Greece's economic reforms that led to it abandoning the drachma in favour of the euro in 2002 made it easier for the country to borrow money.
Greece went on a debt-funded spending spree, including high-profile projects such as the 2004 Athens Olympics, which went well over budget.
It was hit by the downturn, which meant it had to spend more on benefits and received less in taxes. There were also doubts about the accuracy of its economic statistics.
Greece's economic problems meant lenders started charging higher interest rates to lend it money and widespread tax evasion also hit the government's coffers.
There have been demonstrations against the government's austerity measures to deal with its 300bn euro (£267bn) debt, such as cuts to public sector pay.
Now the government has announced that it needs to access the 30bn euros (£26bn) in emergency loans it has been offered by other EU countries.