so enlisting conscripts speaking another language may or may not be accommodated but will not be excused from duty.
There are three cases I know:
1) A Greek-Australian was told he would be accommodated and placed in a special unit with other conscripts who speak some Greek but are not fluent.
2) A Greek citizen living in Greece volunteers himself for military duty, but they tell him he cannot enlist because he can’t speak Greek. He does not have the means to learn Greek, and he cannot find an employer to hire him to earn the money to learn Greek because (ironically) he has not finished his military duty. Catch 22.
3) A Greek male from another country comes to Greece to serve, but the recruiting office refuses to enlist him immediately because he cannot speak Greek and delays his service until he does. Now it’s six months later, the permanent resident abroad certificate is void, and he is not allowed to leave Greece until he finishes his military duty. Catch 22.
Payment for Greek military service
Conscripted soldiers do not collect a salary and are given no health insurance, but provided food, accommodation, clothing, free unlimited public transport (metro, train, tram, buses) and medical support that includes hospitalization.
A modest payment of 8.80 to 600 euros per month, depending on the conscript’s rank and family status, is categorized as ‘aid’ to help offset expenses not covered by the military. The majority of men receive the absolute minimum of 8.80 euros/month, with sergeants earning 11.15 euros/month. Understandably, most soldiers find this compensation insufficient and must depend on savings or family for financial support during their tour of duty.
Food varies according to location, and no accommodations are made for special diets or needs. It is assumed that soldiers will eat what they’re given and discard what they don’t want or like — it’s the military, after all, not a restaurant.
Because of their elite status, the evzone camp in Athens serves better quality food, in comparison to the rest of Greece. I know this because I’m friends with several men who served as evzones and was privileged to attend their Easter celebration.
Typical Military Tour
A tour in the Greek military has three cycles:
1. Basic – Six (6) weeks at a dedicated training facility.
2. Specialist training – At least 3 to 7 weeks at a dedicated training facility, conducted in combat units.
3. Regular army unit.*
Most conscripts are required to train for 7.5 hours/day, though it may not be served consecutively, and includes tasks such as guard duty or clerical work. For many men, this will be their first encounter with vigorous exercise, washing dishes, sweeping floors, garbage disposal and harsher conditions such as mental abuse and sleeping in the woods. Adverse behavior is often punishable with additional days service or a reduction of ‘adeia.’
In August 2009, it was announced that onsite electronic systems will monitor and block unauthorized mobile/cell phones inside military installations due to excessive and indiscriminate use, which creates security violations.
*Men who are 185 cm or taller are selected to compete and be a part of 150 elite Presidential Guards (evzones), thus making it possible to hold a special position, wear a historical uniform and serve in Athens at the same time. After rigorous training with a senior evzone exiting military duty, there is a process of elimination in which a group of men replace outgoing officers and serve at Syntagma for many months on a on/off schedule. They then become “old evzones” who wear a green uniform, stand near booths, command and grade evzones changing on the hour and stretching on the half hour.
Reduced Tours of Duty
Some conscripts qualify to serve a reduced tour and may have the option to buy out their remaining duty for a fee of 293.47 per month.
- Citizens who moved to Greece before their 11th birthday from countries of the former Eastern Block or Turkey serve 3 months.
- Citizens who lived constantly abroad since their 11th birthday and have parents not employed by the Greek state serve 6 months.
- Naturalized Greek citizens serve 6 months.
- Men who served at least 6 months in the military of another EU member state may still be asked to serve 6 months in Greece.
- Citizens with ‘permanent resident abroad’ status (aka, applied for and have a certificate) who choose to live in Greece for more than 6 months in a calendar year and/or work in Greece will lose their special status, be reclassified as ‘repatriated citizen’ and serve 3-6 months.
- Scientists involved in outstanding research may serve three to six months AND are required to buy out the remainder of the normal tour of duty at 293.47 euros/month not served; can opt to meet military obligations in disjointed tours of 2 months each.
- Members of large families (more than three children) may serve between 6 and 9 months. In most cases, this applies only to the eldest brother(s).
- Fathers or citizens whose income is necessary to support elderly parents serve 9 months.
- Citizens with a father aged 70 or older serve a 9-month tour; this normally only applies to the eldest brother.
- Citizens whose father has died serve nine months and usually applies only to the eldest brother.
For your specific situation, it is best to consult the Ministry of Defense’s official website listed at the end of this article as there are several factors taken into consideration when determining a reduced military tour. This section was only provided as a general outline.
Temporary Deferment of Duty
All healthy males are required to enlist on their 18th birthday, though deferments are granted for the following reasons:
- Students wishing to pursue higher or further education: The duration of the deferment is 5-6 years, subject to recall if a student fails to make any academic progress within a year.
- Poor health, including drug rehabilitation: Deferments of 6 months to 2 years are awarded by medical committees comprising military physicians, army officers and recruitment officials.
- Incarceration: Criminals are automatically deferred.
- Citizens with a brother currently serving in the armed forces: Tours are deferred until the brother is discharged.
- Electoral candidates: A deferment is granted to candidates for the duration of elections.
- Other reasons: A small number of deferments are granted at the Defense Minister’s discretion for compelling social reasons not explicitly stated in the legislation.
Permanent Deferment of Duty
Citizens not required to serve in the armed forces of Greece are:
- People with serious health problems, including the mentally ill
- Fathers of more than three children
- The eldest brother in a family, whose members cannot support themselves
- Fathers who have been widowed or are incapable of work with children/spouse who cannot support themselves
- Foreigners living in the monastic community of Mount Athos
Males of Greek origin or those with Greek citizenship who have lived abroad as a permanent resident may be eligible to claim an exemption from Greek military obligations if they served on an EU military force or a reduced tour if they served with a non-EU NATO country.
Please check with the Greek consulate/embassy in your homeland if abroad or with the Greek military recruiting office if in Greece. There is no way I can cover every possible country and every possible situation on this website, and a friend or relative’s experience does not necessarily apply to you. Each case is highly unique and should be treated as such.
Parliament passed a law in 1997 that established alternative and unarmed service for conscientious objectors and amended the Constitution in 2001 to recognize the right to conscientious objection. Alternative service is nearly double normal military service at 23 months, and unarmed service is 18 months. Men serving alternative service at an institution not providing food and shelter are paid approximately 210 euros/month.
Draft Evaders and Citizens Living Abroad
If you are classified as ‘anypotaktos,’ it means you are a draft evader.
* Draft evaders living in Greece: Are not allowed to leave the country and cannot be issued a passport granting them that right. (There are three types of passports for male citizens that signify no duty served, currently serving duty and completed duty.)
* Draft evaders living outside of Greece: Were granted the right to be issued Greek passports in 2004, but are only allowed to visit the homeland up to 30-90 days in a calendar year. Previous to 2004, draft evaders abroad were denied passport renewal and forced to conscript upon entering Greece.
* Draft evaders and deserters will be fined 1000 euros/month with a maximum fine of 6,000 euros under law 517/2011, published April 6, 2011. Reservists are fined 90 euros/month.
* Permanent residents abroad: As of late 2005, those living abroad for at least 11 years or working abroad for seven years, are permitted to defer military service until repatriation to Greece. Permanent residents abroad are also allowed to reside in Greece without working for under 6 months of each calendar year ONLY if they are issued a Pistopoiitiko Monimou Katoikou Exoterikou by the Greek consulate/embassy having jurisdiction over their foreign residence AND issued a Pistopoiitiko Stratologikis Katastasis Typou B’ by the Greek military recruiting office.
* Permanent residents abroad who wish to study in Greece: Greek males can study in Greece for a total of 12 years, consecutively or intermittently, without losing their status as permanent resident abroad and not serve in the military, as long as their parents remain permanent residents abroad.
Should those with status of ‘permanent resident abroad’ wish to live in Greece for more than 6 months or work in the country, they will lose their special status, be reclassified as ‘repatriated citizens,’ and be assigned a tour of duty consisting of 3-6 months.
Many non-EU citizens of Greek origin claim their right to Greek citizenship, then live and work in another EU country, where the threat of being drafted by the Greek military is removed.
Renouncing your Greek citizenship does not excuse you from military service, as this does nothing to remove Greek ethnicity and Greek origin to which you are tied by birth and blood.
Greek Society and the Military
The military is an integral part of Greek society and generally regarded as a trustworthy institution that: protects national borders, participates in national celebrations and official ceremonies (Oxi Day, Greek Independence Day in Athens and New York, diplomatic visits), replaces the state when its mechanics are unavailable to help civilians, transports patients from islands or rural areas to regional hospitals or Athens on an emergency basis, extinguishes fires in summer and assists with rescue and recovery missions.
What is life like in the Greek military?
In the future, I will attach the stories from Greek men who have already volunteered to share their stories.
For the time being, there are commentators below who shared their experience, and the Ta Nea published “Άκρως τρελό κι απόρρητο” (Translation: Extremely crazy and confidential), an article that details things like living conditions, chores, strange orders, discipline and fitness, and the assignment of unqualified officers.
Employment assistance for exiting Greek soldiers
In summer 2010, the ministry of defense (ΥΠΕΘΑ) opened a liaison office that works with the Greek Manpower Employment Agency (OAED) to help men find work upon completion of military duty. Candidates must be aged between 19-35 and are divided into three categories:
a) IEK/TEI/TEL/EPAL/AEI graduates and holders of a master’s or doctoral degree
b) Men not holding a degree but acquired knowledge and experience in an area of specialty and awarded a KEK certificate
c) Men with an occupation not requiring a degree, i.e., painter, construction
More information and instructions on how to enroll or acquire assistance at:
Γραφείο Σύνδεσης Θητείας με Αγορά Εργασίας/Grafeio Syndesis Thiteias me Agora Ergasias
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Citizens in Greece:
Local recruitment offices in Greece
Call ‘11888’ for nearest location
Greek Consulates Worldwide
In the news
“Clothing shortage for Greek military recruits” — Kathimerini
“Αθήνα: μόνο για τσολιάδες” – Ta Nea
“Θητεία: Μόνο το 10% «πιάνει» το εννιάμηνο” – Eleftherotypia
“Μειώνεται το ύψος των γυναικών για την εισαγωγή σε στρατιωτικές σχολές” — Eleftherotypia
“Gender discrimination in Greek military” — Eleftherotypia (in Greek)
“ΟΑΕΔ για… φαντάρους συστήνει το υπουργείο Άμυνας” — Eleftherotypia
“«Ψαλίδι» 5-10% στους εισακτέους των στρατιωτικών σχολών” — Ta Nea
“Greek army attempts to draft man on vacation” — Wilmington Town Crier
Sources & More Info
* Ministry of National Defense – Official page — in Greek and English (limited)
* Hellenic National Defense — in Greek and English (limited)
* Stratologia — in Greek
* Thiteia — in Greek
* Hellenic Army — in Greek and English (limited)
* Hellenic Navy — in Greek and English (limited)
* Hellenic Air Force — in Greek and English (limited)
* Greek friends who served in many capacities and divisions over several years, relayed personal experiences and provided and translated military literature.
“Πρόστιμο 6.000 ευρώ για λιποτάκτες” — To Vima
“Free air tickets every 6 months, free ferry and train travel” — Kathimerini
Select transactions now handled through KEP
Obligation to be raised
Air Force/Navy must spend two weeks in Army training
allowing military couples to serve together, transfer
Parents both enlisted in military with children aged 6 and under are entitled to up to two years of unpaid leave, same as police according to 138/2011
Military school selection