Greece and the United States are deepening their cooperation in the fight against global terrorism with exchanges of data, know-how and equipment, following a visit to the US last week by Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis.
“Greek-US relations are at the very best level they’ve been in several years, and this was confirmed during the visit,” a ministry source told Kathimerini on Monday, referring to Chrysochoidis’ trip and his meetings with officials from the US Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the State Department.
Key to the effort will be increasing the training of Greece’s counterterrorism services by US experts as well as speeding up the identification of potential suspects at airports and during the processing of incoming migrants and refugees.
“Greece welcomes 35 million tourists a year, is in one of the ‘hottest’ spots on the planet and is under tremendous pressure from migrant-refugee inflows. This requires much faster processes of identification and cross-referencing for potential terrorism suspects,” the ministry source said.
Thanks to previous efforts to strengthen security cooperation between the two allies, Greece’s counterterrorism unit already has access to a database of 200,000 persons of interest in the fight against global terrorism, while its airports are equipped with devices allowing authorities to cross-reference travelers’ information with American terrorism databases.
The ministry source added that the Hellenic Police (ELAS) will be supplying “front-line officers” like members of the DIAS rapid response squad with special devices that allow them to run quick identity checks on potential suspects.
For their part, US officials are said to have stressed the need for Greece to speed up a program for replacing the old citizens’ identity cards with more modern versions if it wants to continue being a part of the American visa waiver program.
The 500-million-euro ID program is expected to be put to tender in the next few days, so that new cards can start being issued in about a year’s time.