NEWS

EU blast draws pledge for stricter law on terrorism

In reply to criticism over delays in implementing counter-terrorism measures agreed by all European Union members, the government promised yesterday to present a tougher anti-terrorism law before the Olympic Games, which will take place between August 13-29. Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras told his European colleagues at the Council of Justice and Interior Ministers in Luxembourg that Greece would soon make up for the delays. «I had the opportunity to remark that Greece will fulfill all its legal and essential obligation deriving from EU-level decisions relative to combating terrorism… I also countered the criticism, which appeared yesterday, concerning our country’s delay in incorporating the European framework decisions into our domestic law,» Papaligouras told reporters after the Council. «It was natural for the New Democracy government, which took over just three months ago, to wish to study the issue carefully. As justice minister, I had to find a balance between fighting terrorism and the absolute, undeviating respect of individual rights and the rule of law,» he added. The EU’s anti-terrorism coordinator, Gijs de Vries, had criticized laggards, notably Germany, Italy and Greece, on Monday for failing to adopt a series of measures, such as a pan-European arrest warrant, the freezing of accounts of suspected terrorists and organized criminals, the creation of joint investigating teams and the introduction of so-called biometric identifiers (fingerprints, iris scans) on passports. The criticism was repeated in a report presented at yesterday’s Council. Besides Papaligouras, other Greek officials offered assurances that Greece will do its utmost to provide a secure Olympics. In Thessaloniki, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, and police chief Fotis Nassiakos told police officers assigned to secure the city’s port that, although Greece did not appear to be targeted by terrorist organizations, there was no way it could let its guard down. «We are obliged to work on the basis of the greatest possible threat,» Voulgarakis said. And, alluding to criticism from abroad over Greece’s readiness, he added: «Let (the critics) show us one measure we have not taken, one strategy we have not followed. We are at ease with our conscience.» «If Greece cannot organize safe Olympic Games, then no other country can,» said Nassiakos. Greece will be using 70,000 security forces over the Olympics. Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, on a visit to the United States, said yesterday she had got reassurances from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and President George W. Bush’s adviser on terrorism, Francis Townsend, that the US understood that Greece is doing its best on security. Greece’s previous anti-terrorism law, introduced in 2001, had been widely opposed, especially by léft-wing parties, and its passage was secured only with a mass abstention by MPs of the then-ruling Socialists and votes of then-opposition New Democracy. Among other things, the law enabled the trial of the arrested November 17 members by a court without jurors.