NEWS

Minister busy strengthening bilateral ties

Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and the chiefs of his security staff have a long and busy travel schedule ahead of them to organize all the details of the Olympic Games’ security. Their travels have already begun – starting with an official visit to Albania earlier this month – and are expected to continue at an increasing frequency through to mid-May. The outcome of the visit to Albania, where Voulgarakis, accompanied by Police Chief Fotis Nasiakos and National Security Agency Director Pavlos Apostolidis, received pledges of assistance from his Albanian counterpart, Igli Toska, was very positive, according to ministry sources. Toska was in Athens yesterday, in a reciprocal visit. He was accompanied by a team of Albanian police officers for the purpose of discussing Olympic security. On the matter of Games security, the two parties agreed to strengthen bilateral ties on the level of exchanges of intelligence. More specifically, the Albanian authorities committed to share intelligence concerning suspect people living in their country, as well as information on people traveling from Albania to Greece in the runup to and during the Olympic Games, scheduled to run from August 13-29. The exchange of intelligence is important for Greek authorities especially concerning any information on the presence of Islamic fundamentalist elements in Albania. As one officer of the Greek police noted, the Albanian authorities responded very positively to the Greek authorities’ request and it is believed that they have a very effective intelligence-gathering mechanism. Furthermore, in Tirana it was also agreed to create four joint committees staffed by security personnel from both countries, who will work together during security preparations and formulate joint action against drug trafficking, illegal immigration, human trafficking and other forms of organized crime. At the end of the month, Voulgarakis is also scheduled for a visit to London, where he will meet with his British counterpart David Blunkett. Olympic security will top the agenda during their talks. Next, in early May, the minister will be flying to the USA, where he will discuss both security during the Games and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s visit to the country some two weeks later. His return from the States will be followed by a series of official visits to the rest of the countries participating in the Olympic Games Advisory Group and other European countries. Flash visits to Balkans In the meantime, Voulgarakis will also be making flash visits to Greece’s Balkans neighbors and, some say, Voulgarakis will also pay an official visit to Ankara, «in an effort to establish bilateral cooperation with all neighboring countries, which will make it easier to control the borders [of Greece],» said one official at the Ministry of Public Order.