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Athens Olympic Games: Counter-Terrorism Measures

Volume 590: debated on Thursday 11 June 1998

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Whether, in view of the decision to hold the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, they will ask the European Union to urge the Greek Government to take effective action against the "November 17th" group.

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government condemn terrorism wherever it occurs, including the activities of the "November 17th" group and other terrorist groups active in Greece. We discuss such matters regularly with the Greek authorities. We have made clear our willingness to assist them in promoting effective counter-terrorism measures. To that end, the Greek Minister of Public Order visited London in December last year.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Is he aware though that this group has in recent years killed more than 20 people in Greece and that its targets have included not only Greek property and Greek individuals but also American, French, German and British nationals? Is the Minister worried by the thought that militant groups traditionally use and exploit the Olympic Games for spectacular attempts to gain publicity? That being the case, and as this is now an international matter, will he advise his right honourable friend to raise this question in the margins of the Cardiff Summit?

My Lords, I am aware of the targets of the "November 17th" group and certain other terrorist organisations within Greece. They have encompassed businessmen, diplomats and other foreign nationals. We are deeply concerned. We have specifically offered assistance to Greece already in establishing effective security arrangements for the 2004 Athens Olympics. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has offered the services of his department and police expertise in helping the Greeks in this area.

My Lords, as the Minister has said, terrorism always surrounds international sporting events but they are also of tremendous economic benefit. Will he indicate whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to try to bring the Olympics to the United Kingdom at any time in the next 20 years?

My Lords, I am not immediately aware of a bid for the Olympics. I shall have to consult my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. We shall report to the House in due course.

My Lords, can the Minister kindly enlighten some of us as to exactly what the "November 17th" group is about?

My Lords, its basic ideology is a little obscure. It is an anarchist organisation which appears to have close links with some of the Kurdish terrorists who operate in the area.

My Lords, in the light of the decision to hold the Olympic Games in Athens, what offers of assistance—rather more specific than the Minister has already mentioned—and counter-terrorism assistance do the Government intend to make to the Greek Government? Furthermore, have the Government offered the Greek Government the assistance of the Directorate of Counter-Terrorist Expertise set up by the G7 countries under a British initiative of the previous government which enables expert help to be made available immediately to countries which need it?

My Lords, the UK and Greece work closely together to combat terrorism. The UK has provided technical assistance and advice to the Greek police on a number of occasions, most recently in February this year. As I indicated, the Greek Minister of Public Order visited us at the end of last year. In the European Union and elsewhere—for example in Interpol—the UK and Greece have, in common with other countries, established good police liaison for sharing intelligence in order to fight crime and terrorism. In relation to the G7 initiative, clearly that is available to Greece, as it is to other countries faced with terrorist problems.