Greece: Extremism and Terrorism

On July 21, 2021, Greek authorities arrested Christos Pappas, the deputy leader of the now defunct neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, in central Athens. Pappas had been on the run from Greek authorities for nine months following an October 2020 verdict that found Golden Dawn had operated as a criminal organization and had carried out violent attacks on leftists and migrants. Pappas, along with six other former party leaders, were sentenced to 13 years in prison. The arrest came a few months after Iaonnis Lagos—a former member of the European Parliament—was extradited back to Greece from Brussels, Belgium, on May 15, where he will also serve a 13-year prison term for his part in running Golden Dawn. Following the verdict, Lagos, who has served as an independent in the European Parliament since 2019, fled to Brussels where he was afforded immunity due to his position. (Sources: New York Times, New York Times

On October 7, 2020, an Athens court ruled that Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party, was a criminal organization. The trial lasted for more than five years and included the conviction of 68 party members for crimes including murder and attempted murder. Most notoriously, Golden Dawn members stabbed to death a Greek anti-fascist musician, Pavlos Fyassas, on September 13, 2013. The Golden Dawn member who carried out the murder, Giorgos Roupakias, was sentenced to life in prison, while party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and his deputies face up to 15 years of jail time. Although Golden Dawn failed to win a single seat in 2019’s parliamentary election, the party’s ultranationalist ideology is reflected in other parties such as Greek Solution, which is a far-right, anti-immigrant movement. (Sources: NPR, New York Times, Reuters)

On December 17, 2019, two arsonists were arrested on terrorism-related charges for attempting to attack the offices of the Golden Dawn party on two separate occasions—once in central Athens in May 2019 and another time outside the capital in November 2019. The Durruti Brigades, named after the late Spanish anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti, claimed responsibility for the first attack, while the second has yet to be claimed. Both attacks involved assailants lunging Molotov cocktails and gas canisters at the party’s offices which resulted in property damage but no casualties. Anarchists and far-left militant groups often target courts and government offices and have recently focused their attention on countering Golden Dawn. (Sources: Associated Press, The National Herald, AMW English)

The use of Greece as a transit point between Syria and Europe has heightened concerns over Greece’s failure to effectively handle and process the recent wave of foreign refugees. The crisis also comes as Greece continues to grapple with the threat of ultranationalist extremist groups and anarchist terror cells within its borders. In late 2016 and early 2017, Greek terrorists were suspected behind bomb attacks targeting the Greek Foreign Minister, the Ministry of Labor, the French Embassy, and the International Monetary Fund. In 2018, attacks against foreign embassies, Greek politicians, and police continued. (Sources: PBS Frontline, U.S. Department of State, Reuters, Greek Reporter, Financial Times, Greek Reporter, Greek Reporter, Greek Reporter, Greek Reporter)

Right-wing and anarchist extremists have been active in Greece for decades. The country’s far-right political movement Golden Dawn grabbed international headlines in recent years. Its rise in popularity during the early 2010s has been attributed in part to the country’s failing economy. Greece’s inability to monitor immigration and cross-border travel also appears to have provided fuel for far-right, neo-Nazi, and ultranationalist extremist movements. The party came in third place in Greece’s 2015 parliamentary elections, despite the arrests of the group’s leading members and an ongoing trial in Greece set to determine whether Golden Dawn constitutes a criminal organization. (Sources: BBC News, Telegraph, BBC News)

Since 2008, Greek anarchist group Conspiracy of Fire Cells (Synomosia Pyrinontis Fotias, a.k.a. Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, a.k.a. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire) has meanwhile executed a series of terrorist attacks against both Greek and international targets. In March 2017, the group claimed responsibility for an attack targeting the International Monetary Fund, which left one person injured. The group also claimed responsibility for a foiled bomb attack targeting the offices of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, reasserting its relevance and saying that “We still have the rage… Nothing is over, everything continues.” In January 2017, Greece arrested Panagiota (Paula) Roupa, leader of Greek anarchist group Revolutionary Struggle and the country’s “no. 1 most wanted” terrorist operative. Roupa had been on the run since 2012, returning to anarchist terrorism after having served 18 months in pretrial detention. The U.S. State Department noted in 2016 that although groups like the Conspiracy of Fire Cells have claimed a spate of terrorist attacks, they often design their bombs so as not to inflict bodily harm but to instead send a political message. (Sources: Foreign Policy, Financial Times, Guardian, New York Times, Reuters, Politico, U.S. Department of State)

In addition to confronting the ongoing threats from anarchist, far-left, and neo-Nazi activity, Greece has also been forced to confront its role as a transit point for foreign ISIS fighters traveling to Syria or returning to carry out attacks in Europe. Several ISIS operatives were found to have used fake Syrian passports and posed as refugees to enter Greece and eventually on to France to carry out attacks. In December 2015, the Greek government passed emergency legislation to establish five screening “hot spots” on the surrounding Aegean islands. In August 2016, the European Union expanded its presence in Greece, deploying around 200 counterterrorism officers to Greek islands in an effort to more effectively screen refugees. (Sources: Los Angeles Times, Greek Reporter, Hellenic Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Greek Reporter, Associated Press, Guardian, Telegraph, Telegraph)

Extremist groups in Greece employ a wide range of tactics to recruit members. While Greece has become a transit point for foreign fighters, it is believed to be the country’s homegrown, ultranationalist and anarchist groups that pose a leading and ongoing threat to Greece’s security and political stability.

Far-Right and Ultranationalist Extremism

From 2011 to 2013, Golden Dawn—an extremist neo-Nazi political party with openly anti-immigrant policies—experienced what some outlets characterized as a “meteoric rise” in popularity. Even with the arrests of dozens of Golden Dawn members in 2013, the party continues to experience widespread support in Greece. In 2014, Golden Dawn was elected into the European Parliament, taking three of 21 available seats for Greece. However, one elected Member of the European Parliament (MEP)—Eleftherios Synadinos—resigned from Golden Dawn in April 2018 and founded the Patriotic Radical Union (PAT.RI.E.). He resumed his MEP functions as a non-attached member. Moreover, Golden Dawn leaders finished third in the country’s January 2015 election, despite having to run for office from prison. The group failed to get any seats in the 2019 parliamentary election. In October 2020, an Athens court ruled that Golden Dawn was a criminal organization. (Sources: Guardian, Telegraph, Deutsche Welle, European Parliament, National Herald, Reuters)

In public platforms, Golden Dawn propagated an extremist Greek supremacy ideology at the exclusion of the country’s immigrants, homosexuals, and religious and ethnic minorities. The party capitalized on the refugee crisis to curry favor with the population. One Golden Dawn Member of Parliament (MP) claimed, “There are no legal migrants in Greece, not even one.” The party’s 2012 election slogan was similarly xenophobic and ominous: “So we can rid this land of filth.” Golden Dawn has also benefitted from the country’s financial crisis. In line with its nationalist, supremacist ideology, the party refused to accept any austerity measures from Greece’s creditors, endearing the group to the mainstream Greek population. In March 2016, one of Golden Dawn’s MEP was expelled from the plenary session after a racist outburst, calling Turks “dirty and polluted” and comparing them to “wild dogs.” (Sources: BBC News, New Statesman, Newsweek, Politico)

Despite standing trial on charges of operating as a criminal organization, Golden Dawn continued to employ a range of strategies to recruit members, including grassroots mobilization and participating in neighborhood initiatives. The party attracted widespread appeal, previously boasting thousands of members and attendants at Golden Dawn rallies. Golden Dawn also worked to appeal to Greek expatriates, including those living in Canada and the United States. (Sources: Business Insider, Telegraph)

Within the country, Golden Dawn used to heavily focus on recruiting from Greek’s youth population. The group has used gyms, athletic clubs, and martial arts clubs as grounds for recruiting youths. The party has actively recruited at high schools, and even stands accused of launching an indoctrination course called “national awakening,” aimed at children ages 6-10. These sessions have included lessons on neutral subjects like ancient Greek history and the Christian faith. According to Greece’s education ministry, however, the lessons were a blatant form of manipulation that is aimed to instill a sense of Greek supremacy. The competing Greek party Syriza accused Golden Dawn of “brainwashing little tots with Nazi propaganda.” Educators and commentators have also noted similarities to the Nazi method of indoctrination. (Sources: Business Insider, International Business Times, Economist)

Golden Dawn had a youth club, Galazia Stratia (Blue Army), using bribery to recruit younger members. The group would hand out cellphones to students, claiming that the kids need access to phones in order to protect themselves from neighborhood crime. The group even sought to appeal to Greek youth through music and sports. By 2013, two of Golden Dawn’s members of parliament were musicians, and had used music to propagate violent and hateful messages. One MP was the bass player in a band that praised Hitler’s Auschwitz death camp in one song, and had another song called “Speak Greek Or Die.” Members of the Galazia Stratia were also regular participants and instigators of soccer hooliganism. Analysts believe that strong emotional ties to a soccer team helped create a sense of identity and belonging that is particularly appealing to disaffected youth. In November 2017, hooligans of the Thessaloniki PAOK soccer club insulted and attacked local Pakistani Muslims who publicly celebrated the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. (Source: Independent, People’s World, RT News)

On October 7, 2020, an Athens court ruled that Golden Dawn operated as a criminal organization and had carried out violent attacks on leftists and migrants. The trial, which began in April 2015, lasted for more than five years and included the conviction of 68 party members for crimes including murder and attempted murder. Most notoriously, Golden Dawn members stabbed to death a Greek anti-fascist musician, Pavlos Fyassas, on September 13, 2013. The Golden Dawn member who carried out the murder, Giorgos Roupakias, was sentenced to life in prison, while party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and his deputies will serve 13 years of jail time each. Although Golden Dawn failed to win a single seat in 2019’s parliamentary election, the party’s ultranationalist ideology is reflected in other parties such as Greek Solution, which is a far-right, anti-immigrant movement. (Sources: NPR, New York Times, Reuters

Several party members attempted to evade authorities after the verdict, with one member even fleeing the country. However on May 15, 2021, Iaonnis Lagos—a former member of the European Parliament—was extradited back to Greece from Brussels, Belgium. Lagos will serve a 13-year prison term for his part in running Golden Dawn. Following the October 2020 verdict, Lagos, who has served as an independent in the European Parliament since 2019, fled to Brussels where he was afforded immunity due to his position. The party’s deputy leader, Christos Pappas, was on the run from Greek authorities for nine months, but was eventually arrested in central Athens on July 21. Pappas will serve 13 years in prison. (Sources: New York Times, New York Times)

Far-Left and Anarchist Extremism

Greece has also suffered from left-wing and anarchist extremist activities. According to Europol’s Terrorism Situation and Trend Report of 2018, the anarchist extremist milieu in Greece has provided fertile ground for radicalization and recruitment and as such functioned as an “antechamber to terrorism.” Greek anarchists have also supported imprisoned anarchist terrorists with solidarity and fundraising activities. Moreover, they appeared to be somewhat interconnected throughout Europe—exchanging messages of solidarity and sharing propaganda online. Left-wing and anarchist groups in Greece and Italy have claimed to comprise an international network, called Informal Anarchist Federation/International Revolutionary Front (Federazione Anarchica Informale/Fronte Rivoluzionario Internazionale, or FAI/FRI). (Sources: Europol, Europol)

Left-wing and anarchist extremists have engaged in violent activities. For example, in July 2016, the week-long “No Border Camp” gathering in the city of Thessaloniki brought together left-wing and anarchist extremists from all over Europe. Attendees participated in violent riots and clashes with police forces in Thessaloniki as well as in rural areas of northern Greece. (Sources: Europol, Europol)

The Conspiracy of Fire Cells (Synomosia Pyrinontis Fotias, a.k.a. Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, a.k.a. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire) is a prominent anarchist and anti-authoritarian organization active in Greece. The group emerged in 2008 with a wave of 11 fire-bombings against luxury car dealerships and banks in Athens and Thessaloniki. In November 2010, Conspiracy of Fire Cells carried out a parcel bomb campaign targeting international leaders outside of Greece. On October 13, 2011, the U.S. Department of State designated Conspiracy of Fire Cells as a terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224. In March 2017, the group claimed responsibility for ten parcel bombs sent to EU leaders, institutions, and multinational companies, including the German Finance Ministry and the International Monetary Fund headquarter in Paris. One bomb exploded and slightly injured one person, while the other nine devices were intercepted prior to reaching their intended destinations. (Sources: Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, Foreign Policy, U.S. Department of State, Financial Times, BBC News, Reuters, U.S. Department of State)

As of 2019, anti-establishment outfits have frequently attempted to carry out arson attacks against government buildings, diplomatic missions, and businesses. The two most recent attacks by revolutionaries—in May and November of 2019—have targeted the offices of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party. The relatively unknown Durruti Brigades was responsible for the first attack, and it is possible that other far-left groups may adopt similar attack methods although anarchist groups do not readily claim responsibility for attacks. (Sources: Associated Press, The National Herald, AMW English)

Islamist Extremism

Not much is known about the presence of Islamic extremism within Greece. In September 2014, Greek authorities estimated that there were some 80-100 people in the country with suspected links to jihadist groups In early 2015, a source close to Greek intelligence said that there may be some 200 such people in the country. (Sources: Greek Reporter, CNN)

Neither is it widely known if and how jihadist cells—formed in Greece to facilitate foreign fighter travel—recruit within the country. Many of these individuals may not be Greek-born, but instead part of a recent wave of immigrants to Greece, both legal and illegal. In March 2015, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos hinted that jihadists comprised some of Greece’s recent immigrants, saying, “If Europe leaves us in the crisis, we will flood it with migrants, and it will be even worse for Berlin if in that wave of millions of economic migrants there will be some jihadists of the Islamic State [ISIS] too.” (Sources: CNN, Telegraph)

Nonetheless, ISIS sympathizers have set up logistical, recruitment, and financial cells in Greece in order to facilitate travel flows. Members of the terror group have also occasionally provided housing to the transiting foreign fighters and returnees and helped them to evade security services. Similarly, some used Greece as a stopping point to transport weapons into Syria. Moreover, ISIS operatives have used Greece to coordinate attack plots in Europe. For instance, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, mastermind of the November 2015 Paris attacks, allegedly communicated by cell phone from an apartment in Athens with several members of an ISIS cell in Belgium to plot a major gun and bomb attack. (Source: CTC Sentinel)

Compared to other EU countries, Greece has shown a significantly lower threat level of homegrown Islamist radicalization. While Greece’s secular-leaning Muslim minorities have largely resisted radicalization efforts, there has been concern about radicalization among immigrant communities. In particular, the presence of unregistered mosques in large immigrant communities have created a potential information black hole for authorities. Since 2015, about 80 makeshift mosques appeared in the greater Athens area, none of them registered, including some with purported ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. (Source: CTC Sentinel, Gatestone Institute)

There is also concern that ISIS has tried to set up sleeper cells in Greece that stay off-radar and eventually attack Western interests on Greek soil, taking advantage of the limited counter-terrorism resources the country has available. (Source: CTC Sentinel)

Foreign Fighters

While the number of foreign fighters from Greece is not well documented, Greece has become and, as of 2019, remains an attractive transit point for jihadists traveling to and from Syria. In September 2019, CBS News revealed there are clandestine human smuggling syndicates all over Athens. These operations move not only migrants and refugees, but also family members of well-known jihadists—such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—through Greece into other parts of Europe. A significant number of European foreign fighter returnees used Greece as their point of re-entry to Europe. For instance, several members of the cell responsible for the 2015 Paris and 2016 Brussels attacks transited through the Greek island of Leros, posing as Syrian refugees. According to Greek then-Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos speaking in September 2014, “We do not have a problem with jihadists in Greece, but there is a problem in our wider area.” This is due in part to the country’s proximity to Turkey, as well as its long land and maritime borders. In early 2015, one anonymous counterterrorism official estimated that around 2,000 people have used Greece as a stopping point to join jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria. EU inspections of Greek sea and land border sites revealed “serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control by Greece, in particular due to the lack of appropriate identification and registration of irregular migrants at the islands, of sufficient staff, and of sufficient equipment for verifying identity documents.” (Sources: CBS News, Hürriyet Daily News, CNN, Greek Reporter, Telegraph, Greek Reporter PBS Frontline, CTC Sentinel)

According to Europol’s 2018 Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, a total number of 205 foiled, failed, and completed terrorist attacks were reported by EU Member States in 2017. Greece experienced eight terrorist attacks—all left-wing—that year. An additional two left-wing terrorist attacks were perpetrated by Greek nationals in other European countries. (Source: Europol)

Since the end of Greece’s military dictatorship in 1974, Greece has been subject to a host of domestic terrorist groups and an ongoing series of extremist left-wing and right-wing attacks. According to Europol’s statistics from 2017, left-wing and anarchist terrorist activity occurred almost exclusively in Greece compared to all EU Member States. Notable attacks on Greek soil include those from extreme leftist groups November 17 (17N), Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA), Revolutionary Struggle (EA), and Sect of Revolutionaries (SE). Other attacks were borne from anarchist group Conspiracy of Fire Cells. More recent violent terrorist groups that have popped up since 2013 include Wild Freedom – Instigator of Social Explosion, the Group of Popular Rebels, and Green Nemesis, an environmental terrorist group.

Left-wing and anarchist terrorist groups predominantly used improvised explosive or incendiary devices (IEDs or IIDs) and principally targeted government and police personnel, infrastructure, property, banks, migration-related private businesses, and right-wing extremists. According to Europol’s assessment in 2018, Greek anarchist terrorist groups had enhanced operational capabilities and access to military-grade weapons. Six out of eight terrorist attacks in 2017 were carried out with IEDs, the remaining two included firearms. Only a few people were injured in those attacks. (Source: Europol)

Greece is also host to established neo-Nazi political party Golden Dawn, a movement that gained a significant amount of traction in the early 2010s. In that time, Golden Dawn members have been recorded as having carried out the majority of recorded racist attacks in the early 2010s. Since the 2013 murder of a Greek rapper by a Golden Dawn member, almost 70 Golden Dawn members have been charged with belonging to a criminal organization, though the group continues to retain popular support. (Source: BBC News)


The Greek Criminal Code codifies the terrorism statute under Article 187A. The Greek constitution subjects its citizens to international and European Union laws concerning terrorism laws in Articles 28(1), 28(2), and 28(3). In 2017, the Greek government amended paragraph 6 of Article 187A of the Greek Criminal Code in conformity with an EU directive on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime. (Sources: U.S. Department of State, Committee of Experts on Terrorism, U.S. Department of State, Europol)

In September 2014, Greece passed a bill into law that reportedly toughened anti-racism laws and criminalized the denial of the Holocaust. The law lengthens the prison term for perpetrators of hate crimes from two to three years, and imposes heavy fines for inciting racism and participating in racism-motivated crimes. (Source: Reuters)

The law came amidst a surge in hate crimes, including the rise in popularity of the far-right political organization Golden Dawn, which stands accused of operating as a criminal organization after members and several party leaders violently attacked immigrants and the group’s political opponents. Greek Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou told parliament, “Reinforcing our legislative arsenal is demanded more than ever today, when the enemies of democracy and those who deny the human substance preach hatred.” (Source: Reuters)

In April 2015, Greece passed prison reform legislation, which allows disabled prisoners who served most of their sentences to fulfil the rest of their terms under house arrest. The United States criticized the legislation as it would enable members of the far-left November 17 group, who were responsible for the death of Americans among other crimes, to be released early from prison. (Source: Guardian)

In December 2015, the Hellenic parliament enacted emergency legislation that established screening centers for incoming refugees on the outlying Greek islands. The legislation came in the wake of ISIS’s November 2015 Paris attacks. Several attacks suspects are believed to have entered Europe by way of Greece, posing as Syrian refugees. In August 2016, the European Union expanded its presence in Greece, deploying around 200 counterterrorism officers to Greek islands in an effort to more effectively screen refugees. (Sources: Al Jazeera, Associated Press, Telegraph, Telegraph)

Prosecution of Terrorist Acts

According to Europol’s 2018 Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, left-wing offences continued to bear the highest average prison sentences (10 years) in Europe in 2017, followed by jihadist terrorist offences (five years), and separatist and right-wing terrorist offences (both four years). A comparison across EU Member States shows that Greece handed out exceptionally high prison sentences for terrorism-related charges. With an average sentence of 17 years, Greece greatly exceeds all European countries that penalize terrorists with six or less years of imprisonment on average. (Source: Europol)

In 2017, Greek authorities arrested three suspected jihadists and 12 suspected left-wing terrorists, compared to 15 suspected jihadists and only one left-wing terrorist in 2016. According to Eurojust, Greece concluded 19 court proceedings—15 convictions and four acquittals—for terrorist offences in 2017, a significant increase to the previous year where Greece convicted only three individuals. (Source: Europol, Europol)

Trial of Golden Dawn Leadership

The murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013 by a Golden Dawn member triggered widespread outrage across Greece and led to a government-led crackdown on the ultranationalist political party. In February 2015, a judicial panel charged 69 defendants—including 18 Golden Dawn MPs of the 2012 parliamentary period—with belonging to a criminal organization, as well as possession of illegal weaponry, extortion, bodily harm and murder. Although the Greek constitution does not permit the possibility of proscription, Golden Dawn is the first political party to be put on trial. Trial began on April 20, 2015 and was still ongoing as of January 2019. The verdict was initially expected for fall 2016, but as of January 2020, the trial is still on-going and the verdict is anticipated for later this year. Among the primary reasons for the trial’s delay are breadth of evidence, procedural delays, and public sector strikes. The gathered evidence is overwhelming with at least 110 witnesses, 25,000 pages of materials, and 800 pictures. If convicted, most defendants would face up to 20 years’ imprisonment for membership in a criminal organization. A much higher prison sentence is expected for those also accused of murder or conspiracy to murder. In the meantime, all detained Golden Dawn members have been released because Greek law allows for a maximum pre-trial detention period of 18 months. (Sources: Wall Street Journal, Wall Street Journal, Deutsche Welle, Aljazeera, Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, Forensic Architecture, Times of Israel)

Security Agencies

Greece’s National Intelligence Service (Ethniki Ypiresia Pliroforion, or NIS-EYP) is responsible for collecting, processing, and analyzing intelligence within Greece, as well as performing counterintelligence activities on enemy foreign actors. The NIS-EYP reports to the Greek Parliament, and issues an annual report of its activities. (Source: John M. Nomikos: National Security and the Future)

At its inception, the EYP was largely responsible for monitoring communists and antimonarchists. Today, the EYP oversees numerous departments and activities, including but not limited to: a research center that cooperates with universities, scientific organizations, and research institutes; a strategy planning council for crisis management; and a sub-directorate for international counterterrorism and organized crime. (Source: John M. Nomikos: National Security and the Future)

The Greek police operates the Special Suppressive Counter-terrorism Unit (EKAM). Formed in 1978, the EKAM responds to terrorist activities, hostage taking, and the arrest of dangerous criminals, among other tenets. The unit operates within Greece and abroad, and reports to the chief of the Greek police. In 2016, Greece arrested more than a dozen Islamist suspects in Athens and Alexandroupolis. In January 2017, Greece arrested Panagiota (Paula) Roupa, leader of Greek anarchist group Revolutionary Struggle and the country’s “no. 1 most wanted” terrorist operative. She had been on the run since 2012, returning to terrorism after having served 18 months in pretrial detention. In 2013, Roupa was convicted in absentia to 50 years in prison. In July 2018, she was given a life term plus 25 years in prison. Her partner is Nikos Maziotis, who is also a jailed leader of the Revolutionary Struggle. Maziotis was given a life sentence for the same crime in 2016, and his conviction is currently on appeal. (Sources: Special Ops, Greek Reporter, Greek Reporter, New York Times, U.S. Department of State, Greek Reporter)

Greece’s Police Directorate for Countering Special Violent Crimes (DAEEV) is charged with handling domestic counterterrorism. As noted by the U.S. State Department, this unit has for years lacked the institutional capacity to share collected data with other domestic apparatuses, as well as with the country’s coast guard. Research Institute for European and American Studies director John Nomikos told CNN that Greece needs substantial help in reforming its domestic security. “The country urgently needs a Department of Homeland Security in order to coordinate the intelligence-sharing among the Greek intelligence service (NIS-EYP), anti-terrorism squad intelligence unit,” he said. (Source: CNN, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State)

In 2015, concern mounted over the vulnerability in Greece’s national identity card, which the U.S. State Department has repeatedly called “extremely vulnerable to alteration and photo substitution.” Greek police has made efforts to mitigate this risk by checking the authenticity of national ID databases. The country has also committed to address the risk more comprehensively through the eventual introduction of a biometric national ID system. In April 2018, Greece announced that its new identity cards are in line with stricter EU standards, including biometric data on a microchip. (Source: U.S. Department of State, U.S. State Department, National Herald, Greek Reporter)

There has also been mounting concern over the country’s ability to control its borders, especially in light of findings that ISIS attackers in the November 2015 Paris attacks and March 2016 Brussels attacks managed to pass through Greek borders in order to carry out its attacks. Despite many efforts taken in 2015 to address the ongoing threat, Greece’s border vulnerability continued to remain a concern. In August 2016, the European Union deployed around 200 counterterrorism officers to Greek islands in an effort to more effectively screen the inward migration of refugees and identify suspected terrorist and criminals. The United States has also dispatched personnel to Greece to help train authorities in border security. (Sources: OSAC, U.S. Department of State, Telegraph, Telegraph, U.S. Department of State, Europol)

Combatting Terrorist Financing

Greece has been a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 1991. The FATF is an intergovernmental organization that works to combat the financing of terrorism. The organization has recommended the adoption of various measures including the criminalization of terrorist financing, the freezing of terrorist assets, and policies designed to ensure that terrorists cannot exploit non-governmental organizations. (Sources: Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Financial Action Task Force, Financial Action Task Force)

To further combat terrorist financing, Greece operates an Anti-Money Laundering, Counter-Terrorist Financing and Source of Funds Investigation Authority pursuant to Law 3932/2011. The Authority comprises three units including the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Financial Sanctions Unit (FSU), and the Source of Funds Investigation Unit (SFIU). The units work together to collect, investigate, and analyze suspicious transaction reports (STRs) forwarded from both legal entities and civilians. Greece is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. (Sources: Hellenic FIU, Hellenic FIU, U.S. Department of State)

Racist Violence Recording Network

In 2011, the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) was established at the initiative of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) and the Office of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees in Greece (UNHCR), along with the participation of non-governmental organizations and bodies. The program systematically monitors and records racially motivated acts of violence, and analyzes trends of racist violence in Greece. The RVRN shares its findings with Greek authorities, alerts them to developments in hate crime, and provides recommendations to the Greek government for tackling racist violence. Moreover, the RVRN organizes training programs for civil society and institutional bodies on how to identify, record, and combat hate crime. (Sources: RVRN, RVRN, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights)

In 2017, a total of 102 incidents were reported with more than 120 victims. Of those, 43 incidents were directed against LGBTQI people, 34 incidents targeted migrants or refugees, 11 incidents were of anti-Semitic nature, 7 targeted human rights defenders, two incidents were directed towards Greek citizens targeted for their religious beliefs, and in one incident the victim was a member of the Roma community. The RVRN also observed a coexistence of opposing trends in Greek society—a strengthened presence of xenophobic ideologies, as well as clearer and faster responses by Greek authorities. (Sources: RVRN, RVRN, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights)

According to the U.S. Department of State, Greece cooperates in regional information sharing with the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center for Combating Trans-Border Crime, and the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation. Greece has engaged in NATO operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan and the U.N. operation in Libya. (Source: U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, Geneva Academy)

In reference to jihadist activity within Greece, senior Greek intelligence official told the Los Angeles Times in September 2014, “We are… at a heightened state of vigilance now, exchanging intelligence from the United States, Britain, France and others.” The country has since participated in international fora and conferences centered on regional information exchange and criminal justice training to prevent and respond to terrorism threats. (Sources: Los Angeles Times, U.S. Department of State)


Greece announced its political and military support of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in September 2014. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs pledged the provision of humanitarian aid and the transfer of ammunition to Kurdish forces fighting the terror group. (Sources: Hellenic Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Greek Reporter)

Greece has also received support from the European Union to stem the threat from ISIS. In late 2016, a specialized task force of around 200 EU counterterrorism officers were deployed to Greek islands. The officers were tasked with working to spot and prevent ISIS fighters from using fake passports to enter Europe alongside refugee populations. Since deploying to Greece, the EU task force has reportedly identified fake passports intended for use by ISIS operatives. (Sources: Telegraph, Telegraph

Diplomatic and Financial Endeavors

According to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Greece has “signed all international legal instruments on terrorism.” (Source: Hellenic Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

During Greece’s Presidency of the EU Council in 2014, the country played an important role in “deterring radicalization and the recruitment of terrorists, combating the financing of terrorism, linking security and development, and flows of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq,” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Within the European Union, Greece has highlighted the issue of illegal smuggling of ancient artifacts by extremist groups in Iraq and Syria. Greece has not yet taken any measurable steps towards confronting this issue. (Source: Hellenic Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Greek citizens have publically rallied against the strong right-wing extremist presence in the country. In September 2013, thousands took to the streets in protest of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. The protests began after Golden Dawn party supporters attacked Communist Party members in what London’s Guardian described as “the most serious violence since the extremist group was elected to the country's parliament [the previous year].” In the following week, thousands of protesters across Greece again took to the streets in response to the murder of anti-racist and anti-fascist musician Pavlos Fyssas by a Golden Dawn Party member. (Sources: Guardian, BBC News, Reuters, Euronews)

In the 2015 election, Golden Dawn garnered 6.3 percent of the vote, winning 17 seats in the 300-seat parliament.

Nevertheless, Golden Dawn maintains considerable popular support. In 2013, a poll conducted by Public Issue, a Greek telephone polling company, found that 13 percent of the population supported the Golden Dawn party. In the January 2015 election, Golden Dawn garnered 6.3 percent of the vote, winning 17 seats in the country’s 300-seat parliament. While its support has decreased since 2013, the party remains the third most popular in the country. (Sources: Public Issue, Bloomberg)

Pew Research Center attributes Golden Dawn’s popularity in part to Greece’s financial crisis, which the party blames on immigrants and ethnic minorities. According to the Guardian, 2013 opinion polls by Public Issue and Pulse Opinion Research indicate that “no other party has managed to capitalise on the growing levels of desperation and despair” as Golden Dawn has. The refugee crisis may also play a factor in the growth of far-right, anti-immigrant extremism. A 2016 Pew poll found that roughly two-thirds of Greek respondents considered the refugee crisis a “major threat” in the country. (Sources: Pew Research Center, Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, Pew Research Center)

However, a poll conducted by Pew Research in June 2017 found that none of the major Greek parties enjoy widespread public appeal, with ratings between 8 and 23 percent. Golden Dawn is viewed favorably by only 8 percent of Greeks. (Source: Pew Research)

A large majority of the Greek population is concerned about Islamic extremism. A June 2013 Pew poll found that 52 percent of Greeks consider Islamic extremism a significant threat to their national security. Iran’s nuclear program elicits similar concern, with 64 percent of the population deeming the program a “major threat.” A Pew poll from 2016 found that 29 percent of Greek respondents considered military force the best way to combat terrorism, while 64 percent are concerned that military action exacerbates the terrorist threat. Greeks continued to be concerned with terrorism in 2017, with 79 percent listing ISIS as a “major threat” to the country, according to a Pew poll. (Sources: Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center)

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