GREECE WILL today be criticised for its failure to carry through EU anti-terrorism legislation, dealing an embarrassing blow to the country just nine weeks before it hosts the Olympic Games.
The government in Athens has failed to implement five key anti-terror measures and missed deadlines for action set after the Madrid bombings in March, an EU report will say.
The timing of the revelation could hardly be more embarrassing for the Greek government, as it embarks on an extensive public relations effort to convince people of its ability to ward off terrorist threats during the Olympics.
Greece is spending an unprecedented EUR1bn (pounds 670m) to safeguard athletes, officials and visitors, three times the budget of the previous host, Sydney, in 2000. Despite this record outlay, Athens has been unable to convince a sceptical international community of its ability to provide adequate security.
Greece’s poor performance on implementing anti-terror law will be highlighted in the annex to a report which will be released to a meeting of justice and interior ministers in Luxembourg today. One diplomat described the record of the Greek government as “appalling”, adding: “The Greeks’ counter- terrorism policy appears to be in about as good a state as its stadium- building.” The document takes Greece, along with Italy, to task for its consistent failure to put into domestic law measures agreed with other member states. Of five measures identified, Greece has completed legislated on none – the worst record of all the EU member states apart from the 10 countries that joined the bloc in May.
The laws yet to be put on the statute book by the Greeks cover the EU- wide arrest warrant, which ends the need for extradition proceedings; setting up joint investigation teams to work together to tackle cross- border criminal activities; common definitions of terrorist crimes, establishing parameters for penalties; combating money-laundering; and setting up Eurojust to help the EU’s 25 legal systems combat cross-border crime.
Italy has implemented only one of the measures in full, and one in part, while the UK has put all five into its law.
Both Greece and Italy are likely to face acute criticism today. One EU diplomat said: “It is extraordinary, given the events in Madrid, that these countries can call for action against terrorism and yet do so little, practically, about it.” Greek diplomats said that the problems identified did not impede their ability to combat terrorism in the short term. One said: “I do not think anyone should doubt the willingness of the Greek government to combat terrorism.”
With the Olympics less than two months away, Greece has been making a late push to quell fears that it cannot stage a safe Olympics. George Voulgarakis, the Public Order Minister and top Olympic security official, returned last week from Washington to begin a nationwide tour of police operations. “We have to show the world that we have done everything humanly possible in Greece to conduct a safe Olympics and I think they will be the best games ever,” said Mr Voulgarakis.
Sharing long land borders with Balkan neighbours and seas with Muslim Turkey, Greece is a security nightmare, a haven for illegal immigrants. The Greek authorities are to deploy up to 70,000 military, police and coastguard personnel, backed up by air and sea patrols provided by Nato, to safeguard athletes, officials and visitors during the games.
The security plan is being put into place in partnership with a seven- member international panel, including Britain, the US and Israel. A series of exercises have seen the Greek security forces put through their paces by international observers. The government has also beefed up its coastguard and border force in an effort to secure its borders.