Capital Athens
Time Zone EET (GMT+2)
Country Code 30
Mobile Codes 690,693,694,695,697,698,699
ccTLD .gr
Currency Euro
Land Area 131,990 sq km
Population 11.3 million
Language Greek
Major Religion Orthodox Christianity

Between Eidomeni and the Brenner Pass: Italian Activists and Anarchists in spring 2016 editor’s note: exactly one year ago, the Greek-Macedonian border was increasingly becoming a security risk due to the presence of thousands of migrants who refused to leave the impromptu Eidomeni camp, following the closure of the Balkan Route. Violent actions in March and April 2016 were interwoven with other security and political events. The present analysis examines the largely unknown role of the specifically Italian anarchist and activist contingent who played a key role in supporting the migrant cause.

By Elisa Sguaitamatti

In the aftermath of the 2015 migrant crisis, an invisible bridge linking seemingly distant places was formed: it connected such place as the former Eidomeni migrant camp on the Greek-Macedonia border, and the Brenner Pass on the Italian-Austrian border. This human chain consisting of some Italian activist groups involved in solidarity campaigns like #overthefortress. Further, anarchists’ actions were documented by websites such as GlobalProject and MeltingPot where ideas and facts were and are spread, with on-the-spot experiences also being shared.

Some Information about the Website website reports that it is an Italian multi-media platform created by the collective effort of activists of the multifaceted GlobalProject, which includes individuals coming from different walks of life as well as those living in social centers, especially in the Northeast of Italy.

“The idea of creating this virtual space was born out of the desire to react to the events that the world was going through like the era of expansion of neoliberalist globalisation and the arrival of world capitalist crisis,” it noted. In this context, GlobalProject chose to spread ideas on the internet, “using spaces, resources and know how, becoming independent from all those things that are controlled, manipulated and dominated. GlobalProject 2.0 is working to refuse this unjust world and believes that social struggles are legitimate and right.”

On the website, there is a dedicated section for no-border activists’ communications and events. Further, a significant part of the website is specifically tailored for marches and initiatives, such as the solidarity campaign #overthefortress to Eidomeni refugee camp that took place from 25 to 29 March 2016.

Information about the Website is another website which chose to dedicate its cause to the MeltingPot Project for Europe and the organization of the #overthefortress campaign.

This campaign, according to the website, is “a collective action of monitoring and inquiry in and outside the Fortress Europe.” It started off as a series of “handovers of relay” trips and visits in August 2015, all along the most vulnerable spots of the Balkan route and sensitive paths used by migrants wishing to get to the north of Europe.

#Overthefortress Activists in the Balkans and Greek Islands in 2015

For example, #overthefortress activists were in the Balkans just a few weeks before the construction of the wall between Hungary and Serbia, then Vienna, Eidomeni and the Greek islands.

The MeltingPot website quotes some of the comments made by activists involved in their visits: “we have known and told our story directly describing reality. We held hands [with] hundreds of women, children and elderly on the move. We listened to them and their reasons for leaving, we understood their needs and desires and actively supported them in Eidomeni until the day the camp was dismantled.”

Moreover, last year this solidarity campaign was also present at the Brenner Pass, Calais and Thessaloniki before leaving for a journey of inquiry in the south of Italy to visit reception facilities, to assess the conditions of overcrowded places where migrants were living.

Who Are the Anarchists?

Most Italian anarchists are non-violent people seeking to pursue their cause as well as their full personal realization and sense of belonging to a group. In recent times, more and more adherents have been younger ones who could be mistaken for college students seeking a cause, like members of any other movement. The same phenomenon has long been noted in Greece as well.

Of course, there is also a minority represented by the mobilizers, some of whom have used more violent behaviour. Often this is used to conjure the image factor that makes it ‘important’ to be considered an anarchist. In the migration context, they normally all go under the same umbrella name of “no-borders” and their actions are in line and cooperation with the initiatives of other foreign anarchists’ movements working for a “a global struggle against every border and barrier.”

The #Overthefortress Solidarity Campaign March (25-29 March 2016): From Ancona to Eidomeni

The MeltingPot Project for Europe sponsored a solidarity march from Ancona to Eidomeni from 25 to 29 March 2016 in which nearly 300 people participated, including activists, students and volunteers.

The #overthefortress campaign was born from the effort and determination of many realities. The aim was twofold: bring and deliver necessary goods and aid from Italy to Eidomeni and the surrounding camps; and, on the other hand, to express a firm opposition to the idea of a Fortress Europe which was resorting to nationalism and starting to build walls and barbed-wire barriers.

Only 10 days after the closure of the Greek-Macedonian border (which obliged migrants to stay at Eidomeni in precarious conditions) on 18 March a deal between Turkey and the EU was signed which was considered bad by activists. The reason for this was that, in their opinion, it would create discriminations and chaotic situations to the detriment of asylum-seekers, who would be pushed back to Turkey where they would live in “inhumane conditions.”

Participants in the #Overthefortress March

The website MeltingPot quoted all the associations that adhered to the march: activists from social centers of the north of Italy. These included Agire nella Crisi, Carovana Migranti (Torino), Art Lab Occupato (Parma), Adl Zavidovici (Brescia), LGBTI Antéros (Padova), as well as social centers from the Le Marche region such as Ambasciata dei Diritti Marche (Ancona, Jesi, Macerata) and Ya Basta! Marche and finally, Amici del Baobab (Roma).

Secondly, there were some students’ associations from all over Italy participating. These included: Lisc (Venezia); Refresh (Trento); Polisportiva Clandestina (Trento); Anti-racist Forum (Palermo); Laboratory ParaTodas (Verona); Lab Insurgencia (Napoli); Spam (Padova); Polisportiva S. Precario (Padova); Chiesa Pastafariana; the Italian schools Liberalaparola (Marghera) and Liberalaparola (Padova); Anti-racist group Assata Shakur (Ancona); AlternataSilos (Guidonia), and the welcome project Friendly House (Rieti).

Moreover, some Italian Committees and social cooperatives also gave their contribution. These Committees included: Comitato No Mous/No Sigonella; Catanese anti-racist network; ASD RFC Lions Ska Caserta Antirazzista; Center for Peace Studies or Centar za Mirovne Studije and Welcome!-Dobrodošli! from Zagreb, Croatia. Further, participants in cooperatives came from some cities in Northern Italy. These included: Azienda Easy Promo (Cittadella PD); Cooperativa Caracol (Marghera); Cooperativa Città Invisibile (Padova-Vicenza); Cooperativa El Tamiso (Padova); Ufficio Stampa Propapromoz (Milano) and Sherwood Festival (Padova).

Finally, it is noteworthy to point out that there were also two important delegations from Munich and Prague belonging to the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) and activists of Interventionistische-Linke from Nurnberg.

The Road to Eidomeni: Departures by Ship

Approximately 300 activists left from Ancona port on 25 March 2016, together with two smaller delegations from the south of Italy leaving from Bari and Trieste, heading to Greek ports and the Eidomeni camp on the Greek-Macedonian border.

The campaign determined a social activation all over Italy, creating “a common political space of action to break the barriers that separated bodies from necessities and desires,” read one announcement. Thanks to crowdfunding, hundreds of people contributed to the collection of items of clothing, food and medicine to be delivered to the encampment. Eidomeni was “a symbol of the struggle for freedom of movement on the borders of Europe,” the Italian activists said.

The activists described this as “a call for international solidarity and outrage under the slogan #overthefortress.” This rhetoric defined the migrant-crisis experience for them, and the Eidomeni camp represented the perfect example of the convergence of migrant, activist and anarchist cooperation, which had predicted four months beforehand.

Who Were the Volunteers and Activists?

There was an exceptional presence of young Italians going to Eidomeni. One of them, a leader of the solidarity march was Tommaso Gandini, a 21-year-old student, originally from Bologna, but living in Bolzano where he was attending university. Despite his young age, Tommaso was already an experienced activist. Together with some social centres from the northeast of Italy, Le Marche region and other “single units” of Agire nella Crisi network, Gandini had already taken part in initiatives of #overthefortress, and on the platform MeltingPot he documented his experiences live from Eidomeni camp.

Other prominent activists included Chris and Filix who belonged to Interventionistiche Linke (Germany), and Giulia and the group from Rome who were attending a course for legal operators in international protection to look into the situation after the implementation of EU-Turkey deal. Veronica from the association Amici del Baobab in Rome was another prominent Eidomeni activist, as was Sabrina Yousfi of the non-profit association Silos, who believed the march was the first of many actions that would connect all those willing to help migrants in Europe.

Day 1: A Meeting between Italian and Greek Activists and Volunteers

Having arrived at Igoumenitsa harbor, the Italian groups met with Greek activists and some representatives of the Federation of Young European Greens who followed the Italian buses on the road to Eidomeni. They travelled across Epiros and to the camp, north of Thessaloniki on the main border corridor that runs from the Aegean port to Central Europe. This event was less than two weeks after 3 migrants had drowned in a river at the border crossing, being encouraged to travel illegally by activists at Eidomeni.

Not far from the tents of Eidomeni, they came across Greek police forces blocking the road to the camp, deployed in anti-riot gear. After some hours and meticulous controls of all the buses, #overthefortress volunteers and activists reached the makeshift camp and delivered aid, food and clothes.

In the meantime, young Greek activists explained and updated the newly arrived Italians on the situation there: Eidomeni was just the tip of the iceberg, a place where Greek authorities divided refugees by their nationality (stranded refugees usually were Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Kurds). However, they warned Italians of the facts that on the territory there were many other informal camps that needed help and were visited by small delegations of Italians. The first day went by smoothly and there were no tensions in and around the camp.

Day 2: Life Inside the Camp

The #overthefortress group was living together with NGOs operators in the headquarter of Polykastro camp, a village 20 km away from Eidomeni. On the second day, the Italians managed to spend a lot of time inside the camp itself. They managed to accomplish some ‘technical missions’ as they defined them on their virtual platforms.

One of these ‘technical missions’ was to create an information point to explain the rights of refugees in Europe, as well as some infrastructure to establish an internet connection and install a power generator. This was because, as Tommaso Gandini explained in an interview for an Italian newspaper, “the only way migrants have to apply for an asylum request is to book an appointment for an interview with Thessaloniki government officials by a Skype call but the number is always busy. There I saw a lot of uncertainty and little hope.” Other groups were dedicating their time and effort to talk to people, play with children and document with photos and video the conditions of the camp.

Day 3: A March to Thessaloniki

On 28 March, the #overthefortress group carried out its march, reaching Thessaloniki. There, together with other local activists of the student’s network called Antarsya and the hospitality of people of an anarchist-occupied orphanage, they organised a protest in front of the Prefectural building. It was a peaceful popular mobilization to express disappointment regarding the recent European policies in matters of immigration: the closure of the Balkan route, the introduction of the immigration quote system and the approval of EU-Turkey agreement.

Activists and volunteers waved banners reading “EU-Turkey: no deal with whom tramples human rights,” “Solidarity with the Kurds,” “No border, no nation, stop deportation. If you don’t want to listen, we will make you listen,” Another sign read “Next stop Sunday 3 April Brenner Pass Against the Borders.” It was clear that the activists had an organized plan for rapid activities in two countries by that point.

Demonstration at the Brenner Pass by Italian Activists and Anarchists (3 April 2016)

The Brenner Pass is one of Italy’s most important transit routes– for trade, tourism and, during the crisis, for thousands of migrants on their journey towards Northern Europe. At the end of March 2016, the GlobalProject website reported that some Italian activists from the Agire nella Crisi network (a local group from Trentino region) staged a flash mob and a press conference in front of the Tyrolean Parliament presenting an action plan of their march on 3 April.

The Brenner demonstration came after an Austrian plan to restrict access, “channelling people” through the Brenner Pass, through a new fence at this Alpine crossing between Italy and Austria.

The Agire nella Crisi network criticised the militarization of borders and claimed the creation of safe human corridors in Europe to welcome migrants was necessary. Although it started off as a peaceful mobilization, the event turned violent. Local police in Tyrol, Austria said over 600 protesters showed up to the third violent demonstration at the Brenner Pass in just over a month.

Other Actors Involved

On that day, hundreds of pro-refugee activists were gathering for a rally at Brenner train station to protest “against the borders of Fortress Europe.” There were anti-racist and anti-fascist movements from Trentino region, representatives of some social centers of Milan and Naples as well as centers of the Italian region Le Marche.

More generally, no-border adherents from Trento, Vicenza, Venezia, Ancona and some from Sicily were also represented.

Further, there were some volunteers who had participated in the campaign #overthefortress that had witnessed the situation of Eidomeni camp a few weeks earlier, and some people from civil society groups.

Among the international groups of activists there were the Federation of Young European Greens and delegations of Interventionistische-Linke, who were all present at Eidomeni.

Remarkably, there was also a representative of the Kurdish community in Bolzano who, in a video interview, declared that “we, the Kurds, are here today at the Brenner to express our dissatisfaction with Europe that, instead of providing migrants with assistance, decided to give its funds to that dangerous Sultan that is Erdoğan. Welcoming and opening frontiers in Europe represents a fight against the fundamentalism of Daesh.”

Although there is no clear number of people who took part in the march (approximately between 8000 and 1000), it is evident that they were united in their cause. Groups of protesters welcomed the call made by the local Trentino movement Agire nella Crisi network, to firmly oppose the closure of the Italian-Austrian border. Agire contro i confini dell’Europa fortezza (Acting against the borders of Fortress Europe) was the second phase of a political campaign that started from the masses claiming a Europe without barriers, operating in solidarity and friendliness.

Phases of the March “Against the Borders of Fortress Europe”

The parade started moving from Brenner station while people at the front were carrying a big banner that said: “With our bodies we eliminate barriers. Open the borders.”

Revealing the impact of their recent Greek experience, the volunteers of #overthefortress were holding blue tents which were symbolic of Eidomeni camp. They were also claiming the necessity to open the borders against Europe that made deals with Turkey under Erdoğan, a “killer regime than represses Kurds and often attacks dinghies.”

Activists marched across the Brenner Pass into Austria: they stationed at the Austrian frontier and wrote “Welcome” on the wall, crossing out the sign indicating Republic of Austria. For the first time an internal border had been violated to claim the freedom of movement of people by activists.

However, soon after Austrian policemen blocked the road lined, up in riot gear. As protesters tried to break the police lines chanting “no border, we are all illegal migrants,” while throwing bottles and stones at officers, Austrian security forces reacted with shields, pepper spray and batons. Demonstrators could be seen lighting flares, throwing life jackets at police, while shouting “we are all refugees” and carrying banners reading “refugees welcome” and “no more Fortress Europe.”

In the meantime, a group belonging to the more extreme and violent wing of the anarchist circle of Agire nella Crisi managed to get back to the station, causing scuffles along the railway lines while opening blue tents to remid people of the Eidomeni camp.

Further, right before the deployment of security forces, activists wrote “no borders” in capital letters, and “Refugees, Welcome to EU” on the ground. At the end of the demonstration some activists and leaders of the march were stopped, interrogated and soon released by local police.

Eidomeni Escalation of Tensions and Illegal Border Crossings (9-10 April 2016)

Between 9 and 10 April, the MeltingPot website published photos, videos and stories written by young Italian witnesses of #overthefortress campaign reporting the worsening of the situation at the encampment, as well as the escalation of tensions between migrants and Greek and Macedonian authorities.

As the warmer spring season had arrived, the conditions at the camp were deteriorating while the railway station had been blocked for more than ten days to avoid departures of migrants. In addition, aid and services offered by UNHCR and other NGOs were becoming increasingly insufficient, and hence the atmosphere of anger and frustration was mounting.

On 10 April, many Afghani and Pakistani migrant families collected their possessions and tents; they gathered at the exit of Eidomeni camp and started protesting in a sit-in against Greek police.

Enzo Infantino, independent Italian volunteer at the Eidomeni camp explained to the press agency Agenzia Agi that Afghans and Pakistanis were the ones who mainly fuelled tensions and clashes in the camp,  as “they know very well that it will be almost impossible for them to get refugee status [unlike] the case with Syrians. Therefore, they create tensions- otherwise nobody would ever speak of them. On the other hand, Syrians try to keep the situation calm as they are waiting to receive their refugee status.”

Some young #overthefortress leaders assisted at the scene and recorded what was happening live thanks to the No Border-Wifi system they had installed some days earlier. As more and more migrants arrived and assaulted the railway line, others attempted to enter Macedonia, breaking the barbed wire that separated the border. Macedonian police reacted dispersing the crowds with rubber bullets (according to the activists, but denied by police), tear gas and smoke bombs. This was just one of the many episodes of escalation of tensions, before Eidomeni camp was finally dismantled.

Conclusion: More Challenges Ahead

Despite the geographical distance, there is a strong link that will always bond Eidomeni and the Brenner Pass. It is, again, an invisible bridge through which hundreds of Italian activists and anarchists crossed borders, overcame fences and barriers and wrote a small chapter in regional history. These were the identities and activities of the so called “no-borders” activists at the beginning of spring 2016, when the refugee crisis was still hitting Europe in a serious way.

A year on, as the good weather season begins, we are likely to bear witness to more flows of migrants. Notwithstanding the closure of the Balkan route and the efforts of some European countries to build fences, migrants will continue to arrive in Europe by different means. Similarly, there is a likelihood that activists and anarchists will continue their activities, possibly converging with similar forces of other countries, at times fuelling unrest and tensions at the most sensitive areas.

As of March 2017 – a year on from the dangerous rioting at two key migration chokepoints – it seems clear that immigration waves won’t stop, and hence Europe should be more ready to grapple with the defining issue of immigration and related challenges in future. In this light, in addition to the typical humanitarian and logistical concerns, it will also be necessary for European governments to observe the activities of anarchist and activist groups that may pose temporary threats to public order and security.

In First Nine Months of 2016, Urban Violence and Crime Rise in Greece editor’s note: for some historical context to current developments, readers may also enjoy our previous summary here of left-wing attacks and organized violence in Greece between 2008-2012.

By Ioannis Michaletos

During the first nine months of 2016, a clear trend regarding the rise of urban violence and extremism has been observed in Greece and, in particular, in Athens. Protests over economic woes, illegal migration, and football hooliganism, coupled with the spread of political extremists and criminal gangs largely account for this phenomenon.

Following the present analysis is a chronological set of important incidents of Greek urban violence from January through September 2016.

Left-wing Violence follows Predictable Pattern

All available information indicates that most of these security events are associated with a “hard nucleus” of 100 or so anarchists from several member groups (with lots of subgroups, there are about 80 anarchist groups in Athens alone).

These ideologically-driven individuals can count on additional support from roughly 300 migrant activist elements, at least 50% of those foreigners. An emerging trend is the use of teenage Syrians who are placed in various sit-ins in the center of Athens, mainly in the anarchist-friendly Exarcheia neighborhood. It is not known if they are taken advantage of by the anarchist factions (for their own purposes) or if they are simply ideologically motivated.

Historically, the anarchists have tended to attack whichever target is ‘easy.’ This brings them publicity, keeping them visible in the media (and social media), and helps construct the the image that they control parts of the city. It is also highly probable that at least some collaborate with criminals for joint profit.

The below chronology indicates that the PASOK political party was targeted. However, this is simply because it is an ‘easy target,’ with locations in Exarcheia- not because of its party policies.

The data correlates with a perceived trend that today’s anarchists (including those associated with the pro-migrant cause) are not interested, or possibly not capable of, carrying out targeted attacks against high-profile individuals who are guilty in their minds of hypocrisy or acting against their values. Thus it seems the ‘golden age’ of Greek urban combat (as with long-disbanded groups like ELA and 17 November, which attacked Greek politicians, businessmen and foreign officials) is over.

Greek Urban Violence Relating to Football Hooligans

Football hooliganism is another chronic problem found in many countries. In Greece today, supporters of the major teams are engaged in a bitter fight – especially Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK and Thessaloniki’s PAOK – over a scandal regarding the fixing of football matches that was examined by prosecutors in April 2015.

This issue has been discussed in media. According to reports, the Greek National Intelligence Service even lent its wiretapping services to investigating the case from 2011 onwards. Top football bosses and other related persons were suspected of running a scheme to control Greek football in order to make illegal profits. The investigation has angered rival bases and also resulted in opaque bombings and threats against whistleblowers. The simmering unrest has also resulted in a beefed-up police presence at matches.

2016 Statistics and Trends: Crime Increases, Largely in Athens

Official figures indicate that public demonstrations in 2016 have increased by 100% compared to the previous year. In the first six months of the year alone, there were 4,220 demonstrations across the country, most of them concerning the country’s economic state or migration.

Armed robberies in Greece also increased by 11% in 2016 and violent thefts by 10%. Bag snatching increased by 50% and pickpocketing increased by 10%. And the theft of tourist passports shot up by 15% over last year.

In addition, vehicle theft increased by 9%, and house burglaries by 3%. The bulk of the crime rate increase is most notable in Athens, and less so in other part of the country.

Increases in Drug-related Arrests

At the same time, police forces have increased stop-and-search operations and have enacted a series of nationwide operations, resulting in more than 100 arrests daily for drug offences in a few cases. Despite a series of crackdowns, the drug flow is steady in the country for all sorts of narcotics- a fact which implies that the trade is becoming fragmented and new “criminal blood” has entered this sector.

There are also being witnessed numerous arrests of Syrian refugees who have already become dealers of mostly cannabis, not only inside the refugee camps but across urban spaces. In most cases known to police, they are being recruited by older generation of Arabic immigrants already living in the country.

An Impending Winter Crime Wave?

All indicators at hand suggest an emerging trend of a “crime wave” that will affect Athens in the winter of 2016-2017. The last time that a similar phenomenon took place was in 2011-2012, during a period of intense political infighting and economic destabilization.

This period ahead will inevitably include masses of immigrants/refugees located in camps who are gradually becoming involved in criminal activities, and may even be inclined towards religious radicalization. The convergence of interests between anarchists and migrant activists, as discussed by last December, also continues and in some recent cases of fires and destruction (mostly concerning migrant camps in the islands) there is a strong likelihood that leftist forces supported these actions.

January-September 2016: Chronology of Urban Violence in Athens


10th Jan. A riot erupts between football hooligans of the teams Olympiacos and AEK

16th Jan. Anarchists attack police officers in Exarcheia in Athens

21st Jan. Football hooligan fights concerning Panathinaikos team

22nd Jan. Hooligan fights concerning Panathinaikos team

27th Jan. Hooligan fights concerning Panathinaikos team

28th Jan. Riot occurs between anarchists and far-right members in the center of Athens

30th Jan. Anarchists attack the private residence of the minister of state


5th Feb. Unknown assailants throw fire bombs at PASOK party offices

7th Feb. Unknown assailants throw fire bombs at PASOK party offices

10th Feb. Hooligan fights concerning Panathinaikos team

12th Feb. Farmers protest and clash with police

19th Feb. Unknown assailants throw fire bombs at PASOK party offices

23rd Feb. Hooligan fights in center of Athens

24th Feb. Anarchists attack state TV offices

25th Feb. Hooligans from Olympiacos team attack police patrols


5th Mar. Anarchists protest in Exarcheia and openly display rifles and pistols

12th Mar. Unknown assailants throw fire bombs at PASOK party offices

13th Mar. Anarchists attack urban railway in center of Athens

16th Mar. Anarchists stage riot inside Hilton hotel in Athens

21st Mar. Anarchists publish online personal data and names of traffic inspector personnel, threatening them

24th Mar. Unknown assailants throw fire bombs at police station in Athens


2nd Apr. Football hooligans riot in center of Athens

18th Apr. Anarchists attack offices of weekly newspaper

16th Apr. Unknown assailants damage property of traffic inspector personnel (see event 21st March)

22th Apr. Anarchists attack urban railway in Athens

22th Apr. Anarchists attack Police patrol

23rd Apr. Anarchist attack a supermarket in Athens suburb

23rd Anarchists attack bank office

24th Apr. Anarchist attack the police station in Exarcheia

24th Apr. Anarchists attack various shops and buildings in center of Athens

26th Apr. Anarchists attack various shops and buildings in center of Athens


8th May Attack with fire bombs on PASOK offices

8th May Anarchists attack  various shops and buildings in center of Athens

21st May Anarchist arson attack on public transport vehicle

22nd May Anarchists attack police patrol

25th May Football hooligans riot in a suburb of Athens

30th May Anarchists attack various shops and buildings in center of Athens

30th May Anarchist arson attack on public transport vehicle


1st June Anarchists attack police patrol

5th June Anarchists attack the residence of the minister of state

6th June Football hooligans clash in the outskirts of Athens

15th June Anarchists attack an Athens high court

16th June Anarchists arson public transport vehicle

17th June Attack with fire bombs on PASOK offices

18th June Anarchists attack urban railway station

22th June Anarchists damage public statues in Athens

25th June Anarchists attack various shops and buildings in center of Athens

25th June Anarchists destroy a military vehicle

29th June Anarchists storm the Mexican Embassy in Athens


This is traditionally considered a vacation period, in which activists suspend attacks in favor of the beach. Nonetheless, urban violence continued, albeit at a 30% decrease. A notable event (though not in Athens) was the occupation of Aristotle University in Thessaloniki by No Border prop-migrant activists and anarchists (including a large foreign contingent) in July.

These other European anarchists were generally more violent, though Greek anarchists led the way with symbolic occupations of low-risk targets (like the office of the ruling leftist Syriza party). Their purpose was to criticize the government’s new refugee camp system set up with EU guidance, following the closure of the ‘wild’ Eidomeni border camp. Activists also sought to challenge police at the Evros border fence with Turkey, but their efforts were minor and inconclusive.

10th July Anarchists and police clash in Athens, cars and trash bins burned with petrol bombs

15th July Anarchists throw paint at Turkish Embassy in Athens

26th July Anarchists throw paint at Turkish Embassy in Athens

1st August Embassy of Mexico in Athens shot at by automatic rifle, anarchists suspected


The action was renewed September 2016, with the end of holiday season and return to universities. Since then, the main targets of attack have been public transport, shops, governmental buildings and especially police stations- the usual targets. A police chief was also attacked in September, while there have also been various threatening proclamations against a variety of people, posted online.

Economic and Security Challenges, Plus Foreign Financial Interests, To Cause Early Greek Elections

By Ioannis Michaletos

Early elections will be held in Greece by October 2016, can predict. This is due to factors such as the sustained economic downturn, multiple private sector defaults, rising security issues, political tensions and some high-profile recent meetings between powerful foreign financial interests and domestic politicians.

The Greek general elections should be normally held in September 2019, but credible sources analyzing the present trends in Athens support our view that Syriza leader and prime minister Alexis Tsipras will call early elections, to prevent a further worsening of his party’s dropping approval ratings, and to defer difficult decisions for others.

Controversial Moves from the Tsipras Administration Hit Citizens Hard

The Greek government needs money and assets, and its increasingly aggressive means of achieving these goals is striking a heavy blow against ordinary citizens- not to mention contradicting the social- and economic-justice platform that the ruling government’s voters support.

Between January and June 2016, more than 600,000 persons saw the tax service confiscate bank savings – depending on amounts owed to the state plus monthly penalty interest rates – with an additional number of citizens expected to be affected by the end of 2016.

Concurrently, some 10,000 real estate plots were confiscated by the tax service, with an additional 30,000 expected to be taken over. This has happened while 60,000 housing units and businesses saw their electricity connection cut off, with possibly more than 300,000 people affected.

At the same time, however, the public sector has seen pay rises for particular categories of civil servants- even though the inefficiency that has chronically characterized most of the ministerial apparatus has only been growing. As a result, we are seeing an increase in mainstream Greek public disaffection and anger against a perceived “conspiracy” of Syriza to keep all state sector benefits and to turn against the private sector.

Potential Defaults, Debt Accumulation and a Politically Crippling Bail-in Recapitalization

Furthermore, large Greek private companies are defaulting or are about to default, informed sources attest.

The Marinopoulos chain is the largest supermarket chain in the country, with 13,000 employees and 40,000 suppliers’ jobs at stake. New information indicates that the company is on the verge of total collapse. If this happens, it will cost Greek banks 750 million euros in outstanding loans, and around 1 billion euros in suppliers’ debts. It should be noted that since Syriza came to power, the prices of average grocery items have also been rising in general, despite the poor economy.

Similarly, the energy-sector major, Mamidakis Jet Oil, is bursting at the seams, with 350 million euro loans and 100 million euro debts to the Greek ELPE refinery group.

Other companies in imminent danger include Chalyvourgiki (once Greece’s largest steel producer), the Elfsina shipyard, ELVO (Hellenic Vehicles Industry), and the EuroMedical private clinics chain. In total, due to potential company defaults, there are seven billion euros in bank loans that could blow up in the coming 10 weeks; the defaults and company crashes would mean additional 100,000 jobs lost.

As a result, a new recapitalization of the Greek banking system would be needed. That will only be accomplished by a bail-in of citizen’s deposits. No government would be able to withstand the public outcry that this would cause.

In addition, the lenders have obliged the Greek government to accept not only a de facto control of the banking system but also a de jure one, culminating with the consequent appointment of foreign board members in all Greek systemic banks. As the Financial Times recently reported this is part of the 2015 agreement with Greece’s lenders, a fact that nullifies Greek state control over the economy, and ensured the failure of Syriza to enact a “Socialist” implementation of its rhetoric.

Criminality on the Rise amidst Economic Torpor

Crime rates are steadily increasing too. In June 2016, a network of 150 Georgian thieves was rolled up; this group had conducted “raids” on private houses, using highly sophisticated burglary methods. In this way, they stole hundreds of thousands of euros per month.

At the same time, the Attika anti-drug directorate (which covers Athens and its periphery) currently arrests more than 10 people daily on narcotics charges, while pick-pocketing is becoming a major headache for police- not only in major urban centers, but even in the countryside.

At the same time the approximately 60,000 “trapped” refugees inside Greece will only tend to increase once Erdogan decides to open the flow once again, as has predicted. The degree of organized crime based on the illegal migration trade includes long-established local networks, as has reported in the past.

On top of the above, urban extremism is on the rise. The Greek postal service has decided to close down its Exarcheia outlet, due to “vandalism” in the traditionally anarchist-friendly neighborhood. Meanwhile, anarchist groups have even made trips from the city to Athens International Airport, just to blockade the Israeli El Al company’s check-in counters as a form of political protest.

At the same time, other attacks, including arson, are being observed on public transport. Security services are also anxiously focused on new far-left terrorist groups emerging, as they have seen a considerable increase in recruitment of radicalized urban youth recently. Again, the continuing poor state of the economy and high unemployment seems to be feeding this trend.

Volatility, Leaks and Bets on Early Elections

Analysts on the Athens stock market, as well as foreign diplomatic representations in Greece, are already drafting memos predicting a 70% chance for early elections in September-October 2016.

The former premier, Kostas Karamanlis of the conservative NeaDimokratia (now in opposition) is said to have expressed the same view in early July 2016. His thoughts were carefully “leaked” to the local press.

In the same period, the notorious Yannis Varoufakis, the Syriza government’s flamboyant original finance minister, was once again implicated in a plot by the Greek press. Varoufakis has been accused of seeking, back in mid-2015, to stage a sort of “coup d’etat” that would have invoked martial law. This plot was meant to ensure the swift entrance of a national currency (the drachma), once negotiations with the creditors collapsed.

This plot was mentioned by an American academic, James K. Galbraith, in his recent book Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice. Greek judicial sources now comment that these revelations, along with similar ones made by Yannis Stournaras in 2015 concerning the background of Varoufakis’s negotiations then may eventually lead to court proceedings against many people allegedly involved. It remains to be seen.

It is worth noting, in this context, that since early 2015 (the time when Syriza first came to power) there have been constant crises and claimed coups across the Balkans, with most of them being associated with billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros. Many consider Varoufakis one of Soros’ financial protégés, though the Greek public was not really considering Varoufakis’ background until after he suddenly left the government last summer.

Brexit and the Concerns of Greece’s Creditors

The still-uncertain Brexit outcome coincides with developments in Greece, and is making Greece’s creditors even more conservative. Obviously, the Brexit vote will have a huge impact on all of Europe’s economic policies and activities, but considering that bailed-out Greece is considered a ‘special case,’ we can expect to feel the first aftershocks of the vote here,

Therefore, due to one shock (the actual Brexit vote itself), the EU is concerned to avoid any more surprises. So, whether or not it will ever prove successful, the policy of austerity towards the Tsipras government will continue. The bottom line is that creditors fear a total loss of control over Greece’s line-of-credit program. Thus Athens can expect no leniency in the coming months. Italy’s brewing banking crisis is an added negative factor for Athens in this regard.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Meet the Bilderbergers

The main opposition party leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was recently invited to the 9-12 June 2016 Bilderberg group’s meeting in Dresden. The annual meetings of this secretive informal body of Western power-brokers inevitably inspire protests and conspiracy theories. The Greek media and public were thus highly interested to know more about why the elite group had invited the opposition politician this year. (The two other Greek participants at Bilderberg this year were George Logothetis, CEO of Libra Group, and Dimitri Papalexopoulos, CEO of Titan Cement).

In any case, it is surely not accidental that soon after the event the new ND president participated in high-level meetings with London market-makers (PIMCO, Blackrock, KKR, Blackstone, Paulson & Co, Soros Capital). Mitsotakis had already met German Chancellor Merkel weeks before, as well as ECB strongman Mario Draghi in Frankfurt.

It is more than obvious that in meeting Mitsotakis, the creditors’ representatives and those having a stake in the Greek debt crisis chose someone they assume will be leading the country in the near term. expects a meeting between the IMF head and Mitsotakis to be announced, followed by rapid political developments in Athens. This will likely lead to new elections as the Tsipras government continues to lose popularity.

Dynastic Rule To Return in 2016

Last but not least, Mitsotakis is not only a prime minister in-waiting, but also the heir of perhaps the most important Greek political family in modern history. His sister, Dora Bakoyannis is an MP, former minister of foreign affairs, and former mayor of Athens. Kyriakos’ father was the premier of Greece between 1990-1993, and an MP from 1946-2000; further back, his grandfather was the leading political figure from Crete, even before the island’s unification with Greece.

Further, Mitsotakis is also related with another Cretan family, the Venizelos dynasty spawned by Eleftherios Venizelos, the most important figure in recent Greek history. The Nea Dimokratis leader is related as well to dozens of others influential political and business families, mostly descended from Crete.

It is worth mentioning that all of the globally well-known Greek political dynasties (Mitsotakis, Papandreou, Samaras/Benakis) are offshoots either literally or politically of the Venizelos family and parties that have ruled Greece since the early 20th century.

The Venizelos family itself descends from an ancient clan in the Peloponnesian region of Laconia (Mystras), which fled to Western Crete in the 18th century.  Thus it is safe to conclude (along with lots of other research of a similar nature) that the so-called Greek political elite was formed even before the establishment of the modern Greek state. Furthermore the vast majority of that elite descend from the Southern Peloponnese and Western Crete. These two regions experienced frequent exchanges of populations between them for centuries, and in geography and temperament always proved the most formidable challenge to the Turks. A safe prediction is that this dynastic control will continue for the foreseeable future, to the relief of foreigners with a financial stake in the country.

Political Parties and their Likely Positions

The smaller parties are also taking their seats for the show. To Potami, which emerged as a centrist ‘third way’ in time for 2014 European Parliament elections, is gradually losing hope of re-entering the Greek parliament, and the majority of its members are opting for collaboration with the long-established ND.

Meanwhile, the similarly established PASOK, which had been left for dead following the rise of Syriza, is actually faring better, and will definitely seek an autonomous role. We predict that it is 99% certain that in case ND needs a coalition partner , PASOK will gladly accept the role of the junior partner.

Additionally, Enosi Kentroon (Union of Centrists) has already expressed its desire for a coalition government. While the party had not cracked the 3 percent threshold for participation in parliament in the January 2015 elections, it gained nine seats in the September 2015 election, its biggest recent success. This result was a symptom of public frustration both with the establishment parties and perceived Syriza incompetence.

The leftist parties such as the Communists, plus the Syriza splinter ones, LAE and Plefsi are in serious opposition with Tsipras himself viewing him as a traitor to the “cause.” And, despite his controversial qualities, Varoufakis still has an X factor among some disenchanted voters, and he will definitely play a role in some form, most probably as a commentator who will provide “revelations.”

In such a case, Syriza cannot expect support from these previously vital allies. ANEL, the conservative junior partner in Syriza’s current government, is unlikely to surpass the 3% threshold again, as it only narrowly managed to do so back in September 2015.

The remaining party to be surely represented in the next parliament, the fascist-leaning Golden Dawn, remains an outcast, following a lonely “anti-system “path. Thus it is not a real part of the equation.

Conclusion: Fall 2016 Elections Are Probable

We expect the Syriza administration will opt for the best solution, regarding its own political survival. The solution which leaders perceive is to have elections early enough to guarantee that even if it loses, it will still have a strong presence in the parliament, and will oblige its successor (i.e., ND) to implement all of the harsh laws that it itself is now delaying. Thus it will continue to ensure that others pay the price.

Otherwise, if elections are deferred past fall, the winter 2016-2017 will see a complete collapse of Syriza’s remaining popularity. In that case, a later election would result in a total victory for ND, and turn the tables in the established political game. This would probably lead to the disintegration of Syriza, which in any case is just a combination of various diverse leftist factions. We thus predict that there is a 75% chance of early elections before November 2016- and that those with a financial stake in Greece are betting on Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his establishment Nea Dimokratia to win them.



More Excerpts from Studies in Greek Security, Volume II: 2012-2015 editor’s note: the following excerpts offer just a glimpse into the rich selection of analyses and reports that comprise our new work, Studies in Greek Security, Volume II: 2012-2015. Available now on Amazon Kindle, this book is the successor volume to the previously published Studies in Greek Security: 2006-2011, both by Chris Deliso and Ioannis Michaletos. See also our first set of excerpts from the new publication.

Excerpt from Chapter 8: The Illegal Immigration Industry in Greece in 2015: a Strategic Overview

March 25, 2015

This pernicious reality involves two basic truths: the natural tendency for public institutions to expand if left unchecked; and the natural desire of the private sector towards maximal profit.

When united in any common purpose – in this case, a joint approach to dealing with illegal immigration in Greece – this involves a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary citizens, largely (but not only) in the developed world, to the institutions and companies involved. This involves both taxpayer money, and donations from philanthropic institutions that are tax-deductible.

While we have seen it is possible to make basic estimates of the amount of money generated by the human-trafficking gangs themselves, it is ironic to note that it is impossible to do the same regarding the total revenues generated for the completely legal and approved side of the industry, generated in response to the criminal one.

This is because of the sheer amount of entities involved, the complexity of their interactions, and the informal nature of much of the sub-industry. A complex EU or UN program designed to deal with some aspect of human trafficking might include the need for procurement of resources or materiel, for example. And this is a process that necessarily involves private-sector suppliers, and is enhanced by the additional factor of lobbyists needing to be paid.

Even harder to quantify are the revenues funneled to actors not expected to produce any tangible results, such as expert consultants, and other ‘ideas’ people and groups. More opaque still is the notoriously corrupt NGO and academic sectors, which invariably have political, ideological or business ties far and wide, providing a money laundering opportunity for both criminal elements and the ‘legitimate’ actors.

In the general industry of organized human trafficking in Greece, there is thus a perverse sort of symbiosis between not only the exploiters and the exploited, but fundamentally with the outside actors attempting to deal with the problem. And this is without even considering the financial gains made by political parties based on immigration stances. A perpetuation of the status quo thus remains in many people’s financial or ideological

Excerpt from Chapter 12: Under EU Presidency, Athens Hosts Key Space and Security Conference

June 22, 2014

Inevitably, such an event drew heavy interest from specialist private-sector firms wishing to do business with the EU. As one official present told, “basically, they’re scouting out the policies that can be expected or guessed at for the upcoming Commission, after October- what bids might be on, and who to approach.”

In this aspect, the official noted, a good part of the corporate intelligence-gathering was inferring which Brussels officials might keep their current positions or who might take their places.

Thus prominently speaking or taking notes were executives from companies like Airbus Defense and Space, Telespazio, Thales Alenia Space and HELLASAT, the Greek-Cyprus operator whose satellite is nearing the end of its 15-year lifespan.

Along with upgrades and technical developments to take note of, the private sector’s interest in space technology seem to be product-oriented and risk-associated. For example, one of the most interesting subjects discussed with application not only for military or security use was that of future generations of high-resolution satellite imagery. New risks and threats to satellite operations was another important subject to the private sector audience that was assessed as, for example, with the issue of violent space weather and its impact on SATCOM.

Excerpt from Chapter 23: Turkish Intelligence Sabotage Allegations Affect Relations with Greece

January 2, 2012

After the revelations, an emergency inquiry was requested by Greek Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes on December 27, 2011. The Greek foreign ministry issued a protest note, demanding an explanation. The foreign minister, Stavros Dimas and his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, spoke on the phone and resolved to meet to discuss the issue early in 2012.

Despite the denial from Yilmaz, former Greek officials also seconded the story. The former head of the NIS, Leonidas Vasilikopoulos was reported to have said intelligence existed “that Turkish agencies were involved in the arsons in the 1990s but had no proof.” According to the Journal of Turkish Weekly, Vasilikopoulos also said Greece “should be cautious about the reasons for Mesut Yılmaz’s statements.”

Buy Studies in Greek Security, Volume II: 2012-2015 for Amazon Kindle now!

Current Greek Counter-Terrorism Threat Assessment: Terrorism, Radicalization and Migration editor’s note: readers who enjoy this article will also want to obtain the author’s new ebook, Studies in Greek Security Vol.II: 2012-2015, available on Amazon Kindle. For excerpts from the book, check out this new article.

By Ioannis Michaletos

For Europe, 2015 was marked by a historic migration crisis and then successive Jihadist attacks in France, followed by those in Brussels in early 2016. Other planned plots were disrupted during this period in different countries. Currently security agencies across the world are working at an intensified pace, trying to uncover the terrorist networks and break down their logistic and communication lines, along with arresting their coordinators.

In the following report, several major aspects of the counter-terrorism effort in Greece are discussed.

Context: Greece’s Geo-Political Placement, and Increased Police Activity

First of all, Greece faces a two-fold challenge. It is geopolitically situated right in the midst of the axis between the Middle East (and the Syrian-Iraqi battlefields) with major EU states, plus it faces a human flow of illegal immigrants and refugees that hinders capacity of effectively vetting newcomers and uncovering terrorists hidden within them. Moreover, the country’s financial burden places further constraints on budgets and capacities. However, the security services have also benefited from non-disclosed technical upgrades in some capacities since January.

In general, the counter-terrorism effort has to take into account these two aspects before forming a clear stance. For the time being it is widely assessed that networks of suspicious NGO’s of Islamic origin, makeshift mosques and dozens of persons are both electronically and physically being monitored by police. There is now a special focus on the islands close to Turkey, in Athens and Thessaloniki, where the largest congregation of suspects is to be found.

On a purely operational level, we are noting increased police protection of major transport hubs such as Athens International Airport and the Athens metro-urban railway. The port of Piraeus, which is also a major transit port for cruise ships has seen its security boosted.

Further, major motorways leading from the west of the country to the eastern borders with Turkey, such as the Egnatia Odos, are seeing a noticeable increase of police patrols. These include more stop-and-search operations. The Egnatia axis in particular is the one connecting thee, Middle East, via Turkey, with the Adriatic – as well as the Balkans and thence Central Europe – creating a vast geo-economic corridor. This can also be used, of course, for the transfer of all sorts of contraband from the East to the West, and South to North.

Increased Protection of Diplomatic Installations, and Leftist Threats

Diplomatic representations of countries assessed as being potential terrorist targets, and assorted associations and businesses, are all benefitting from increased police security controls.

It is noteworthy to add that some of these representations have been in the past successfully targeted not by jihadists but by homegrown far-left terrorists, such as was the case with the rocket attack on the US Embassy in 2007, the attack on the German Ambassador’s residence in 2013, and another one targeting the Israeli Embassy in 2014.

Indeed, because of many years’ experience, the security services’ awareness in that sector exceeds its anti-jihadist knowledge. Here protection is a particular challenge for local authorities, since the perpetrators are largely Greeks. To understand the historic and chronic nature of this threat see’s prior study of all left-wing attacks from 2008 through 2012, and our review of former US diplomat Brady Kiesling’s study, Greek Urban Warriors.

Most recently, anticipated the convergence of radical leftist groups and migration activists, predicting the kind of organized violence we have been seeing at migrant camps like Lesvos and Eidomeni. These also constitute a growing security challenge for police.

However, while other Balkan countries have recently expelled violent activists responsible for causing physical damage, Greece is limited in this capacity precisely because it is in the Schengen Zone. If it deports an activist for causing trouble, that person can always come back, so long as Greece remains in the zone.

Enhanced International Cooperation, Post-Brussels

Another important aspect is Greece’s international cooperation with anti-terrorism task forces, with the American FBI being especially active in Athens. Our sources indicate that FBI activity increased after the attacks in Brussels.

All major EU states have also boosted bilateral cooperation with local authorities due to the terrorism threat. Here there is a special focus on checking the movements of suspected terrorists hidden within the immigration wave. Nonetheless, despite increased scrutiny, no arrests or detentions within Greece have occurred lately in relation to that threat.

The EU border assistance authority FRONTEX is also increasing its personnel in the country, though it is tasked mostly with patrol and registration duties and not counter-terrorism ones. Nevertheless, DEONTEX experts could contribute by clarifying the threat assessment in the country, and building a network for exchange of information between all interested parties, by checking and verifying flows.

On the other hand, FRONTEX itself may add to the list of potential targets, since anarchists and migrant activists have long identified it as one of the symbols of “racist” European policies. Therefore, attacks on FRONTEX installations or personnel by such groups cannot be excluded.

Security Concerns Surrounding Migrant Camps and Activists

Indeed, currently the many refugee camps across the country and most notably in Eidomeni, Piraeus, Elliniko and Lesvos are routinely checked for the presence of radicals posing as refugees. security sources confirm that “substantial numbers” of uniformed and plainclothes police and intelligence officials have been dispatched to these locations, to interrogate or make connections with such persons.

Furthermore, police are monitoring the social media presence of known and lesser known radicals, as well as the preaching of self-proclaimed Imams in Athens-based religious establishments. Data collected so far by indicates the existence of cells coordinated by 15 different extremists who could pose a future threat, but do not seem to have been activated so far within the country, in terms of conducting offensive operations. Propaganda and logistics assistance seem to be the main preoccupation of these networks in Greece, since the country is viewed as a transit zone primarily.

Prison Radicalization and the Intersection of Crime and Terrorism

The steadily increasing Muslim population in the Greek prison system has also presented a new challenge. Although all the inmates are convicted criminals, there has been a noted radicalization amongst groups of them, who no longer identify in ethnic terms but in religious (Islamist) terms. A gradual radicalization us thus occurring alongside the establishment of a parallel society.

Historical experience in most European countries confirms that this is a major milestone in the proliferation of hybrid criminal-terrorist networks within the general society, as inmates who have been radicalized re-enter society and then expand their beliefs, combining criminal action with extremist indoctrination. Eventually, this leads to plain terrorist action if opportunity arises. The case of Belgium and the Molenbek urban ghetto is a prime example.

Current Assessment

Greek security forces assess that major threats so far include lone wolf type attacks or small radicalized cells that will act on their own based on social media brainwashing, and not based on orders from or contact with Islamic State or other larger organizations.

Meanwhile, the radicalization process inside the refugee camps will result in public disorder that could be then used by terrorists to stage an attack. This is another peril for which Greek security services are trying to prepare. Although an attack by itself, if not sanctioned and prepared by specialists such as ISIS will have only limited damage, it could still cause disruption.

Of course, such attacks could possibly be averted by the previously mentioned preventive measures. Acts of provocations inside refugee camps by experienced agents provocateurs is an additional issue directly tied with the previous ones.

Generally, the counter -terrorism threat assessment indicates an elevation of danger in 2016 compared to previous years. On the other hand, the overall danger level still lags behind the one in the “traditional Jihadist target countries” such as Belgium or France. As long as Greece remains a ‘transit’ country rather than a ‘prestige’ target this reality should continue.


Excerpts from Studies in Greek Security, Volume II: 2012-2015 editor’s note: the following excerpts offer a just a glimpse into the rich selection of analyses and reports that comprise our new work, Studies in Greek Security, Volume II: 2012-2015. Available now on Amazon Kindle, this book is the successor volume to the previously published Studies in Greek Security: 2006-2011, both by Chris Deliso and Ioannis Michaletos.

Excerpt from Chapter 3, “The Kammenos Doctrine, 2.0.”

September 24, 2015

The ANEL view towards Greece’s regional security role has to do with both economic and military identification. As a maritime power, Greece is seen as having a near abroad from the southern Balkans to the coasts of Egypt, Israel and Lebanon; this general area of influence is considered as vital to accentuate Greek power projection. Kammenos has also voiced a plan to expand military cooperation with these countries, including continuance of Israeli Air Force practice in Greek airspace, as a replacement for Turkey, where cooperation stopped following the Mavi Marmaris incident of May 2010.

Interestingly, when asked about Greece’s role in the Balkan region by other Greek military officials in May, Kammenos stated that Greece “had no interest” in being involved in those areas. Specifically, he associated the narrowly-averted terrorist plot in Kumanovo, Macedonia with the returning foreign fighters from Syria. This statement confirmed that he, at least officially, views the Balkans as more of a foreign policy and diplomatic orientation for Greece.

The second element of Greek defense’s regional orientation is due to a perception of the country (and Cyprus) as vital for international trade and commerce, and undersea gas transit in future (the Levantine Basin riches, disputed with Turkey in the case of Cyprus). Thus a robust Greek naval and air force presence in the Aegean is part of the Kammenos doctrine for reasons of economic security as well as defensive security. Nonetheless, both Kammenos and the Syriza left do not show much stomach for interventions in foreign wars, which is consonant with the views of most Greek politicians in modern history. Thus in the end, Kammenos is more of a centrist in this regard.

Excerpt from Chapter 13, “Thessaloniki Court Sentences Kurdish Militant, Four Months after Anti-Terror Raid in Athens.”

June 5, 2014

A partial result has been achieved by Greek judicial authorities, four month after a historic Greek-Turkish-American intelligence operation against Kurdish militants in Athens.

Two days ago, a Thessaloniki court sentenced Hüseyin Fevzi Tekin to seven years in jail over a a 2011 bombing that killed one person. The Thessaloniki Court of Appeals heard additional witness and also based its case on fingerprint evidence. Tekin had been a key member in the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). He was arrested, along with three other members, on February 10. He was living in Athens under a false Bulgarian identity in a Gyzi safe house.

At that time, Tekin was arrested along with Murat Korkut, Bilgehan Karpat and İsmail Akkol- reportedly involved in the 1996 murder of Turkish businessman Özdemir Sabancı in Istanbul. Tekin was also convicted for illegal weapons and explosives possession (a large cache had been found by police in the Gyzi apartment).

Excerpt from Chapter Greece and Turkey: Offensive and Defensive Balance of Air Power in 2012

February 19, 2012

The Greek Air Force is oriented almost exclusively towards Turkey. The Turkish Air Force, on the other hand, has active obligations with the Kurdish conflict plus contingency plans for the Greek, Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean fronts. It can be concluded that a balance of power exists in the air, with no side having a definitive advantage for the moment due to strategic geography.

 Advanced types

Greece: F-16’s (Block 50 and Block 52+) and Mirage 2000-5 Mk2: 113 jets

Turkey: F-16’s Block 50: 30 jets on order (an estimated 10 have already arrived)

 Older modern jets

Greece: F-16’s (Block 30/40/50) and Mirage 2000 EGM/BGM: 92 jets

Turkey: F-16’s (Block 30/40/50): 203 jets

 Older types

Greece: F-4 PI2000, F-4E/2020, F-4 RF and A-7E/H: 113 jets

Turkey: F-4 2020, F-4E, RF-4E and F-5: 144 jets

 Transport planes

Greece: C-130 and C-27J Spartan: 27 planes

Turkey: C-130 and C-235: 80 planes

 Training planes

Greece: T-2E, T-6A, T-41D: 103 planes

Turkey: T-38A/B/C, T-41D, SF.260D: 189 planes


Buy Studies in Greek Security, Volume II: 2012-2015 for Amazon Kindle now!

Exclusive: Germany’s BND Investigating Migration Risks and Russian Influence in Greece editor’s note: this new study assesses BND outlook, structure, operational procedure, secret migrant interrogation practices, strategic assets and some key targets in Greece, both Greek and Russian, as the migration war takes new and dangerous forms.

By Chris Deliso

Angela Merkel’s cabinet has ordered Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, to document Russian influence on the Greek government- and particularly, its migration policy.

At the same time, German spooks are ramping up a covert program (which began in late August 2015), to infiltrate migration-related NGOs and groups in Greece, Turkey and other countries. Their mission is to investigate migrant trafficking networks and find more evidence of security risks associated with illegal migration. This is necessary for both national security and political/social reasons, as the Balkan route is now closing and calls to restrict migration are getting louder across Europe.

Motivations for the BND’s Increased Operations

The British Sunday Times recently reported that Merkel fears growing Russian influence in Greece, a trend German media has covered since early 2015. But this topic is fundamentally distinct from the German government’s perception of, and shaping of, the migration crisis since that time.

Indeed, both BND investigations were ordered, one European security official states, “because Merkel has been continuously wrongly informed about the migrant situation on the ground” by top advisor Christoph Heusgen. Although Heusgen has decades of experience in senior positions, this source says, “he is not competent on security issues- only diplomatic ones.” Yet a close study of public documents relating to Heusgen’s diplomacy regarding the US, Israel and the Balkans calls even that qualification into question.

Merkel’s trust in Heusgen’s advice has reportedly also exasperated German military and intelligence officials who have a better understanding of the real situation on the ground.

The BND’s increased role is coming at a time when preparations are being made to shut down the Balkan Route for migrants and refugees completely. It thus has three aspects.

The first is political: to provide intelligence that Merkel can use to shift the blame over her own catastrophic migration policy onto Russia and Greece.

The second is pre-emptive: to learn more about a current Greek-Russian plan to destabilize Europe by forcing up to 100,000 migrants to mass on its northern borders, in an attempt to ‘force the borders’ open, which would have the most damage on the Macedonian state (a Greek strategic interest) and cause havoc throughout the region (a Russian one). However, as we reported on February 10, Macedonia has taken measures to protect its border. President Gjorge Ivanov recently repeated “prepared for all scenarios” at a speech for the OSCE in Rome. This speech was basically reprinted in The Telegraph on March 7, and is worth reading in full.

The third aspect of the BND’s mission concerns domestic security: to assess security risks and thus prevent Germany from future terrorist attacks or other migration-related instability, while developing its HUMINT network among both migrant-associated NGOs and individual migrants themselves.

Essentially, what is happening now is a latter-day Great Powers struggle that presents a security risk particularly for Balkan countries trapped in between the Brussels-Berlin-Ankara-Moscow war for the control of Europe.

Ironically for Germany, the expansion of the migration war into Europe has been fueled largely by Angela Merkel’s failure to handle the crisis responsibly from the beginning.

Giving the Order: if not Merkel, Who?

The order for the BND to ramp up activities related to Russian influence in Greece did not come from Merkel directly, one German intelligence specialist tells “In the chancellor’s office, there are two firewalls between Merkel and the BND. First, the Chief of the Federal Chancellery (Chef des Bundeskanzleramtes) Peter Altmaier, and under him the Commissioner for the intelligence services (Beauftragter für die Nachrichtendienste), Klaus-Dieter Fritsche. One of these two men thus communicated – probably verbally – the order to BND chief Gerhard Schindler.

By contrast, BND intelligence-gathering regarding the general migration threat had however long been ongoing, both in Germany and abroad. As we will see, these activities have had domestic and foreign usages and have changed with the operative circumstances. However, our sources indicate that internal disagreements prevented the service from taking a proactive role until it was already basically too late.

Basic BND Facts

The BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, or Federal Intelligence Service) consists of 12 directorates, employs about 6,500 persons, and has an annual budget surpassing 615 million euros. Its official website provides relatively more public information than do other secret services, because of the German people’s desire for transparency. This is a general reaction to their own difficult history (from the Gestapo to the Stasi and, most recently, Snowden’s revelations of BND-NSA cooperation).

The BND has several domestic installations and runs numerous operations abroad. The latter activity has increased to match Germany’s own increasingly aggressive tendencies in recent years. Further, some domestic activities that have officially been ended are continuing, as we shall see.

Relevant BND Directorates and the Significance of their Work for this Study

The excitement over Edward Snowden’s disclosure has meant that the BND’s directorate for SIGINT has gotten all the press (for example, see this excellent and detailed Zeit Online report from February 2015, based on “secret BND documents”). However, for the current analysis, other directorates are more relevant.

The first is Directorate EA: Areas of Operation and Foreign Relations (Einsatzgebiete/Auslandsbeziehungen). This directorate coordinates BND relations with foreign intelligence agencies. EA also provides intelligence for the protection of German military (and their allies) abroad, and coordinates cooperation with domestic governmental institutions.

Additionally significant are Directorates LA/LB-Regional Analysis and Procurement, A/B countries (Regionale Auswertung und Beschaffung A und Regionale Auswertung und Beschaffung B). These two regional directorates cover foreign political, economic and military affairs, ordering collection assignments to BND operatives abroad.

“For these assignments,” the official website states, “all means of intelligence collection are taken into consideration.” Intelligence collected is then routed back to LA/LB analysts in Germany for evaluation and possible inclusion in situation reports. Directorates LA/LB focus on crisis regions and early crisis detection, and support German military assignments abroad.

Also of relevance is Directorate TE- International Terrorism and Organized Crime (Internationaler Terrorismus und Internationale Organisierte Kriminalität). TE focuses specifically on Islamic terrorism and international organized crime: the latter includes narcotics, illegal migration and money laundering. Directorate TE is the only BND directorate to do both collection and evaluation work internally.

Significantly, Directorate TE liaises with foreign partner services and is the BND’s specific representative in Germany’s Joint Counterterrorism Center, Joint Internet Center in Berlin Treptow and Joint Analysis and Strategy Center for Illegal Migration in Potsdam.

These directorates are most relevant to the present study because they are the ones most involved in the topic areas in question. Their relative success, failure and degree of influence on internal and political leaders would help assess the past, present and future orientation of German foreign intelligence work regarding migration, security, and political relations in foreign countries, in the present case, Russian influence in Greece. Therefore, researchers with awareness of personnel and events can examine the directorates’ role in shaping the BND’s perception of reality and relative ability to affect state policy on these issues.

Information collected separately by indicates that a significant internal problem over the past year has been between field operatives (especially, those from a military/security background) and the armchair civilian analysts. Multiple sources have confirmed that important intelligence from the field was disregarded or underestimated, especially in terms of the migration threat. This could help explain the failure of political leaders to consider the security risks associated with migration until too late.

Yet even within the BND, one expert observer attests, “they were completely surprised by some of the major developments and existence of problematic [migration-related] elements in Greece and Turkey last summer- they had no idea that certain of them even existed!”

This realization led to a rapid acceleration in foreign activities targeting migration networks, carried out or supported by personnel in the above directorates. It is not possible to say simply that Directorate EA failed to learn from its foreign service partners, or that Directorate TE was lax on the migration threat, or that Directorates LA/LB failed in its mandate of early crisis detection. All of these are however possible, and BND internal inspectors would do well to ask such questions when examining their country’s overall failure in the migration crisis.

In fairness, the NSA scandal caused considerable bad press and a loss of trust from key European partners, such as France, Belgium and Austria, which could have hampered cooperation in the present migration crisis. But a June 2015 report in The Telegraph was a bit misleading when it said that “field officers will be brought back under central control,” when actually the ‘reorganization’ discussed specifically concerned SIGINT officers at internally located BND facilities- not HUMINT operatives abroad.

Analysis of BND Key Personnel Supports Thesis

An analysis of key BND personnel further confirms the claim that Merkel’s cabinet, not the BND or military, bears most of the blame for Germany’s epic failure in the migration crisis. The service’s top leaders are all capable and engaged professionals. Therefore, the prime suspects for the national failure are the cabinet (particularly, Christof Heusgen and Merkel herself), and possibly internal misunderstandings and poor analysis somewhere down the food chain, within the directorates specified above.

BND President Gerhard Schindler is considered, by German experts and foreign intelligence officials alike, to be a serious and driven “man of action,” well-suited for the job. A positive feature on Schindler published on September 2, 2014 by German journalist Uwe Müller stated that Schindler sought “to mold the BND into his own image.” Müller attested that the BND chief wanted to re-orient the service into running more active, daring and aggressive operations. “We have to be the first in and the last out,” Germany’s top spy is quoted as saying. Schindler also encouraged the BND to take “well-calculated risks,” in accord with the motto, “no risk, no fun.”

In the article, Schindler’s predecessor, Social Democrat Ernst Uhrlau, is derided as a lightweight who “would have loved to transform the BND into a large think tank, an institute for clever strategic analyses with a small connected agent department. At least that is what those familiar with internal activities report.”

Under Schindler, approximately 300 topic secret reports per month are produced for the “German Armed Forces, Parliament, Ministries and, last but not least, the Federal Chancellery of Angela Merkel, to which the BND is the only service to directly report.”

Another key BND official is top vice president (since replacing Géza Andreas von Geyr in 2014) Michael Klor-Berchtold. This officer has a strong background in difficult areas that are relevant to today’s migration crisis. For example, in 2007 he served as Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa and as ambassador to Yemen.

Another senior BND official is Major General Norbert Stier, Vice President for Military Affairs. Prior to his present posting in 2010, Stier had served in numerous military and military intelligence posts for decades, most recently as deputy director of the military intelligence division at NATO’s International Military Staff in Brussels. But Stier also has Balkan experience which should be useful in the present crisis, considering that in 2005 he served as commander of KFOR’s Multinational Brigade Southwest in Prizren, Kosovo.

New BND Task Force Created for Russia-Greece Issues

Multiple informed sources have confirmed for that the BND has increased its existing analysis of “Russian propaganda”- and is even expanding it in the case of Greece.

The Russia issue remains “in the regular intelligence briefings for the Federal Chancellery,” says the German intelligence expert. “Recently the BND was requested to monitor the subject closer and has built a task force.”

In addition to searching social networks “for hints that Russia tries to influence refugees” to go to Germany for economic benefit, this source notes that “the BND is good in HUMINT too, and has never cut such operations, like the NSA and the CIA did.”

The BND’s Secret Migrant Interrogation Program: Domestic Context

Reinhard Gehlen, the former Nazi and CIA-backed first BND director, also oversaw the secret HBW (‘Main Office for Questioning of Beings,’ or Hauptstelle für Befragungswesen). Established in 1958, the organization was used to interrogate incoming migrants. It used undercover BND agents, and even allowed British and American services to interrogate asylum seekers- a natural continuation of the Allied wartime interrogation of captured soldiers.

The BND sub-unit was based in Berlin, with facilities in other places including Nuremberg, Wiesbaden and Hannover. It was active also in refugee camps within Germany, where BND staff worked undercover. Mostly, the migrants interrogated came from conflict-zone countries.

The HBW became a hot political topic after being uncovered in 2011, and especially when Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in November 2013 that intelligence gathered from its migrant camps was being used in subsequent US drone strike targeting. The newspaper also reported that asylum-seekers were sometimes promised favorable application decisions in return for informing about Islamist groups or other threats from their home countries (the Merkel government has tried to deny this).

On December 3, 2013, Süddeutsche Zeitung additionally reported that the government had just announced the HBW’s closure. However, while the secret interrogation program was supposedly closed in June 2014, new information appeared in a Die Zeit article on January 14, 2016. This article revealed that government claims were “not entirely true.” While the government said that migrant interrogation would from then on be conducted “directly in the crisis regions abroad,” the newspaper cited internal intelligence documents and other sources to claim that both the BND and BfV (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution- Germany’s domestic intelligence service) were still actively present in the teeming refugee camps today.

From the perspective of the intelligence services, the information being provided by people from Syria, Iraq or Eritrea is “a treasure.” Further, the Zeit report claims, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, Bamf) remains an “important informer of the secret services.” Aside from the historic practice of using migrants as informants, the report suggests there is a regular practice of Bamf administrators and security officials selecting interesting candidates from asylum applications- in 2013/2014 alone the BfV “received information about 200 interesting applicants,” while the BND got 435 application cases.

This situation invites a paradox: while intelligence services naturally desire as much information from as many sources as possible, and thus benefit from the presence of so many migrants, the latter also constitute a national security threat in their very presence- thus complicating and compounding the work of internal security agencies, including police and other less specialized bodies.

Despite this threat, the continuation and expansion, as we will see, of the German program confirms yet again that, as predicted in our annual security forecast, 2016 will mark the “return of HUMINT” on a major scale.

BND Secret Migrant Interrogation Operations Abroad

As said, the backlash from the 2013 revelations led the Merkel government to announce the end of migrant interrogations on German soil. As we have just seen, that is a lie, but that is not the interesting aspect here. What is interesting is to explore further the existing – and increasing – role of the BND in interrogating migrants and refugees abroad.

According to numerous informed sources, this program is being driven by the personal determination and operating philosophy of BND President Gerhard Schindler. In government hearings, he has stated that the BND has transferred interrogation operations abroad.

The German intelligence expert notes that the BND “possibly questions refugees in Greece undercover,” but was less sure about cooperation in such cases between the BND and the Greek National Intelligence Service (NIS), which if it has any sense of responsibility would be the lead actor on its home turf.

But other sources confirmed information for that goes much further, attesting that the BND currently has a vast network of undercover interrogation operations, everywhere from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt and Eritrea.

“After they learned the size of the risk,” says the European intelligence officer, “the BND started to infiltrate most NGOs in Greece and Turkey, and other places, involved in any aspect of migration. They use everyone from exchange students to anarchists to deputy directors of major charities.”

Similarly, the Zeit investigation also stated that “BND spies and secret service agents were conveniently with the UNHCR.” Other sources support this assertion, and suggest looking at “deputy director or similar assistant positions where the BND hides their people, with less chance of being spotted.”

Throughout the migration crisis, many NGOs and related advocates on the ground have either been German or backed by Germans. (The British and Dutch are also well-represented among the migration enablers). According to several sources, the vast, Germany-based ‘Welcome to Europe’ network – famous for providing specialized ‘travel guides’ to migrants – has been infiltrated by the BND since late August.

W2EU is just one of many such organizations. But the BND infiltration is doubly beneficial and – again, keeping in mind the above specified directorates – is very useful for finding other practical information. This is because on the Turkey-Greece route, migration overlaps with nearly everything: terrorism, all kinds of organized crime, political factions such as violent anarchists and left-wing terrorists, social movements, right-wing extremists, and foreign governmental influences. The migration issue thus provides a perfect way for the BND, and other services like it, to trawl for information on a host of important issues.

Behind the BND Investigation of Russian Influence in Greece: the Siege at the Macedonian Border

As stated above, the new BND task force on Russian influence has political aspects. sources indicate that Angela Merkel, chronically misinformed by Christoph Heusgen and other top advisors, believed that a closure of the Balkan Route would convince migrants to stay in Turkey, from where they would be flown to Germany. That typical German logic did not turn out to be correct, however, as Greece remains flooded with migrants (over 130,000 since January alone).

Now, a Greek decision has been made to mass 100,000 migrants on the Macedonian border, as a protracted siege meant to break the border. The situation is highly volatile, but the Macedonians seem unworried. At the same time, Bulgaria and Albania have sent troops to their borders, as they fear Greece will expand the siege and destabilize these two countries- which unlike Macedonia, are NATO members.

Merkel’s early February negotiations with Erdoğan and Tsipras were overshadowed, however, by less welcome news that partly led the BND to spring into action. Since then, they have been horrified to learn that key pro-Russian leaders in the Greek government are working, much to the pleasure of Moscow, on flooding the northern borders with up to 100,000 migrants.

The Greek gamble is that the EU and Germany will ‘protect’ Greece, and thus not force whatever massed migrants accumulate to return to Athens or go elsewhere. For Russia, the prospect of seeing Greece continue towards explosion, and even a violent migrant breakthrough of Balkan borders that would destabilize Europe, is highly appealing in the present geopolitical climate.

Greek police have repeatedly allowed migrants to attack Macedonian border fences, without intervening. And every day, Greek authorities continue to bus thousands northward. The military is building migrant camps for 20,000 people just south of Lake Dojran, which it shares with Macedonia. Russian media has intensified its presence in Greece, and particularly now in the Idomeni-Gevgelija border area, and will continue to broadcast the unrest as part of the hybrid war with Brussels and Berlin.

The two major Greek officials associated with the ‘break the borders’ policy are the defense minister, Panos Kammenos, and Nikos Kotsias, the foreign minister. The former’s right-wing Independent Greeks party was not given control of the interior ministry following its coalition with Syriza, but it did receive significant control at the sub-ministry level of the northern borders. This means Greek police along Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania are under Kammenos’ indirect control.

Nikos Kotzias, on the other hand, is a well-known leftist who was nominated by Tsipras and Syriza to head the foreign ministry. The thing that both officials have in common is a special connection with Russia- as German media has documented, and as the BND is intently working on investigating now.

Independently, our sources confirm that psychology played a role in the Russian selection process: “Kammenos is a not too bright nationalist who wants to be respected as a ‘tough guy,’ and Kotzias is a typical Syriza intellectual with big theories he wants to be recognized for,” says one Greek analyst for “The Russians were easily able to exploit these weaknesses.”

Russian Influence in Greece: The Zeit Online Investigation

The media definitely influences intelligence targeting, and for this reason it is relevant to mention a high-profile case that put certain prominent Russian and Greek figures on the BND’s radar. It is not clear exactly how this case influenced the direction of operations, but it is likely that it had an effect and also provoked the conditions for Russia to redevelop and expand its intelligence network in Greece.

This occurred with another Zeit Online investigation. The February 7, 2015 report claimed that Syriza and Independent Greeks had long been courted by Russian ideological leaders, diplomats and businessmen.

The report depended on 700 emails of a former Russian embassy official in Athens, Georgy Gavrish, sent from May 2010 through November 2014 (a year after Gavrish had returned to Russia). They had allegedly been hacked in December 2014 by an anti-Russian cyber group. Zeit Online began with a list of wedding guests that Bulgarian pro-Ukraine activist Christo Grozev uploaded here. The fall 2014 wedding of two Greek aristocrats happened in Moscow, because the best man – Russian tycoon Konstantin Malofeyev – was prevented from entering the EU due to his alleged support for Russian separatists in Ukraine. The first guest on the list was Panos Kammenos. has independently confirmed that Malofeyev is considered a particularly important supporter of the ‘break the borders’ stratagem now being undertaken by Kammenos and Kotzias on the Macedonian border. Because of his perceived past involvement in Ukraine and Crimea, this interest has raised alarms among the Americans.

Zeit Online claimed that Gavrish was connected with Malofeyev, who is also a strong supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church (which will be prominent at a historic pan-Orthodox synod in Crete this June) and that he “belongs to the inner circle of the Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin, a proponent of neo-Eurasianism.”

Zeit Online further relates Dugin to Greek journalist Dimitris Konstantakopoulos (who wrote this refutation to the newspaper). Additionally mentioned is Greek intellectual Nikos Laos, reportedly “also a partner at R-Techno, a Russian private-security firm. Its founder, Roman Romachev, worked for the Russia domestic intelligence agency FSB between 1997 and 2002, where he was in charge of counterintelligence.”

More important is the connection to Nikos Kotzias who, “while still a professor at the University of Piraeus, commissioned several studies that were supposed to investigate the Greek population’s stance toward Russia. From the hacked emails, it emerges that Kotzias personally passed on the results of these studies to Gavrish in June 2013.”

According to the report, Kotzias wrote that “Russia is a potential military and economic ally that [the Greek people] respect and appear to know relatively well.” Further, he adds, “many Greeks have been let down by their traditional allies and have consequently turned toward Russia.” While a Greek MFA spokesman responded to Zeit Online that Kotzias had not been in contact with Dugin, “the trove of leaked emails also includes a group photograph, apparently taken in Greece, showing Kotzias with Dugin and other individuals,” the report concludes.

According to Zeit Online, the Kammenos-Russia connection was also strong. Well before the 2015 elections, “an organisation called ‘Centre for Strategic Research’ and managed by Kammenos signed a long-term cooperation with the Russian Centre for Strategic Research.” According to the German report, the latter is “a structure of the FSB chaired by a Major General of KGB-FSB.”

BND Targets in Greece: Russian

In addition to the personalities listed in the Zeit Online article, can confirm other targets of the BND in the present and future period. They involve Russian diplomats, Russian cultural centers, publications, businesses and other persons, as well as Greek officials and businessmen.

Russia has one of the biggest diplomatic presences in Greece, with some 58 accredited diplomats. By comparison, the US has 72 diplomats in Athens, and Germany, only 27. The size of the mission, compounded by Russia’s continual network development in the post-Gavrish period, has left an ongoing challenge for both America and Germany.

While no specific names are being given, an intelligence officer from one of these allied countries states that “they have very recently officially brought in one guy under diplomatic cover, who had been active with a lot of local contacts in Greece over many years while in other functions…. Another person of interest for the BND is one relatively new third secretary who the Bulgarians used to cover for them. That’s all I will say.”

Among media outlets being watched are the Greek Russian-language newspaper Afinskiy Kurer (Athens Courier) and its staff. Also under German watch is the Pushkin Institute in Athens, the embassy-affiliated Russian Centre of Science and Culture, and Russia’s international cooperation agency.

BND Targets in Greece: Greek

The BND, under “man of action” President Schindler, is using its established HUMINT networks, which have been bolstered by assets gained during the migrant crisis. These include left-wing activists who have ties with both the migration cause, the Syriza party, and more radical left entities. But it is also investigating right-wing, pro-Russian groups as well.

On the Greek side, a major BND target after Kammenos, Kotzias and their close associates, is Evangelos Kalpadakis, Diplomatic Adviser to Prime Minister Tsipras. Intelligence made available to suggests that Kalpadakis played the central role in keeping Merkel in the dark about the possibilities of chaos on the Macedonian border, while working closely with Kotsias, Kammenos and Malofeyev to create conditions for ‘breaking the border’ with 100,000 migrants.

The BND is also assessing the outcome of a meeting held in mid-February between Kammenos and Aleksey Pushkov, head of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee. Two other persons of interest also involved were the speaker of parliament, Nikos Voutsis and Konstantinos Douzinas, chairman of the Greek parliament’s international committee.

Within Kammenos’ Independent Greeks party, the main focus of German interest is Gavriil Avramidis, an MP from Thessaloniki with longtime activities in the Pontic Greek communities, and various groups for Greek-Russian cooperation.

German spies have been also interested in Nikolaos Meletiou, the mayor of Aspropyrgos. This town north of Athens in early 2015 announced planned cooperation with Feodosia in Crimea, with plans for its Attica TV to broadcast an increasing number of Russian programs and movies.

German ‘Soft Power’ in Greece as a Means for Intelligence Activity

The BND also benefits from Germany’s long-existing ‘soft power’ networks in Greece. Some will be used in addition to official BND staff and pick-ups from the migrant-related operations. These include politically-affiliated NGOs and foundations, educational institutes and schools; honorary consulates and trade cooperation chambers, as well as private businesses.

It is also possible that, in terms of long-term logistical necessities involving migrants, the investment by Germany’s Fraport (in December 2015) in 14 regional airports can be useful for emergency migrant removal in the more remote areas, thus meaning they don’t all need to return to Athens.

The context for building ‘soft power’ had little to do with either migrants or Russia, however. Merkel in recent years sought funding for foundations to improve the image of Germany among Greeks, and amplify political influence. The BND is no doubt not far behind. Back in 2012, she agreed with Papandreou to open six major German foundations linked to German political parties. The German Bundestag allocated 5 million euros for their activities, during the period 2012-2015.

The largest is the center-right Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which works with the upper-echelon Greek institutes and universities. In 2014, they held an event on the dangers of Russia. But the German foundations run the gamut, for example, also represented is the (Green Party-linked) Heinrich Boll Stiftung. This presents a good counterintelligence option for the BND, considering that the Greens have been most active in the Bundestag on anti-BND inquiries, which are broadly in the Russian interest, and thus any contacts between Greens and Russians in Greece would be key information for the BND. Of significance in another way is the far-left Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung (associated with DIE LINKE) which helps get Germans in touch with the most migrant-friendly persons and groups in Greek society.

The CSU-linked Hanns Seidel Zeitung and the Social Democrats- linked Friedrich Ebert Stiftung have also been represented in Greece since 2012 under the Merkel-Papandreou agreement. The FES is of interest to the BND because its local director, Christos Katsioulis because he spent five years in FES-Brussels as an expert on foreign and security policy.

Also important is the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (associated with the FDP party in Germany), because its program manager, Markus Kaiser. Between 2007 and 2011 was personal assistant of Werner Hoyer, who was first the deputy group leader of the FDP and then State Minister in the German Foreign Office. The group arranges regular events of interest to the BND. Of less importance to the BND is the left-wing Heinrich Böll Stiftung, though its location in Thessaloniki is useful for contacts with the pro-migrant left very active in that city; the foundation has been active in pro-migrant legislation proposals.

Conclusions: BND Results in the Months Ahead

The foregoing analysis and revelations indicate that the German intelligence service, driven by a capable and demanding leader, is frantically trying to make up for the Merkel government’s political failure, and to forestall migrant-related risks.

These risks include internal security threats from migrants, and a dangerous potential Greek-Russian attempt to break Europe’s southern borders by amassing 100,000 migrants on the border. The fulfillment of either scenario would be disastrous for Germany, and the entire European project.

Further, the Greek plan is self-defeating, as no matter how many migrants they choose to send north, more will keep coming. The open-door policy, and Turkish position of strength at the access point, indicates that Greece cannot expect to have sovereignty over its own territory. The only thing that can be done is to keep the bleeding from spreading while European officials rush to find a solution at the source of the inflows.

Until that time, and well beyond it, we can expect the BND to use the migration crisis to expand its HUMINT resources throughout the Eurasian and African theaters of operation. This, more than any political agreements, may in 5-10 years, help Germany regain its desired status as a world leader.


Potential for Convergence of Anarchist and Migration Activist Interests in Greece

By Chris Deliso

Greek authorities are trying to prepare for possible violent altercations planned by local anarchists in collaboration with economic migrants and their supporters from other countries, as the tightening of border controls in Macedonia, and a somewhat more determined EU policy, has forced an abrupt u-turn in the chronically passive policy of Greek authorities towards migrant outflows.

However, the divisions within the ruling Syriza party and competing groups within the security structures, combined with the fluid migrant situation and the unpredictability of the anarchists themselves is making it difficult to know whether planned violence will actually materialize, and how.

Situational Assessment: A Changed Dynamic

This is a fight anarchist groups have been looking forward to for our over three months. As the following analysis will show, concerted and long-term preparation, made together with international ‘comrades’ and pro-migrant groups, has gone in to preparing for ‘direct action’ at the time of most acute pressure on the authorities.

That time has come. With the restriction on economic migrants by Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia since 18 November angering migrants and their supporters, and the EU increasing pressure on Greece to deal with the situation, symbols of alleged anti-migrant forces (such as the expanded Frontex operation on the Greek-Macedonian border) provide tempting targets for symbolic attacks. It cannot be excluded that further, and more violent attempts will be made to breach the border, as first happened when Macedonian police and army were attacked by migrants- first in summer, and more recently while trying to build a protective fence.

At that time, the Greek police stayed out of the way and Frontex had not yet arrived. Now that Greek authorities are starting to take a more active approach, however, arresting migrants who refuse to leave the border while bussing back scores of them to Athens, they (and not their Macedonian peers) represent the initial target.

While even the most spectacular attack would not affect a Macedonian side that is soon to be supplemented by police from several Balkan and Central European countries, the issue within Greece is more sensitive.

Who Are the Anarchists?

Roughly 90 percent of Greek anarchists are non-violent, though many are less than open with outsiders. The younger ones could be mistaken for college students seeking a cause and championing a certain style in outerwear. Like members of any other movement, anarchists are most fundamentally people who seek their full personal realization in being part of a group.

In Greece, most self-proclaimed ‘anarchists’ seldom engage in any more anarchic behavior than discussing leftist ideas at a local café, handing out leaflets or going to the occasional protest or concert. Of course, there are others – the 10 percent – who are the mobilizers, some of whom are more violent; their behavior sustains the image factor that makes it ‘cool’ to call oneself an anarchist in the first place.

As in general Greek society, there is a tendency towards cliquishness and a sense of superiority over other groups (and society at large). But many anarchists are involved in genuinely good and benign causes such as caring for the poor, animals, the environment or combating drug dealing in communities like Exarcheia in Athens- where ironically, other anarchists are involved in narcotics consumption and possibly distribution. Their ideas tend to sound good on paper but be rather impractical. There are some exceptions, of course, such as the community health clinic run in the K-Vox basement in Athens, visited recently by Al Jazeera.

Anarchism’s Deep Ideological Roots

Greek anarchism has existed since the 1860s and has always had close ties with movements elsewhere in Europe. In its modern incarnation, it looks back to the leftist student movement against the 1968-74 military junta, and the seminal moment of the police attack on the occupied Polytechneion in Athens on November 17, 1973, the symbolic date for which the country’s most famous terrorist group was later named. (The best study of this and similar groups is John Brady Kiesling’s Greek Urban Warriors: Resistance and Terrorism, 1967-2014, which we have reviewed here). Unlike terrorists in the modern sense, 17 November’s ambitions were rather modest: they saw a utopia of self-managed factory workers as the ideal remedy for Greece’s problems. While the group (which was unraveled in 2002) embraced other causes in its later years, like environmentalism, violence associated with Greek anarchism in the years since have not become as radical or as indiscriminate as in Western countries.

Greek anarchism thus has a long and colorful history that makes its worldview and ideologies very specific to the country’s collective experience. This sometimes makes it difficult for Greek and foreign anarchists to truly understand one another; only the vaguest and most general definitions of ideological concepts are mutually shared. Greek anarchists are less effective than they could be, since most do not view their ideology outside of its native context, or they assume that foreign anarchists understand concepts within the specifically Greek experience and context.

Greek anarchist thought is thus characterized by a tendency towards rigid and dogmatic ideology garnered from the Greek experience, and at the same time, a need to find meaningful expression in connection with a larger global movement. This also means that causes can nevertheless shift to match the evolving situation, whether it be economic controversies, wars, or geopolitical issues. This also exacerbates the characteristic of all Greek leftist movements to be internally fractious and devoted to a very few issues specifically, others more generally or not at all.

Paradoxes of Anarchy, the ‘Armed Struggle’ and Greek Society

Amusingly, the very dogmatism of Greek anarchists (and leftists in general) makes them the mirror image of conservative Greek dogmatism, which has been famously attested since the days of the Byzantine churchmen. And, with their fixation on commemorating symbolic anniversaries, Greek anarchists practice the same kind of ritualistic behavior as do Greek conservatives. Only the particular anniversaries and methods of commemoration differ. Similarly, Greeks of all ideologies (and none) enjoy a certain pace of lifestyle that makes mutual tolerance – all rhetoric aside – much easier than in the Western world, where alienation between left and right is much more severe. Thus few people mind things such as student occupations of university buildings and occasional victimless attacks on banks and government offices; it comes with the territory.

It is thus important to note that even the most extreme proponents of the ‘armed struggle’ – such as the infamous terrorist group 17 November – were very risk-averse. They chose their targets for assassination very carefully, and on the few occasions in which a non-targeted individual was killed or injured, the groups were genuinely shaken. This again derives from the social mores of a country where violence against the general citizenry is not supported.

Thus any group wishing to gain support for its ideology had (and has) to be careful about its targeting. This also explains why through today the most prevalent form of anarchist and other leftist violence consists of attacks against symbolic structures representing ‘Western capitalism’ and ‘government authorities’ after they have closed and emptied for the night.

In fact, it was only the current Greek economic and financial crisis, and now the migration one, that have given the movement a new and more violent impetus. Still, unlike the old days, assassination attempts are less frequent, and extremist groups have been more easily rounded up in recent years. Experts like Kiesling, a former US diplomat in Athens who was present during the 17 November trials, do not believe any armed militant cell in Greece can last for very long undetected. Improved policing, the march of technology and surveillance, less dedication to ideological ‘progress,’ and less tactical patience mean that groups are less professional than they once were. This also means that contemporary leftist violence is more sporadic and unpredictable. (For chronologically documented examples of left-wing violence in the post-17 November world, see our 2013 article here).

Current Common Ideology

At present, it can be said that most anarchists share a communist-libertarian ideology, modified to fit in the modern context of globalization marked by neoliberal capitalism and the advancement of surveillance technologies. The ideal society, for Greek anarchists, would be “non-hierarchical” social organization based on local and decentralized authority, consensual decision making, and a common understanding of “solidarity.” Anarchist groups refer to themselves as “autonomous groups” who are in natural opposition to the “authorities.” It is not specified what place such a society would allow for people who do not agree with this order.

The adaptable nature of Greek anarchy means that small groups concentrate on specific issues with fellow travelers from abroad. For example, those troubled by fascism in Ukrainian nationalist structures might be drawn to Ukrainian (tacitly, pro-Russian) networks in the ‘Free Donbass’ movement, whereas others might liaise with Turkish anarchists when both support Kurdish Communist fighters in Syria. Cooperation with Western European and North American activists often centers on the anti-capitalism and anti-surveillance movements, while localized historic Communist struggles (as in Latin America) provided common cause for other groups.

While this means that not all Greek anarchist groups share the same pet causes, it does mean there is a general overlapping worldview that can provide a united interest in certain causes. In 2015 and beyond, that cause is migration.

Origins of the Current Migration Interest

The 2015 migration crisis came as a boon for anarchist groups, which found common cause with similar activists across Europe: supporting migrants has been commonly understood as a fight against ‘racism.’ According to them, anyone who does not support mass uncontrolled migration must be inherently racist; these groups have developed very critical attitudes towards the Greek and European handling of the crisis, which represents a casus belli for ‘direct action.’

Perceiving the issue through Greek eyes, charges of racism automatically lead to charges of fascism, as personified by the presence of the far-right Golden Dawn in parliament- the arch-enemies of the anarchist movement. Moving on from this is the anarchists’ (sometimes true) perception that Golden Dawn enjoys tacit support from members of the Greek army and police. For there, it is a natural leap for anarchists to then regard the latter as key executors of an alleged racist-fascist plot against helpless migrants.

All of this ignores the fact that most migrants see Greece as a mere jumping-off point on a longer trip to Europe, And, while grateful for support, these people are largely not interested in anarchist anti-capitalist ideology- rather, they are seeking to get to the European capitalist countries as soon as possible. The anarchist view on migration also conveniently ignores – as do almost all European leftist movements and even governments – the fact that persons from conservative Muslim countries do not agree with anarchists on such celebrated issues as gay rights and the place of women in society. But in the pick-and-choose ideological basket that is Greek anarchism, these paradoxes can be overlooked.

The year 2015 in Greece has seen a wider cooperation between anarchists, pro-migrant NGOs and the migrants themselves. As anarchists are by definition alienated from all political options and largely atheist, the basis of their morality is rooted in the ideology of left-wing ‘comrades’ fighting for the common good of society, as they see it. As is the same case with the wider European left in post-Christian Europe, one’s attitude to migration is fundamentally perceived as a test of one’s orientation towards human rights – rather than, say, a logistical issue – and thus a test of one’s humanity. For the many activists and anarchists who have flocked to different spots along the migrant route to lend assistance, combat authorities or simply take pictures, the migrant crisis has offered an opportunity that daily life does not, the chance to bask in their own morality.

While many in the anarchist community take part in simple humanitarian actions, such as collecting items for refugees, food, or providing language or medical help, the hardcore activists see migration as a new issue for mobilization whereby the can expand their power and bragging rights. It should not be forgotten that Greek anarchism is a competitive game, and the person or group enjoying the greatest street cred is the one most in the press. And the fastest and surest way to get into the press is by committing violent acts.

This pattern is considered more likely because of the current atmosphere of tension created, through focus on the other major issues of loaded anniversaries and jailed activists.

Recent Events and Commemorations

Late autumn/winter are always high points on the anarchist calendar, as this is the period both when they are back from vacation and government is back in session, and when several potent anniversaries occur. Following the 17 November Polytechneion Uprising anniversary, there is a more recent addition to the calendar, the 6 December anniversary of the killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a policeman in 2008. As such, anarchist mobilization in Exarcheia last Saturday night continued into clashes with the police on Sunday, following a 3,000-strong demonstration on Syntagma Square against police violence.

This year’s commemoration season has been supercharged, however, as it “was preceded by a statement issued by Grigoropoulos’ friend, Nikos Romanos, who is in jail for armed robbery he committed to finance his anarchist group,” reported Kathimerini. According to the paper, “Romanos called all anarchists to declare war against the state and middle class, in what he called a ‘Black December’ of ‘blood and fire.’”

In fact, Romanos co-authored the text with jailed comrade Panagiotis Argyrou, member of terrorist group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire. “Let’s smash the windows of department stores, occupy schools, universities and city halls, let’s distribute texts that spread the message of rebellion, blow up fascists and bosses,” they urged, as Greek Reporter relayed. The message had been initially announced on the Athens Indymedia website, a leading anarchist platform.

This platform also releases broadsides from other jailed comrades, most notably the Revolutionary Struggle leader Nikos Maziotis. Indeed, an event that helped add fuel to the fire in the lead-up to this season of commemorations was the beginning of Maziotis trial on 16 October. According to Kathimerini, Maziotis would be tried “for a series of crimes he is alleged to have committed while on the run from authorities between the summer of 2012 and the summer of 2014 after violating the terms of a prison furlough.” However, as is also the case with Conspiracy of Cells of Fire and 17 November, as we will see, associated members of this left-wing guerrilla group remain at large.

While in jail, Maziotis has become a political commentator, stating earlier this year that Revolutionary Struggle had expected, one year before Syriza took power, that the party would betray its radical roots and be exploited by “neoliberal” Western capitalists. This is not a particularly radical observation, and most people would agree that this is what has happened. But the conflation of logical observations with radical violence is an interesting aspect that further gives anarchists and militants some amount of cultural acceptance, or at least an understanding of their position and right to comment about society.

Specific Strategy Development

Long before the recent turbulent events, a strategy was being developed for incorporating migration into the overall anarchist portfolio in Greece and the wider Balkans. The interactions of such persons and groups, and subsequent network development since the beginning of the year, propelled the movement forward. Strategy was developed further at a series of meetings and events in mid-October, during which time a plan for assisting migration and resisting authorities along the Balkan route was decided.

These included an anti-racism event in Athens and several meetings in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras and Crete. A “Balkan Anarchist Meeting” was organized in Thessaloniki by the 3Gefires (Three Bridges) movement between 11-14 October, which attracted participation from Greek, Balkan and other European anarchists. These included members of the “No Borders” movement from Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria, as well as other representatives of the anti-fascist and pro-migrant cause from Romania, Slovenia, Macedonia and so on. It took part under the auspices of a nationwide “Mediterranean Anarchist Meeting” from 9-18 October.

One proposal from these meetings was that those “autonomous groups” possessing squats or other free space would take in migrants when the weather got colder. Since last week, when the Greek police finally started to take action on the Macedonian border, some 80-100 migrants have been resettled by anarchists in squats in Thessaloniki, while others have gone to Athens. In Thessaloniki, relatively more anarchist resources can be allocated to migration-related logistics, since the need to counter Golden Dawn is much lower in this liberal society. In fact, according to one anarchist at the Kinimatorama squat, “they are afraid to enter the city center, because they know we can instantly mobilize our friends and beat them up.”

Another proposal mentioned during the events was that, in the case of border restrictions, anarchists in the relevant countries should take part in violent protests at the borders, and abet migrants seeking to travel further or find shelter. The capacities for this have since been assessed as highest in Greece and southern Serbia. Other countries, like Macedonia, have insignificant anarchist communities tainted by perceived leftist political party relations. Other countries do not have much ‘traffic’ in terms of migrant flow. However, the Macedonian government’s restriction on economic migrants since 19 November is bound to make the flow go in a different way, with Bulgaria the likeliest recipient of new migrant groups. Therefore, we can expect a larger role for Bulgarian anarchists and their Greek colleagues in Drama and Xanthi particularly.

However, there is a problem for the anarchist groups. While they would like to use the migration issue to foment discontent with the larger system, a non-affiliated structure of more ordinary citizens and NGOs has been active in refugee relief, for example the Oikopolis NGO in Thessaloniki and the related grassroots “Refugee Solidarity Movement Thessaloniki-Eidomeni,” connected with the large German donation solicitor Since anarchist groups for ideological and logistic reasons do not have capacity or interest to do significant refugee relief services, they can only have impact in the militant aspect, if at all.

The convergence of the radical left and pro-migrant groups was seen a week before the Thessaloniki events, during an “anti-racism anti-fascism” day of activities in Athens that brought together anarchists, left-wing personalities, and representatives of ethnic groups in the country that champion migrant rights.

Organized by KEERFA (the ‘United Movement against Racism and the Fascist Threat’), it featured speeches by esteemed figures in the general movement, the most important being the group’s coordinator, Petros Konstantinou, and the head of the Pakistani community in Greece, Javed Aslam. Sprinkled among the events were representatives of other ethnic communities, pro-migrant groups from Western European countries, politicians, lawyers in court cases against Golden Dawn members and more.

To understand the future convergence of anarchist/leftist and migrant causes in Greece, it is necessary again to understand the common worldview which brings both together, despite the diametrically opposing beliefs on other liberal causes.

An example was the previous year’s anti-racism event in July. As is always the case with such events, there is a lighter side (ethno-music, traditional cookery and children’s activities) that draws in casual observers, as well as political overlap and a harder core of activists. Some have interesting connections to the established militant scene. Thus an eclectic range of causes and personalities are gathered, ranging from Afghan traditional music and Syriza’s youth wing to cleaners for the finance ministry, trade unionists, and experts on the ‘global economic dictatorship.’

For the present assessment, most are insignificant for future mobilization, but rather just ideological sympathizers who can provide numbers for protests and communications networks for publicizing wider causes across the country (and world). But there is a certain overlap with those more sympathetic to the ‘armed struggle.’ For instance, the July 2014 panel on “citizenship, political, social and religious rights of economic and political refugees in Greece” was led by human rights lawyer Gianna Kourtovik- the longtime lawyer for 17 November’s most famous founding member, Dimitris Koufodinas. When the latter (who has written a controversial autobiography about his role) turned himself in to police in 2002, he stated that he “accepted political responsibility” for 17 November’s attacks.

This is the blueprint by which Greek anarchist perception works: comrades accused of violent acts claim to have acted out of political motivations, and thus are political prisoners, after which the full weight of the sub-culture swings into action, from students handing out leaflets in Syntagma Square to punk concerts that collect money for relatives of incarcerated ‘political prisoners’ to high-level NGOs, lawyers and academics.

Anarchist Mobilization and Migration

Migration has led and will increasingly lead to more violent incidents between anarchists and a wide range of targets. On 25 November, one of the best-known anarchist squads in Athens, Rouvikonas (Rubicon) entered the grounds of the German ambassador’s home in Halandri, northern Athens, “to express solidarity with refugees,” reported Kathimerini. This choice of target would seem strange to Germans and others who are angry with the Merkel government for the exact opposite reason- its invitation for migrants and refugees to come in the first place.

Apparently, “protesters climbed over the fence surrounding the residence and scattered fliers featuring slogans supporting refugees. They also raised a banner calling for solidarity with refugees and condemning European leaders’ response to the crisis, accusing them of ‘Orwellian propaganda’ for using terms such as “hotspots’ and ‘reception centers.’” Seven arrests were made.

In September, Rouvikonas had previously conducted ‘direct action’ when it went into the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED). There, according to Kathimerini, it “entered the organization’s offices, where they destroyed computers, printers and other items.” In the usual benevolent anarchist style, the building’s guards were “restrained,” not killed. The group struck again on 30 November, when it occupied the Italian Consulate in Athens, in protest against the extradition of five Greek students to Italy, regarding the latter’s involvement in protests at Milan’s No Expo May Day strike on 1 May. Again the motivation for this occupation was social justice; the group claimed that the students had been detained and released without charge and were being unfairly dealt with through the pan-European arrest warrant system.

After the Paris attacks of 13 November, the trend towards increasing ties between police in various European countries and reliance on international police cooperation is going to put more anarchists (and related parties) in the crosshairs of law enforcement, thus raising the likelihood of similar incidents in retribution.

Anarchists have in fact started to mobilize for protests against border fences, calling for a world of ‘no borders.’ For example, on 31 October another group, Kiathess in Thessaloniki, organized a trip to Evros on the Turkish border, to protest the fence that has been there for several years. That fence has been so successful that it led to the dramatic surge in sea crossings this year. In the anarchist worldview, Greece, Frontex and the EU are thereby guilty of the deaths of migrants crossing by sea due to their defense of land borders.

In this context, it is not unlikely that anarchist and other activist groups will seek to make symbolic and perhaps physical protests against other border fences, such as in Macedonia (and we predict a new fence) in Bulgaria as well.

Anarchist Views of Politicians and the Big Picture: Troubles for Syriza and the Greek Leadership

Although many of the ideals championed by anarchists trickled up to the development of Syriza, once Alexis Tsipras came to power in early 2015, the anarchists instantly became a headache for him. While in opposition it had been easy to criticize alleged police brutality, once in government Syriza was responsible for enforcing public safety- from people who had been among its left platform’s original supporters.

Furthermore, right-wing coalition partner Panos Kammenos of the Independent Greeks (ANEL) pressed for a sub-ministerial role in control of the police at northern borders. Currently, in the second Tsipras government, the interior ministry is led by a former Pasok insider, Panagiotis Kouroumplis. This has reactivated old Pasok intelligence networks and created an intriguingly complex internal situation for an already divided government.

Further complicating the situation for Greek politicians is new intelligence received by, about the role of the Orthodox Church towards migration. Sources indicate that church representatives have privately warned all MPs representing the Macedonia and Thrace border regions that they should not expect support from the influential Church lobby in the next elections if they do anything to promote a pro-migrant policy. Further complicating this issue is that while these regions are administered by the Greek Orthodox Church, they are technically directly under the Ecumenical Patriarchate (in Istanbul). While the order to MPs is not commonly known, it will have a subtle effect on how the issue is handled.

On the higher level, Greece’s ability to negotiate its own policy on the EU level in recent months has reportedly been compromised by the blocking power of Dimitris Avramopoulos, the powerful Home Affairs commissioner (nominated by Tsipras’ conservative rival, Antonis Samaras, who supported Jean-Claude Juncker’s bid for leading the Commission). According to one official who took part in recent negotiations between the EU, Greece and Balkan route countries, “Avramopoulos’ representative personally changed the wording in Greek government proposals on the paper… so it is reasonable to consider whether Greeks in Brussels or in Athens are actually in control of Greek policy.” Avramopoulos, it should be remembered, has great influence over the funding decisions that can make or break Greek government capacities to deal with migration.

The refugee and migrant issue has been problematic for Tsipras since the beginning of his tenure, and his party’s past in revolutionary politics as well. In fact, in early March some 50 anarchists associated with Rouvikonas invaded Syriza’s headquarters as party spokeswoman Rania Svingou was concluding an interview. They were protesting against the government’s failure to make progress on a law for clemency that would benefit comrades in jail.

In the invisible hierarchy of the ostensibly non-hierarchical anarchist milieu, comrades in jail have always enjoyed a certain level of reverence, irrespective of how they got there. This goes back to the earliest days of the movement. In addition to written calls to action, convicted anarchists tend to go on hunger strike (as Romanos did in 2014, in order to gain furlough for study). Media outlets such as Athens Indymedia frequently broadcast the missives of such people, as with the recent hunger strike of 150 inmates at Korydallos Prison’s hospital. They have complained of poor conditions and specified the non-implementation of the law that Syriza passed a month after the occupation, under Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos. It envisioned the release of inmates suffering from serious illness.

This is an important case because this prison care issue has revolutionary overtones. In October 2014, the lawyers of convicted 17 November member Savvas Xiros appealed for his house release, as he had multiple sclerosis and other health issues. After the government changed, a law (passed on April 20, 2015) allowing for “the compassionate release of elderly and severely disabled inmates” was passed, according to the Wall Street Journal. It was the new Syriza government’s answer to its left-wing base, but it also severely angered American and British diplomats who recalled the victims of the group’s many attacks. It thus became one of those no-win issues that alienated the government from important foreign powers at a time when strains were already showing inside Syriza due to differing approaches to the Troika and financial issues.

As is well known, Syriza is already fractured and divided into different wings, and in coalition with the right-wing ANEL. Analysts have often said the two parties only agreed on anti-austerity and financial ideology. Yet neither would like to take a hard stance on migration either, as it goes against the leftist views that oppose restrictions on freedom of movement, while also going against conservative views of migrants as a domestic security threat.

The result is a no-win situation for Greece. Tsipras’ attempts to show that the situation is under control have only increased skepticism among anarchists and worsened relations with other countries. For example, in advance of Tsipras’ 6 October visit to Lesvos with Austrian chancellor Werner Feymann, journalists on the island noted that special ships had arrived to rapidly remove thousands of migrants in a bid to make the government look better. This caused a sudden surge of migrants at the Macedonian border, where Greek police continued to have no communication with their Macedonian colleagues about arrival numbers and times. This kind of incident, which has occurred repeatedly throughout the year, definitely influenced Macedonia’s decision to restrict inflows and to build a border fence late in November.

Current Expectations

Now, the following months of protests against austerity measures are going to weaken the government’s hold even more. Even before the most recent developments, intelligence sources indicated that the anarchists are not happy with Tsipras for several reasons in addition to the delayed prison clemency law; one was a promise he apparently made to them before coming to power, about reopening certain anarchist squats in Athens and Thessaloniki that had been closed during the police’s comprehensive sweep in 2013. It is less likely than ever that this will happen in the current situation, and that police conflict with anarchists will increase over the latter’s expected increased use of such buildings to house migrants.

All of the events of the past few months indicate that Greek anarchists, with their foreign comrades, are preparing to enter a new phase of activities in the migration battle. Knowing that they cannot compete with larger groups (or even local grassroots groups) in refugee relief, their self-appointed role is going to be the one of protests, rallies and even attacks against state infrastructure connected with migration and justice. Frontex, which is establishing a presence on the northern border with Macedonia, could also become an attractive target.

Already, indicators of anarchist behavior are emerging, as several stories on the leading Thessaloniki pro-migrant website Clandestina show. This group was also involved with the organization of the October events for creating a regional anarchist migration strategy with Balkan peers, and all of them with the somewhat opaque W2EU (Welcome to Europe) group that has been active on Lesvos and elsewhere during the crisis. On 1 December, a protest in Thessaloniki attended by roughly 1,000 people was called by various anarchists, demanding the right for migrants to cross the border.

Until Macedonia took charge of its national security on 19 November, together with Slovenia and Croatia, Greek authorities had largely been insulated from domestic pressure. They had done nothing to stop illegal crossings or interfere in migrant attacks against the Macedonian side which, like the Greek coalition’s worldview to the Troika, is oddly enough a response that benefits both sides for their own ideological reasons.

However, now that the migrant bubble has been restricted to the Greek side of the border – something that has taken both Athens and Brussels by complete surprise – the Greek government will be left to deal with the consequences, which will at some point lead to a convergence of activities between already interlinked anarchist and migrant activists.

Greek-Iranian Emerging Relations in the Post-Sanctions Era: an Overview editor’s note: following the expected lifting of sanctions on Iran, many world countries – including some Balkan ones – are looking to enhance political, economic and even security relations with the Islamic Republic. Here we examine the case of Greece, and some of the potential areas of expansion in bilateral relations between the two countries.

By Ioannis Michaletos

The Importance of Oil to the Bilateral Relationship

Oil remains a key sector where the lifting of sanctions will benefit the Greek-Iranian commercial relationship. Until 2012 and the start of renewed international sanctions on Teheran by the international community, including a hydrocarbons embargo, Greece was importing around 200,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran, being one of Iran’s best customers on a worldwide level.

The Greek refineries were importing the bulk of it, mainly due to the favorable open credit terms for up to six months that Iranian producers were providing, despite the “country risk” Greece was facing due to its mounting debt and the assorted problems that this entailed for the country.

The annual cost back in 2010-2012 for Greece was $5-6 billion paid to Iran, making this Mediterranean country of 11 million people one of the main suppliers of hard currency to Iran. The end of the Iranian imports and the demise of the Libyan production (which was happening at exactly the same time) forced Greek companies to increase supplies from Russia and Kazakhstan.

The past year has of course seen considerable turbulence in the price of oil globally which has numerous knock-on effects, diplomatically and commercially. But price fluctuation, while it can affect amounts, scale and profits, cannot by itself diminish the general importance of oil to the Greek relationship with Iran. In the strategic overview, the comeback of Iranian oil into the Greek market will be important.

Also, analysts should note that the semi-state company Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) owes money to Iran, and at some point the latter will surely ask to be paid back: the total debt ELPE owes Iran is around 200 million euros.

This debt could not be repaid previously, because of the financial embargo. Thus it is absolutely sure that Iran will make a comeback in Greece, mainly centered around its very lucrative and important hydrocarbons export sector.

Other Expected Areas of Bilateral Trade

Greek companies producing agricultural supplements and products should do well in the post-sanctions era, since Iran is a big agricultural market. Also likely to benefit will be island resorts catering to rich Iranian tourists, plus jewelry and precious stones dealers. The tobacco industry, marble, aluminum, and the pharmaceutical corporations can also see growth in Iran, which has demand due to the long-time embargo to many types of medicine products.

A Long and Eventful Relationship

In addition, the two countries and cultures share a colorful history, dating back to ancient Greece’s famous “Persian Wars,” the conquest of Asia by Alexander the Great, the subsequent “Hellenistic period” in the Bactrian Kingdom and the continuous wars between the Greco-Roman world and the Persian Kingdoms between the 1st and 4th centuries AD.

Later on, the Eastern Roman Empire waged substantial campaigns in the Mesopotamia region against the Persian Kingdom. This series of wars ended abruptly when the followers of Mohammed conquered the then-Persia and cut off the Byzantines from them. For centuries thereafter relations between the Greek world and the Persian one was indirect, via trade and cultural exchange. This was facilitated by the Ottomans, who absorbed elements of Persian cuisine, architecture, vocabulary and culture, and brought them to Greece.

In modern times, a small Greek community, currently not more than 100 people, was formed by Greek refugees escaping from Kemalist Turkey back in the early 1920’s. Unable to return to Greece they settled in Teheran and built the “Resurrection Church” near the center of the city.

Relations were considered good during the period of the Shah, but during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s, Athens supported Saddam Hussein’s war efforts, and bilateral diplomatic relations reached an historic low. However, from the mid-1990’s oil imports and commercial opportunities in the expanding Iranian market flourished. A new round of warm bilateral relations ensued, and at various occasions the Greek ministry of foreign affairs appeared to be attempting to mediate as an “honest broker” between Teheran and the international community, albeit with no tangible results.

Iranian Citizens in Greece during the Current Migrant Crisis

The current migration wave from the Middle East to Greece has brought more than 15,000 Iranian citizens into the country, most of them of Kurdish descent and traveling under illegal or semi-legal status.

On the other hand, some 2,000 Iranians reside legally in the country, many of them successful in trade and commerce. The impending lifting of sanctions has prompted Greece’s de facto national airline, Aegean Airlines, to start direct flights to Teheran, which has helped spur a new kind of “economic shuttle diplomacy” between prospective investors from the two states.

Greek Diplomatic Overtures to Iran during 2015

Further, throughout 2015 the Greek MFA actively tried to open up the Iranian market, while the first cousin of the recently-deposed Greek prime minister, named Giorgos Tsipras, tried unsuccessfully to request loans or credits from the Iranian national reserves.

Giorgos Tsipras was the general secretary of economic relations of the Greek MFA during his brother’s brief rule. The overture to Iran, which was also followed by a similar one to Venezuela, was part of Syriza’s failed strategy to exercise pressure on the EU and in particular Germany, regarding debt negotiations. This “multipolar participation” strategy represents a popular way of thinking among some of the academic-minded ‘experts’ who, for a few months at least, enjoyed some degree of political power.

Although this diplomacy was supposed to have been kept secret it was leaked to the media and also created negative attention. However, these overtures also had a subtle effect on Greek relations with Israel, which had been steadily forging closer ties with Athens during the governments of Samaras and his immediate predecessors. Greece’s new strategy to engage Iran thus has to take into account that Tel Aviv regards Iran as enemy-number-one, which in turn complicates the Greek-Israeli relationship.

The Hidden Side of Things: Projected Iranian Intelligence Activity in Greece

In security terms, the present cooperation between the two countries is at an almost non-existent level, a fact that most probably will change once all sanctions are lifted.

The reason to expect a closer security relationship is partly because Iran is a major transit zone for illegal migration flow that ends up in Greece via Turkey. Iran is as well as part of the famous Afghan heroin route towards the Balkans. Since both of these issues have both a national and EU importance for Greece, there are plenty of opportunities for police cooperation between the two states. In fact, it might be beneficial for certain European countries which do not want to risk their relationship with Israel to ‘outsource’ this liaison task to Greece- which is in any case the frontier country for the EU.

On the other hand, it is more than certain that Iran will be mostly interested in expanding its intelligence and counterintelligence reach in Greece. It will be keenly interested in increasing surveillance of the anti-regime Iranian diaspora community members who reside in Greece.

These number perhaps more than 500 people. In 2010, during repeated hunger strikes by anti-regime Iranian immigrants in Greece, surveillance of these people by the Iranian state apparatus was noted by Greek intelligence in Athens. In fact, this interference almost led to a diplomatic confrontation with the Greek side, but the issue was handled in discreetly and was defused.

Iran’s Future Ambitions: Protector of the Shia in Greece, and Beyond

Teheran is expected to be active in Athens not only diplomatically, commercially and for its own internal security purposes. Rather, it is increasingly clear that Teheran sees itself as the protector of not only the local Iranian community, but of all Shia adherents residing in Greece. This group in total possibly numbers more than 60,000 people.

Organizations such as the Pakistani Shia “Tehrik-e-Jafaria,” various Afghani Shia groups, Iraqi Shia, Lebanese, Yemenis, Indian and others are revolving their activities around the presence of Iran in Greece and the Balkans in general. In reality, Iran is not a nation-state, but a hub of a wider political-religion alliance which can be understood as the ‘Shia Axis,’ stretching from Latin America across to Indonesia, with more than 250 million adherents and allies.

Security Concerns about Iranian Affiliations in Greece

A WikiLeaks cable (November 2009, 09ATHENS1643-19) details a dialogue between then-Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis and then-US Ambassador Daniel Speckhard. The Greek official claimed that the notorious Greek terrorist group “Revolutionary Struggle” had links with Iran, and that some of its members were traveling to Lebanon and Iran.

During that period, the Greek newspaper Proto Thema reported that Greek terrorists were being trained in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, while back in 2007 US congressionally-funded research detailed that Hezbollah members are active in Athens and raise funds by tobacco smuggling. In January 2007 the US Embassy in Athens was hit by an RPG rocket launched by the Revolutionary Struggle group, which subsequently issued a proclamation. It concluded by expressing its support for Hezbollah’s struggle in Lebanon.

The Iranian bank “Saderat” has a branch in Athens which temporarily is closed for business due to international sanctions, regarding its possible financing of Hezbollah. However, it is almost certain that if sanctions are lifted this bank will be open for business again.

Unsurprisingly, Israeli interest in Iranian activities in Athens has been steadily increasingly in recent years, and it became more overt after the terrorist attack against the Israeli embassy in late 2014. However, a Greek terrorist group took responsibility for that attack.

The Soft Power Approach: International Organizations

Perhaps the main importance of Greece to Iran can be detected in the “soft power” approach that Teheran has established in Athens. In this period, an organization called the “Union of Muslim World Publishers” established its European headquarters in Athens. Iran opened it in Athens on October 25, 2012.

According to the public relations office of the Union of Muslim World Publishers, a ceremony was held October 2012 featuring Ali Zarei Najafdari, secretary general of the union, Mohammad Hussein Mozafari, Iran’s cultural attaché in Greece, and Mohammad Reza Pakravan, Iran’s cultural contact with Greece.

In his address, Najafdari asserted that the union will run representative headquarters in the five continents of the world, following the agreements reached in the general assembly of the union. He noted that given its legacy of being such a historical civilization, Greece was chosen by the union to host its headquarters in Europe. This was said to be a bid to cement cultural relations with the thinkers, publishers and elites in various fields in the region. He went on to say that new headquarters will open in various other regions in the world to expand the union’s expansion.

Iran also retains a state school for expatriates in Athens, state airlines offices, a state-sponsored cultural center, and a library which is very active, along with press agency staff. They also undertake a wide range of activities with Shia NGOs based in Greece.

Conclusion: Positive Economic and Diplomatic Relations Expected

Despite these overtures, Iran’s presence is not likely to be considered threatening to Greek society. In fact, the estimate is that once sanctions are lifted energy trade and the general business climate will boom between the two countries, and secondary sectors such as tourism will be augmented as well.

Security and in particular police collaboration will also flourish. Positive relations between Greece and Iran are likely to cause consternation in several world capitals, but it could possibly benefit the Greek state security apparatus- which would be seen as suddenly more important to cooperate with by countries fearful of Iran.

In wider geostrategic terms, though, few problematic developments should be expected; stable relations will develop with no real diplomatic changes of balance.

Agreement Reached on the European Agenda on Migration, but Significant Challenges Remain editor’s note: Before departing for summer vacations, EU leaders last week made important decisions regarding the worsening, and politically divisive issue of illegal migration.

The relevant commission in charge of addressing the issue is led by a veteran of Greece’s former Samaras government, Dimitris Avramopoulos, and his team has been working hard in recent months along with others in the EU system. On Monday, July 20 Justice and Home Affairs ministers met in Brussels, and contributor Maria-Antoaneta Neag was there to gain insight into the complexities of the migration talks at the EU level, observe the debate and note some of the EU’s envisaged answers to the migration phenomenon.

This is a problem that is having an acute effect on the Balkans. As we predicted recently, a ‘migrant bubble’ is now forming within Serbia and Macedonia, due to an unprecedented problem – the fact of illegal migrants transiting on a large scale from the EU to the EU through non-EU countries – which remains an issue Brussels remains unwilling to even acknowledge.

By Maria-Antoaneta Neag

Saving Lives Is a Complicated Affair…

The EU was taken to task last year regarding its migration policy by a European official whose authority is not political, but moral. Addressing the European Parliament in November 2014, Pope Francis said Europe is “somewhat elderly and haggard” and “less and less a protagonist” in the world. On the issue of migration, he talked about a “united response” needed to help migrants arriving in Europe. “We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery,” he said.

Europe has to reply to this criticism by proving it can cope with this phenomenon. With the Greek commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos in charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, common rules are in place, though still in need of implementation. The Common European Asylum System, EU agencies and other already running programmes and projects indicate that the EU seems equipped. However, migration remains a challenge. EU is still fighting irregular migration, partially overwhelmed by the reality of its existence and its consequences at societal level.

With more than 276,000 immigrants arriving in the European Union in 2014, 138% more compared to the previous year, the EU faces several challenges: the reception, identification, processing of asylum seekers’ applications, relocation or readmission, absorption into the labour market as well as the swift cultural and social integration of migrants.

The recent tragic events in the Mediterranean add pressure to EU capacities and response. To name a few examples, several hundred migrants died near Lampedusa, Italy in 2013, while new forms and routes of migration are emerging; the “Ghost Ships” phenomenon is arising (e.g., more than 1,200 migrants abandoned and cast adrift by human smugglers found on two ships off Italy, ‘Blue Sky M’ and ‘Ezadeen’, in December 2014). According to the UN, the year 2015 has already seen a maritime death toll of 1,867.

THE EU has developed mechanisms and structures to tackle such events: Joint Operation Triton (started on November 2014 under Frontex coordination has already saved thousands of migrants. Europol has contributed by facilitating intelligence-sharing and cross-border investigations; its recent actions led to the arrest of hundreds of human smugglers. The Mare Nostrum operation of 2013 also saved 150,000 migrants.

Still, the problem remains, and thus the EU has started a process of drafting a more comprehensive migration policy. The President of the European Council convened a special meeting on migration that was held on April 23, 2015. After a European Council Statement and a European Parliament resolution focusing on the latest tragedies in the Mediterranean and EU migration and asylum policies, in May 2015 the European Commission released its long-awaited European Agenda on Migration.

As a response to the growing instability and the subsequent migratory flows in the EU’s southern flank, the principles of the European Agenda on Migration relate to addressing the root causes of migration, saving lives at sea, dismantling smuggling networks (through the Common Security and Defence Policy operations in the Mediterranean to capture and destroy boats), strengthening the common asylum policy and addressing legal migration through a new policy.

This policy takes into account the EU’s demographic, economic and labor market architecture. Frontex, Europol and EASO received additional funding and extended mandates, in order to swiftly identify, register and fingerprint arriving migrants, and in order to assist in the fight against migrant smuggling networks. Furthermore, in cooperation with international stakeholders such as the International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency, a pilot multi-purpose center in Niger will be set up to register applications while migrants are still in Africa.

The EU, a Humanitarian Global Player versus Fortress Europe

While having a Common European Asylum System in place, dealing with immigrants and asylum seekers remains a challenge for the European Union, as some countries are facing a disproportionate burden. The case of Malta, a chronic recipient of mass migration due to its geographical position, is a good example. With a population of about 400,000 inhabitants, the question of how to deal with the migratory wave given limited reception capacity becomes acute.

Questions like reception in countries like Malta, Italy and Greece haunt EU leaders who are now envisaging a holistic approach to migration. Other unresolved issues include: how to share the burden among the EU’s Member States; how to increase the mobility of EU’s labour force; how to deal with the cultural and religious differences; how to identify possible criminal links; how to ensure their human rights – family reunification, education etc. – without unbalancing the EU’s allegedly already well-structured multicultural social, economic and political system?

Official Statistics and EU Responses to the Migrant Presence

We can now turn to some of the EU’s envisaged answers to the migration phenomenon, one that increases in magnitude year on year.

The latest annual report from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) highlights that the year 2014 left more than half a million asylum seekers still waiting for an EU reply to their request (a 37% increase compared to 2013). In the first months of 2015, there was a 68% increase compared to the same period last year. Strengthening the common asylum policy through full application of the common rules, and the systematic monitoring and solidarity with EU member states facing high flows of asylum seekers, are among the priorities expressed in the European Agenda on Migration.

In 2014 there were 441,780 detections of illegal stays in the EU. Out of the 283,532 detections of illegal border-crossing, a quarter were of Syrian origin. In an effort to tackle this phenomenon, the EU also focused on resettlement, thus 252,003 third-country nationals were effectively returned to third countries.

The European Agenda on Migration focuses on defining actions for the better application of return policies, and the safe and legal resettlement of people. The EU will explore the opportunity for other trade and development agreements with third countries to address their readmission and the full implementation of EU rules on returns.

Resettlement agreements with candidate or potential candidate countries play an important role in the EU accession process. In July 2015, EU interior ministers also adopted conclusions on designating certain third countries (i.e. the Western Balkans) as ‘safe’ countries of origin for the purpose of an accelerated examination procedure of applications for international protection (the Asylum Procedures directive).

Reactions to Migration in the Balkans

In some member states, many recent developments have taken place in the area of tackling migration flows. In order to keep out illegal migrants, following the Melilla model, Greece in 2012 built a 10.5-kilometer long, 4-meter high barbed-wire border fence along the Greek-Turkish border (on the Evros River where many migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria and Congo were entering the country).

Many human rights disputes are linked to the migration phenomenon and many NGOs (i.e. Amnesty International) highlight the unlawful treatment refugees and illegal migrants entering the EU from Greece allegedly receive. The current economic collapse of the country and the political turmoil are destabilizing Greece’s efforts as an EU frontline for migration.

Recently, Bulgaria too built a 30-kilometer metal fence along a section of Turkey’s border, with guards posted every 100 meters. Hungary too is building a wall along its border with Serbia. The beginning of the year saw one-third of the EU’s asylum seekers registered in Hungary (more than 50,000 migrants compared to a total of 43,000 in 2014) – exceeding the figures in Italy.

The Hungarian border wall project caused a reaction from the United Nations and the EU.

Serbia too must increase efforts to deal with the migrants stuck within their borders, and is objecting to Hungary’s new ‘Berlin Wall.’ In the middle of it all, Macedonia meanwhile is left to deal with pressure from its northern and southern borders, as Serbia sends its migrants back due to Hungarian reactions, and Greece keeps sending more migrants north due to Turkey’s inability to prevent them from reaching Greece.

Offical EU July Decisions: from Relocation to Return and Resettlements

EU financial resources (approx. €3.6 billion for the period 2014-2020) are available to member states regarding legal and irregular migration, return, asylum, border management and integration.

Emergency assistance is also provided, as in the case of Greece, one of the most affected countries in addressing the increas­ing arrival of migrants in need of international protection, benefiting from the European Refugee Fund emergency mecha­nism since 2008.

All institutions are sending their messages and envisaging immediate policy responses to this crisis as well as a long term reflection on the effects of migratory flows reaching Europe.

The European Parliament’s views were reflected in the Ska Keller report (Greens/EFA, DE) adopted on July 16, in the EP’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) meeting; it was the last one before the summer recess.

Following lengthy and assiduous debates in June 2015, EU leaders reached some sort of agreement on the need to relocate and resettle 60,000 refugees (40,000 persons in clear need of international protection and 20,000 displaced persons) from Greece and Italy across EU member states, over the next two years.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was forced to ditch his idea of mandatory quotas for the distribution of asylum-seekers, as the Council fiercely opposed the idea. Interestingly enough, although they have represented high numbers of intra-EU migrants, Eastern European countries were largely behind the opposition to Juncker’s plan.

The results also focused on returns. Following the Spanish experience with preventing waves of illegal migrants to the Canary Island, EU leaders decided that migrants with no legal right in the EU must be returned.

With the aim of a geographically comprehensive system of relocation, EU interior ministers under the chair of Jean Asselborn, Luxembourgish Minister of Immigration and Asylum, in the presence of representatives of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland agreed on July 20 to relocate 32,256 Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, and to settle 22,504 refugees as of October. The remaining 8,000 from the initial target will be allocated by the end of the year.

Germany (10,500) and France (6,752) will be receiving the highest numbers while Austria and Hungary refused to relocate any. Denmark used its opt-out, and the UK and Ireland did not take the opt-in on justice and home affairs policies. However, Ireland will voluntarily take in 600 people. Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland will also participate in the relocation scheme.

The migrant crisis is far from over, of course; the Western Balkans will be affected by the construction of the new border wall between Hungary and Serbia; many member states remain vulnerable to migrant influxes – mainly Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain, countries which have received 137,000 people between January and June 2015, including asylum seekers, refugees and illegal migrants. Meanwhile, suspicion (and even xenophobia) is growing in Europe regarding the justification for migrants’ rights to enter the EU at all.