Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Mandatory military service in Greece

military.jpgTraining 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.”

Changes

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.

Opting out

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.

Speaking Greek

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.

Diet

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

Exemptions

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.

Conscientious Objectors

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
Website: www.mod.mil.gr
Email: thiteia-ergasia@mod.mil.gr or thiteia-ergasia@mil.gr

Contact info

Citizens in Greece:
Local recruitment offices in Greece
Call ‘11888’ for nearest location

Citizens abroad:
Greek Consulates Worldwide
Click here

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.

Updated with

Πρόστιμο 6.000 ευρώ για λιποτάκτες” — To Vima
Free air tickets every 6 months, free ferry and train travel” — Kathimerini

Updates pending

Select transactions now handled through KEP
http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=422441
Obligation to be raised
http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=432633
http://www.tanea.gr/ellada/article/?aid=4684828
Air Force/Navy must spend two weeks in Army training
http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=439274
allowing military couples to serve together, transfer
http://www.tanea.gr/ellada/article/?aid=4690188
e-conscription
http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=442579
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
http://www.tanea.gr/ellada/article/?aid=4704953

179 Comments

  Jason wrote @ July 25th, 2007 at 04:54

I’ve heard that foreigners who have served in the military of an allied country are not required to serve in the Greek military. Do you know if this is true and if anybody has successfully skipped Greek military service with proof of military service in the US?

Kat Reply:

Jason – The Athens News (in their newspaper) reports that 6 months duty in the armed forces of Canada, United States and European Union countries exempts someone from serving in the Greek military; however, their book says something different. This isn’t surprising since I’ve always found errors in their research over the last 10 years.

According the information I received from a professional high ranking soldier and official literature I was shown, previous military service done for a country allied with Greece does not totally exempt you from mandatory Greek military service, it only reduces the amount of time you need to serve, which ends up being between 3-6 months. They recommend consulting with the Greek Consulate in your homeland or directly with an official military recruiting officer in Greece for information specific to your case because it is dependent on several factors.

P.S. The Athens News also claims that any Greek male NOT in possession of a Greek passport and Greek ID are in no danger of being drafted, however I can name at least two dozen people (Australian, American, Canadian) who were drafted against their will and didn’t even have Greek citizenship; they were simply of Greek origin. Many of them still don’t have Greek passports by choice, though some have Greek IDs now that they live here. I mean no disrespect to the Athens News; I just want people to understand that I have come across many contradictions to the information being reported, in my own research of real-life cases and official documentation.

  tina13 wrote @ August 11th, 2007 at 01:26

hello, I have one question, about the Greek army…the missions that the conscripts have, can be longer than 2 weeks ? ( for example, a mission at the borders or something like that ) and can they have the mobiles with them ? ( when can they use them ? ) and can they have 3 days off, or something ? in what conditions ? thank u a lot for answering, Tina

Kat Reply:

I’m not sure why you’re asking since you’re in Romania, but there are no definitive answers to your five questions (not one question) because there are too many variables. It depends on the specific military branch, a soldier’s rank, location, conditions, the specific mission assigned, responsibilities, level of confidentiality, the unit, the captain of the unit, a soldier’s good/poor behavior.

If you’re checking up on a boyfriend, the bigger question is, “do I trust him?”

  Xenophon wrote @ March 16th, 2008 at 07:03

Hi, Kat, thanks for the informative site. I really appreciate all the work you’ve put into it!

Two questions:

1) Have you heard of any foreign-resident Greek males who’ve gotten drafted even with a ΤΥΠΟΥ ‘Β’ certificate (for foreign permanent residence) and NO stay beyond 6 months in a calendar year in Greece? (i.e. I’m wondering how likely it is, even though I supposedly have my “papers in order”, that I’m going to be drafted during a future visit [under 6 months] to Greece anyway?)

2) Do you know whether Greece still has a ban on g@ys in the military? (i.e. there was a presidential decree a few years ago that supposedly banned g@ys, but I’ve seen conflicting information about whether the ban is still in force because of conscripts’ attempts to “act g@y” in order to get out of military service; I’m a masculine g@y man who body-builds, so I’m sure they’d make me serve anyway!)

Background: I’m a Greek-American who recently got recorded as a Greek (via a U.S. consulate), got my ΤΥΠΟΥ ‘B’ certificate (also via consulate), and applied for my first Greek passport (also via consulate, I’m waiting for it to come back now). I’ve never lived in Greece (although I’ve been visiting my family there since childhood, roughly every other summer, and now I try to visit at least twice per year). My mother and my paternal grandparents were born in Greece, and all of my family is supposedly of Greek origin. I decided to claim my Greek citizenship for a Greek passport, to verify my right to live/work in the EU, because I’m a steward and the airline I work for has crew bases in Germany and the UK; with a Greek passport, I could be based there indefinitely. So, Greek citizenship does have a very real and practical benefit for me.

Kat Reply:

1) The answer to the first question is, “No,” I haven’t heard of anyone being drafted if they had the permanent resident abroad certificate AND stayed under the 6 months.
2) The answer to the second is there had been a ban on g@ys in the military, but it was lifted some years ago with an amendment from what I determined by looking at Government Gazette publications. Why? A lot of people were claiming this exemption and weren’t g@y, and there’s really no way anyone can prove they are or aren’t. A lot of “news” agencies regurgitate old material without independently checking their facts and say there is still a ban — there isn’t. All of my g@y friends have served, and this has been true for the past 4-5 years.

  Xenophon wrote @ March 16th, 2008 at 17:34

By TYPOU B’ in that last paragraph of my previous comment, I obviously meant ΤΥΠΟΥ Β’. Α σιμπλε ερρορ caused by switching between Greek and English keyboards ανδ λαζυ προοφρεαδινγ. 😉

BTW, Kat, just from my own experience, I wanted to note that your frequent distinction between Greek citizenship and Greek origin didn’t seem to matter at all in my case. When Ι got my registration certificate (πιστοποιητικό εγγραφής) from my local town hall in Greece (in January 2008, after a U.S. consulate recorded my birth back in September 2007), the registrar had understandably put on my certificate that I have Greek nationality, but had earlier also noted that my father has Greek nationality, too (on my parents’ πιστοποιητικό οικογενειακής κατάστασης, which I got in May 2007), even though my dad and his parents never recorded his Greek nationality and he was born and has lived all his life in the U.S., like me. The only officially “Greek” act my dad has ever done was to marry my mother in Greece, but otherwise he was recorded nowhere in Greek records. So, thus, the weirdness and apparent inconsistencies in ease of registration have manifested once again.

In my case, it would appear that it was super easy and that the Chicago consulate has also been very nice to me (although the consular office at the embassy in DC was perceived to be a tinge rude by my sister). My family is from an island close to Turkey with a very large garrison… so maybe they saw me at the Chicago consulate… with more muscular mass than the average Greek male… and thought: “sign him up for the military, immediately!” 😉 Thus, through imagining this, now I have some paranoid fears of being drafted, even though my “papers are in order” and I don’t plan to spend more than 6 months in Greece in any one calendar year.

I look forward to your response to my two earlier questions, and thanks again for the awesome site!

Kat Reply:

Hi X, I make the distinction between origin and citizenship because some readers believe that if they don’t have citizenship, they’re not obligated to serve. That’s wrong. All it takes is Greek origin.

  Greg in Astoria, NY wrote @ March 23rd, 2008 at 21:43

Thank you for this information. I’d like to comment on the section Greek Society and the Military. I am thirty-nine years old and the son of Greek immigrants, born and raised in the U.S. From what I’ve heard, in the past some Greeks held lingering resentment and mistrust of the military because of the junta. Back in 1988, in Mytilini, I participated in the initial session of a summer study abroad program at the University of the Aegean for foreign college students who were of Greek descent. One of our field trips involved a visit to a Greek military base and a trip aboard a Greek combat ship. I remember one of the professors said (out of earshot of any officers, of course) to a small group of us students that the field trip was remarkable in that Greek academia was (still, at that time) somewhat apprehensive of the Greek military.

Kat Reply:

G – Thanks for your comments, which I feel added something different, interesting and valuable to the discussion. Hope you’ll stop by again. P.S. I used to live in Astoria for 2 years near Athens Cafe. Been meaning to get back, but haven’t yet.

  Rob wrote @ April 24th, 2008 at 12:58

Very informative forum. I have also now found myself in the dilemma of dealing with the call to service in Greece.

I’m a 25 year old Canadian with a Greek mother, and have lived in both Greece and Canada from 1992 untill now. I managed to avoid getting Greek citizenship in the past so I would’nt have to go to the army, but now I got it so I could stay in the country for longer than the 3 month visa restriction.Mostly due to family obligations.

I just got my Taftotita and was written in the recruiting office a few days ago. I looked into getting the Certificate of Permanent Foreign Residence but I’m worried I won’t fill all the requirements. I’d hate to be a draft dodger but I don’t want to serve in Greece. I was actually hoping to join the Canadian army as a career and would’nt mind going in place of Greek service.

Does anyone know if that’s possible and how I could go about getting permission? I checked and dodging the Greek draft would wreck my chances of joining in Canada; as I am reqired to serve elsewhere. Any thoughts? Thanks.

Kat Reply:

R – Hi again! I remember you. You posted on the overstaying visa article and applied for citizenship. That’s a tricky situation. Without doing extensive research (which I can’t right now), you shouldn’t automatically count yourself out of the permanent foreign resident certificate because it depends on how many years you’ve spent abroad and how old you were. But here’s the thing, even if you had that certificate, you would have violated its terms already because you’ve been here for more than 6 months. When you have that certificate, you’re agreeing to spend less than 6 months in a 12-month period in Greece. When you pass the half-way mark, you are announcing that you spend the majority of your time in Greece, and are therefore not a permanent resident abroad in Canada.

  John Tsiolis wrote @ May 19th, 2008 at 12:06

What exactly is meant by Permanent Overseas Residents serving “3-6 months”? How come I cant find information on exactly how long a diaspora Greek would serve?

Kat Reply:

I have no idea what you mean — the entire article addresses the Greek diaspora. There’s even a dedicated section called “Citizens Living Abroad.” If a male has Greek citizenship and the “permanent resident abroad” certificate, he serves 3-6 months. The exact length of time is dependent on several factors, and determined on a case-by-case basis. Consult with the recruiting office or Greek Consulate about your specific case.

  R wrote @ June 3rd, 2008 at 16:58

Thanks for getting back to me. I was’nt able to get the permanent foreign resident certificate for the reasons you mentioned. As far as the Greek embassy in Canada and recruiting office in Greece are concerned, I just have to serve like everyone else. I’ll be speaking to a lawyer soon to see what I can do but my options are slim.

I have’nt decided what to do yet but I’m a little disappointed with the whole situation.There really should be some more options for people not born in Greece and who don’t intend to live there. While I can understand a draft for people living in that country, I just can’t justify myself serving in a foreign military, in a language I can’t even write,on my own (Canadian) dollar, in a place I never intend to do more than come to and spend money in as a visitor. The whole thing seems a little backward(surprise!). Maybe Greece should try having a professional military where people get paid decently and have benefits, then maybe they would have more volunteers.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. Kat,I appreciate the time you’ve spent answering my questions. I’ll post if something changes. Thanks, R

  Kat wrote @ June 6th, 2008 at 01:42

Greece does have a division of professional soldiers, and they’re paid quite decently. My friend CK is stationed in Samos and is now a high ranking officer with a generous salary, days off and reasonable responsibilities.

I sympathize with you and many others in your situation, but please understand that there are many who cannot get to Greece or the EU by any legal means. Unfortunately, the only thing that can be done is to be assigned somewhere nice and cushy if you have a connection. My friend V served on a small island near his home as mail boy and had weekends off. His time went by like a breeze.

Feel free to rant all you want. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and thank you for sharing your stories. 🙂

  Xenophon wrote @ June 25th, 2008 at 23:51

Kat, I was wondering if your research within the Government Gazette publication had revealed exactly when the ban on g@ys (in the military) was lifted? I do NOT doubt your skills as a researcher or a writer and I really do appreciate all the work you have put into this site. Thanks for the answers!

I hope you won’t be offended, but I have my doubts about your answer concerning the ban. Let me explain why. Part of your answer to my question states, “there isn’t [a ban on g@ys anymore]. All of my g@y friends have served, and this has been true for the past 4-5 years”.

But, as late as March 2006, EOK (Ελληνική Ομοφυλοφιλική Κοινότητα, an Athens-based g@y rights group) was “demanding an end to what it call[ed] a ‘fascist’ regulation banning g@ys from the military” according to an article at: http://www.365gay.com/ (article no longer archived and available on the relaunched site).

So, I’m wondering if the ban actually was only lifted within the past 2 years, rather than 4-5 years ago as you imply, or perhaps the ban was not even lifted at all, and that there is simply a state of inconsistent enforcement (what?!? …inconsistent application of policy in Greece?!? …surprise! …surprise!), which may technically still be in force (again, it was a presidential decree in 2002 that supposedly and most recently instituted the ban on g@ys)?

Not that journalists or Wikipedia are free from error either, but Wikipedia also still identifies Greece as one of the nations that bans g@ys from its military, too, in a few of Widipedia’s articles.

So, when, according to the Government Gazette, was the ban lifted?

In other news, I got my first Greek passport in May (albeit after my photos were rejected once for bad lighting), and I used it for a visa-free visit to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, earlier this month in June! (Americans require a tourist visa to go to Brazil, Greeks do not) 😉

Kat Reply:

You are free to question and doubt me. I don’t mind.

The GG amendment I found from 2002 had language that translated to, “mental disorder of $exual identity is no longer exempted.” When it is written, it is said to take effect. I did see Wikipedia, but I never rely on it unless there are sources listed at the bottom that are legitimate and verifiable — I didn’t see any. Even if you try to look up how many countries ban g@ys, it varies greatly by source and sometimes Greece is listed and sometimes it’s not. I also saw a number of articles written in both English and Greek by g@y rights groups, but many of them are regurgitated articles and text from articles published by questionable news sources that did not independently verify facts.

Like many things in GR, it takes some time for municipalities, consulates/embassies and official bodies to be informed, and even longer for the law to be enforced (if at all). The only consistency I know of is things are bound to be inconsistent ( 😉 ). However, the crackdown and rechecking of exemptions started in 2006 without regard to fame; I know this because my fiance’s friend was asked to provide new evidence of a medical exemption he claimed 7 years ago on a short deadline. If they’re rechecking exemptions in a bid to get warm bodies into the military, it doesn’t make sense to ban warm-bodied g@ys.

I, on the other hand, have no draft dodgers in my life. All of my friends, g@y and straight, have served their time. Many of them in the last 4-5 years, and all were out of the closet. The ones who remain in the closet of course served without protest.

When I researched it, I did it in both GR and EN and indeed there was a shortage of legitimate information. But that didn’t surprise me given the non-transparency of this country. If someone has different info and can provide me with documentation contrary to what I found, I’m happy to amend this article and my comments accordingly.

I’m glad you’re enjoying your passport!

  Xenophon wrote @ June 26th, 2008 at 07:11

Cool. I believe you. Thanks again. I’m considering serving as a “foreign permanent resident”, once I save up enough money to cover my bills/mortgage for 3-6 months (probably for 6, just to be safe), plus I’ll have to get a “military leave of absence” from work so that I don’t lose my job. But I think my airline is required by my labor contract to give me a military leave, so long as I have proof of my military orders; I imagine my recruiting office in Greece would give me a proof/letter of some sort, if I ask for one. I had back surgery for a ruptured disc about 3 years ago, but I hope that will not necessarily disqualify me, as I pretty much can function normally, with some precautions taken.

Kat Reply:

It’s totally OK if you don’t believe me. I never claimed to know everything about Greece, especially the behind-the-scenes workings of its system. I welcome anyone who has better or additional information. 🙂

  Sebastian wrote @ July 8th, 2008 at 19:26

Dear Kat,

I just discovered your site and am amazed by the exhaustive nature of your research. Thank you for such a valuable research. I added you to my favourite on Technorati and also reviewed your site on StumbleUpon. I hope anyone who needs some answers can find your work here.

I just had a few comments I wanted to add for the benefit of any future readers. For comparison purposes, here is my situation.

I was born in Greece two Greek parents and was brought to the U.S. when I was hardly one year old. I lived here until the age of eight, at which time I returned to Greece and lived there for five years. At the age of thirteen, I returned to the United States. Since my return, I have visited Greece exactly once, in the fall of 2005, and stayed for three months.

At sixteen, I became a naturalized American citizen.

I have servied in the United States military for over a year.

Some time ago, I decided I wanted to live and work in Germany, and explored the option of moving there under a Greek passport. When I contacted the Greek consulate in New York, I came upon the military service barrier.

While I have the perfect right to a Greek passport, I cannot receive one until I’ve fulfilled my military duty. Because I was about to visit Germany for an extended stay, the man at the consulate was kind enough to give me a Greek passport which was valid for exactly one year.

“According the information I received from a professional high ranking soldier and official literature I was shown, previous military service done for a country allied with Greece does not totally exempt you from mandatory Greek military service, it only reduces the amount of time you need to serve, which ends up being between 3-6 months.”

This matches my experience. Having served in the American military does not exempt me from Greek military service, though it does significantly cut down my time; anywhere from three to six months.

“The Athens News also claims that any Greek male NOT in possession of a Greek passport and Greek ID are in no danger of being drafted, however I can name at least two dozen people (Australian, American, Canadian) who were drafted against their will and didn’t even have Greek citizenship; they were simply of Greek origin.”

When I last visited Greece in 2005, I entered with the American passport. I received a brief comment from the guy (“Ah, you were born here, eh?”) and that was all. I guess some Greeks find it interesting when they see an “Αμερικανάκι.”

I had no surprise visits while staying there. I even went to the police precinct to inquire about getting a Greek ID. I was rather paranoid I’d be “arrested” and thrown into the Army immediately, but those fears proved entirely unfounded. I simply explained my situation to the people there and they repeated what I had heard at the Greek consulate in New York: I must complete military service before I can apply for a national ID.

Now, what I have “heard” as far as stays in Greece are concerned, is that I can remain in the country for three months before I encounter any complications due to the military service. I have also “heard” that some people who stayed longer than that either had trouble at the airport when trying to exit the country or, worse yet, were even prevented from leaving and made to serve.

Because receiving definitive information concerning such things when one is dealing with the Greek system, I have not visited since and do not plan to, even though my girlfriend has been poking me to take her to Greece for a year now. 🙂

Oh, and here is a piece of anecdotal evidence which I found rather interesting.

I do not remember with whom exactly I had this exchange, but I dstinctly recall that while I was in Athens that fall of 2005, I was speaking with some official (it could have been someone at the prectinct when i visited, or it could have been when I was at the airport on my way back to the U.S.) and this person expressed surprise that no one “told me anything” regarding military service when I was entering the country. This, of course, implies, there is some kind of official “procedure” for people like me (i.e. an American born in Greece) but, like I said, I had no experience of the sort.

“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.”

This certainly sounds like a viable option, though I unfortunatley can’t take advantage of it, since in order to receive a passport I must have served already. I can’t imagine who would be able to do that.

In any event, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel for anyone in my situation:

“The armed forces aims to be a completely professional military system, with mandatory military service reduced to 6 months or abolished completely by 2008. ”

My mother, who is more in touch with these happenings through her Greek friends than I am, had mentioned something similar. I had taken it as a rumour, but who knows. Perhaps by the time I am done with my studies here in New York, mandatory service will have been done away with once and for all.

These, then, have been my experiences. I hope someone finds them useful.

Sebastian

Kat Reply:

Hi there and thank you for contributing a great deal to this discussion. As a follow-up to a few items you mentioned:

a) Yes, most people I know who stay for under 90 days don’t have any issues. There are people I know who stay for over 90 days and do absolutely have an issue, and I know a few who were prevented from leaving by airport authorities.

There are cases where only certain Greek males can stay for 30 days, which is the reason I encourage everyone to make a phone call to the Greek Consulate or consult the Greek military recruiting office for their specific case. Not everyone is the same, as it depends on citizenship, length of residence inside Greece or another country, parents’ citizenship and residence status, etc.

b) I’ve never heard of any official procedure of border authorities informing males of Greek origin of anything. Ela vre, it’s Greece. Even if they were required, it’s not guaranteed that everyone would do it. I always assume that everyone is responsible for himself.

c) I do know dual Greek citizenship holders who somehow got a Greek passport without serving in the army (NO connections, no lawyers) and they are working in another EU country with no problem. They either got a certificate, got lucky, or it’s just Greece…too many variables.

  Nikos wrote @ July 9th, 2008 at 12:33

Regarding the service of g@ys in the military, I think that the Armed Forces are generally reluctant about recruiting g@y men. Even if they decide to keep you, you can still make a case for an exemption based on factors such as viability (an openly g@y man between an overwhelmingly hom0phobic community). If the army is not cooperative the ombudsman has supported minorities in the past.

Kat Reply:

Nikos – That’s a good point. For anyone interested, you can always volunteer yourself, state your $exual orientation and see if they take you or not. If they draft you and believe you stand a chance to exempt yourself, try the Ombudsman. You can find his information at, “Greek Ombudsman.”

  Nick wrote @ July 23rd, 2008 at 21:47

Hello, i really enjoy your site. I am a Greek who was raised among foreigners in Greece and i find your take on Greece very honest. A little too honest for Greek standards maybe. 🙂

I just wanted to note that just like most other aspects of Greek law, the military service is a “rule” which can be bend or broken.

You mentioned connections and they are a good example of bending.

I have been performing research of my own because i will be drafted in a couple of years and i want to avoid it. I believe that it is quite possible to remain in a state of limbo by simply not going to the army and becoming “anypokatkos”. The police cannot really arrest you or force you to go in case you are accidentally discovered in a random check or if you ever have to go to a police dpt.

If you have a job that doesn’t require a certificate that you finished your tour or you are working as a freelance you may never have to go to the army.

It may be a good option for some people.

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