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Greece subsidizing Western National Security

By on November 14, 2014
Endy Zemenides

Endy Zemenides

At the end of October, Greece’s Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Vassilis Kikilias visited the United States to coordinate anti-terrorism policy with the Department of Justice, the CIA, FBI, State Department and National Security Council. As the minister responsible for Greece’s borders, developments in the Eastern Mediterranean must leave him dizzy. Just in the past few months, the region has faced the threats of Hamas and the Islamic State, has seen a Western ally – Turkey – turn into a force of instability, and has left every stakeholder in the region searching for some – for ANY – good news.

During the minister’s meeting with the CIA, Director John Brennan honored Kikilias’ professional basketball background by presenting him a basketball with Michael Jordan’s signature. Brennan should have included Dikembe Mutombo’s signature, because it is such a defensive role that Kikilias and Greece are playing for the West.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Greece is the world’s 11th largest country measured by coastline – surpassed only by countries that have 2 to 100 times its land area. This coastline gives migrants multiple opportunities for entry into the country, and thus the European Union, and Greece has been faced with an unprecedented number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and Aegean to reach her shores. Then, consider Greece’s neighbors in the Mediterranean – Minister Kikilias would be wise to be constantly on guard against what might come his way from Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Libya.

This brings us to the Western fight against the Islamic State. The enlistment of citizens of the UK, the US and other European countries into the ranks of the Islamic State is well documented. Now that massive pressure has been applied to Ankara to cut Turkey off as a source of transit for these jihadists, they are looking for alternatives. Greece is therefore is emerging as a potentially crucial counterterrorism partner amid fears that European- and America-born Islamic State fighters seeking to return from the region to carry out attacks in their native lands.

Greece’s Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Vassilis Kikilias (right) with US Attorney General Eric Holder

Greece’s Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Vassilis Kikilias (right) with US Attorney General Eric Holder

In an interview with The Washington Times, the minister said “While we don’t have a specific problem in Greece with jihadists and extremists, we have been monitoring people passing by from Europe going to third countries and from Africa or [the Middle East] going back to Europe.” In the same interview the minister said his meetings with top U.S. officials made it “obvious” that the movement of such extremists is “a primary issue for the U.S. government.”

So, the good news from the region for us Americans is that Greece is stepping and protecting its borders – and not only for its own sake, but for ours. Greece is not the ultimate destination for the jihadists traversing the region, yet she is bearing the lion’s share of the responsibility and the cost for tracking and interdicting them. The Washington Times cited a report that noted that Greece had spent more than $80 million on efforts to prevent illegal immigration, compared with less than $4 million contributed to the effort by border agencies from other European nations.

These costs should factor into the debt relief discussions between Athens and the Troika. 62% of Greece’s debt is held by the Troika – and there is more owed to other EU states. Their price for lending to Greece has been an “austerity first” policy. However, with the Mediterranean – and thus Greece’s borders – a porous transit point for Islamic State fighters, this is an area where neither the US nor the EU can afford Greece to cut.

This is an idea that everyone can rally around – groups concerned with the economic recovery of Greece, groups concerned primarily with the national security of Greece, groups that focus on the national security of the US and the fight against the Islamic State. Minister Kikilias made it clear on several stops that Greece is committed to protecting the borders of the West, but to do more it needs more resources. Give Greece some level of credit/debt relief for the amount that it spends on border patrol – and thus on subsidizing our security in the US and the rest of Europe – and we will all be safer.

About Endy Zemenides

Endy Zemenides is the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), a national advocacy organization for the Greek American community. To learn more about HALC, visit www.hellenicleaders.com