Country Report on Terrorism 2020 - Chapter 1 - Greece


Overview: The Greek government remained a highly collaborative CT partner in 2020. Consistent with its responsibilities as a participant in the Visa Waiver Program, Greece operationalized its Passenger Information Unit by Presidential decree and hoped to shortly begin screening air passengers in accordance with international standards. The government moved forward on a tender that will help provide Greeks with more secure, biometric ID cards, since existing ID cards are a major vulnerability. Greece also passed legislation in accordance with an EU directive that criminalizes terrorist travel and ensures medical assistance to victims of terror. There were no major terrorist incidents in Greece in 2020; however, there were several arrests of suspected terrorists. Greece is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Greece in 2020.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, Border Security: Greece implemented EU Directive 541 by passing legislation that criminalizes organizing or facilitating travel for the purposes of terrorism as well as theft, extortion, and forgery related to terrorist activity. The legislation has a special provision for victims of terrorism to ensure they are able to receive appropriate medical care immediately after a terrorist attack.

Since Greece’s national identification card remains vulnerable to alteration and photo substitution, Greek authorities moved forward in the process to provide citizens with biometric-enabled ID cards. Five consortiums bid on the Ministry of Citizen Protection’s €515 million tender for an integrated online system for security documents, including the new ID cards.

On September 23, Greek President Sakellaropoulou issued a decree to create the Passenger Information Unit (PIU) as the fifth department in the intelligence division of the Hellenic Police. Greece indicates the decision provides the legal basis for the PIU to operate and will help to ensure Greece uses passenger name records and advanced passenger information to screen airline travelers according to international standards and recommended practices. The PIU expected to receive airline data in 2021.

On December 9, Greece passed legislation that will stop convicted terrorists from being transferred to lower security “agricultural prisons.” The bill will ensure that Dimitris Koufontinas, a leader of the domestic terrorist group 17 November and currently serving multiple life sentences on an agricultural farm, is transferred to a higher-security prison.

Greek authorities carried out many arrests in 2020, including the following:

  • In March, police arrested 11 Turkish citizens accused of participating in the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, a Turkish Marxist-Leninist group designated as a terrorist organization by the EU, the United States, and others. Along with association with a terrorist organization, the arrested were accused of weapons possession, including rocket-propelled grenades, a Kalashnikov rifle, pistols, and hand grenades. The group is thought to have been trying to smuggle the weapons to Turkey.
  • In September, authorities arrested three alleged members of the Popular Fighters Group (OLA), a Greek leftist terrorist group, in Athens. OLA was the group behind an attack on the Israeli Embassy in 2014, as well as a Eurobank branch and the Athens Court of Appeals in 2017. Police found 10 kilos of gelignite, detonators, and raw materials for making explosives in a warehouse unit belonging to one of the suspects.
  • In November, authorities arrested a 27-year-old Syrian in a refugee and migrant camp in western Athens for his suspected membership in ISIS. The suspect reportedly admitted to interrogators that he directly participated in terrorist attacks, and there is allegedly a video showing him participating in terrorist activities. He traveled to Greece in 2018 and applied for asylum, which was still pending at the time of the arrest.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Greece is a member of FATF. Its FIU, the Anti-Money Laundering Counter-Terrorist Financing and Source of Funds Investigation Authority, is a member of the Egmont Group. In October, Greece implemented EU Directive 2018/843 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for money laundering and terrorist funding. The directive aims to prevent money laundering by increasing transparency of company/trust ownership, addressing risks linked to virtual currencies, and improving checks on transactions involving third countries, among other aims. The Ministry of Finance is also working on legislation for the adoption of EU Directive 2019/1153 to establish rules to facilitate the use of financial and other information to prevent, detect, investigate, and/or prosecute certain criminal offenses.

Countering Violent Extremism: In July, Greece passed a law creating a new division to prevent violent extremism reporting directly to the Minister of Citizen Protection. The division will focus on violent Islamic extremism and both far-right/far-left groups and anarchists. It will have five units — 1) strategy and policy, 2) research and analysis, 3) action/implementation, 4) dissemination/networking, and 5) logistics — and will be made up of a police officer, prison/probation staff, and officials from other ministries, including the Ministries of Education and Migration. The group will also draft a national countering-violent-extremism strategy. Greece began training to familiarize police and prison staff with the tenets of Islam and to prevent violent extremism across Greece in 2020. These trainings will continue next year. Greece also created a new open-source analysis framework, which intelligence, state security, and cybercrime divisions are using to better monitor and analyze groups online.

International and Regional Cooperation: Greece is a member of various international bodies and of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.