Greece

Executive Summary

The Greek economy has come a long way since the age of the “Memoranda.”  In early 2020, COVID-19 held the potential to permanently scar an economy that still suffered from legacy issues, including high debt and non-performing loans, limited credit growth, near zero capacity for fiscal expansion, and a hollowed-out healthcare system.  While continuing its aggressive reform agenda, the Mitsotakis government rose to meet the pandemic challenge, as European institutions effectively welcomed Greek debt back into the Euro system, the IMF and EU evaluated the country’s public debt as sustainable, Moody’s upgraded Greek sovereign debt, the country began borrowing at historically low cost, and strategic investors returned, favorably considering Greece’s current and long-term value proposition.  Meanwhile, over the past several years, our bilateral relationship has deepened significantly via our defense and strategic partnerships, and Greece ambitiously seeks now to bring our economic ties to similar, historic heights.  Far from being the problem child of Europe or the international financial system, Greece is increasingly a source of solutions – not just in the fields of energy diplomacy and defense, but in high-tech innovation, healthcare, and green energy, lending prospects for solid economic growth and stability here and in the wider region.

The Mitsotakis government was elected in July 2019 on an aggressive investment and economic reform agenda which has plowed forward despite the pandemic.  During its first nine months in power, Mitostakis’s team pushed market-friendly reforms and Parliament voted through dozens of economic-related bills, including a key investment law in October 2019, designed to cut red tape, help achieve full employment, and adopt best international practices – including by digitizing government services.  GDP growth reached 1.9% in 2019, a major leap forward following a period that saw the loss of a quarter of the economy.  Facing COVID-19 lockdowns, the economy contracted by 8.2% in 2020, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority, although the contraction was one of the smallest in the eurozone.  

Greece maintains a liquidity buffer, estimated at  EUR 30 billion, but is intent on boosting its coffers as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is larger than expected.  So far untouched, the buffer should be sufficient to cover the country’s financing needs until at least the end of 2022, and the country’s leadership maintains its intention to reserve the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) tranche solely for sovereign debt interest payments.  While capital controls were completely lifted in September 2019, Greece remains subject to enhanced supervision by Eurozone creditors.  

Greece’s banking system, despite three recapitalizations as part of the August 2015 ESM agreement, remains saddled with the largest ratio of non-performing loans in the EU, which constrains the domestic financial sector’s ability to finance the national economy.  As a result, businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, still struggle to obtain domestic financing to support operations due to inflated risk premiums in the sector.  To tackle the issue, and as a requirement of the agreement with the ESM, Greece has established a secondary market for its non-performing loans (NPLs).  According to the Bank of Greece, non-performing loans (NPLs) came, on a solo basis, to EUR58.7 billion at end-September 2020, down by EUR9.8 billion from December 2019 and by EUR48.5 billion from their March 2016 peak.  The NPL-to-total loan ratio remained high in September 2020 at 35.8%. It should be noted that the high percentage of performing loans benefiting from moratoria until December 31, 2020 contained the inflow of new NPLs. Non-performing private debt remains high, irrespective of the reduction in NPLs on bank balance sheets via transfer to non-bank entities. 2020 saw substantial reforms aimed at resolving the issue of NPLs.  These involved the securitization of NPLs through the activation of the “Hercules” scheme and the enactment of Law No. 4738/2020 which improves several aspects of insolvency law.  Nevertheless, NPLs will remain high, and considering that there will be a new inflow of NPLs due to the pandemic, other solutions complementary to the “Hercules” scheme need to be implemented.  In addition to sales of securitized loan packages, the banks have exploited other ways to manage bad loans.  For example, nearly all of Greece’s systemic banks employ loan servicing firms to manage non-performing exposures.  Greece’s secondary market for NPL servicers now includes 24 companies including: Sepal (an Alpha Bank-Aktua joint venture), FPS (a Eurobank subsidiary), Pillarstone, Independent Portfolio Management, B2Kapital, UCI Hellas, Resolute Asset Management, Thea Artemis, PQH, Qquant Master Servicer, and DV01 Asset Management.    

Greece’s return to economic growth has generated new investor interest in the country.  Pfizer, Cisco, Deloitte, and Microsoft, to name a few, have all announced major investments in the past few years, due in part to improved protection of intellectual property rights and Greece’s delisting from the U.S. Trade Representatives Special 301 Watch List in 2020.  In March 2021, Greece successfully raised EUR2.5 billion from its first 30-year bond sale in more than a decade, with the issue more than 10 times oversubscribed.  The bond, which has so far received investor demand of more than EUR26.1 billion, will price at 150 basis points over the mid-swap level, resulting in a yield of 1.93%.  

In January 2021, Fitch ratings agency upgraded Greece’s credit rating to BB and noted the country’s outlook as ‘stable’ due to the financial impact of COVID-19.  On April 1, 2021, Moody’s improved its outlook of the Greek banking system from “stable” to “positive.”   Standard & Poor’s affirmed its credit rating for Greece at BB-in October 2020 and also kept its outlook to “stable.”  The European Central Bank (ECB) included Greek government bonds in its quantitative easing program, with EUR12 billion worth of Greek government debt earmarked for purchase under the ECB’s EUR750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program in 2020.   

 Although Greece has seen positive developments in the past few years, investors worry about where Greece will be once COVID-19 subsides.  The Greek government has been given strong marks for its initial response in limiting the spread of the pandemic and has implemented several innovative digital reforms to its economy during COVID-19.  The Bank of Greece, EU, IMF, and others estimated the Greek economy contracted by 10% in 2020.  The tourism sector fared no better with a loss of EUR 13.9 billion.  The unemployment rate was 15.47% in 2020, down from 16.9% at the end of 2019 as government pandemic support helped avoid extensive layoffs.  (The unemployment rate was 19.3% in 2018, for comparison.)  As 2021 progresses and the pandemic continues, the resiliency of the Greek economy will be tested, with uncertain impacts on the investment climate.  

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings 

Measure  Year  Index/Rank  Website Address 
TI Corruption Perceptions Index  2020  59 of 180  https://www.transparency.org/country/GRC 

 

World Bank’s Doing Business Report  2020  79 of 190  https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/greece  
Global Innovation Index  2020  43 of 131  https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator  
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)  2019  $938 million  https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?Area=310 
World Bank GNI per capita  2019  $19,750  http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD  

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment  

The Greek government continues to take steps to increase foreign investment, implementing economic reforms and taking steps to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.  Greece completed its EU bailout program in 2018, allowing it to borrow once again at market rates, reflected in a rising economic sentiment since 2017.  Heavy bureaucracy and a slow judicial system continue to create challenges for both foreign and domestic investors.    

There are no laws or practices known to Post that discriminate against foreign investors.  The country has investment promotion agencies to facilitate foreign investments, with “Enterprise Greece” as the official agency of the Greek state.  Under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Enterprise Greece is responsible for promoting investment in Greece and exports from Greece, and with making Greece more attractive as an international business partner.  Enterprise Greece provides the full spectrum of services related to international business relationships and domestic business development for the international market, including an Investor Ombudsman program for investment projects exceeding EUR 2 million.  The Ombudsman is available to assist with specific bureaucratic obstacles, delays, disputes, or other difficulties that impede an investment project.  

The General Secretariat for Strategic and Private Investments streamlines the licensing procedure for strategic investments, aiming to make the process easier and more attractive to investors. 

Greece has adopted the following EU definitions regarding micro, small, and medium size enterprises:  

  • Micro Enterprises:  Fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet below EUR 2 million. 
  • Small Enterprises:  Fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet below EUR 10 million. 
  • Medium-Sized Enterprises:  Fewer than 250 employees and annual turnover below EUR 50 million or balance sheet below  EUR 43 million. 

Numerous structural reforms, undertaken as part of the country’s 2015-2018 international bailout program as well as a part of the current New Democracy administration’s efforts to lower taxes and reduce bureaucracy, aim to welcome and facilitate foreign investment, and the government has publicly messaged its dedication to attracting foreign investment.   The 2019 investment law simplified licensing procedures in order to facilitate investment.  In December 2020, parliament passed a new law allowing non-residents who relocate their jobs to Greece to benefit from half their salary being free of income tax for up to seven years.  The scheme is open to any type of job, any income level and complements other tax incentive schemes put in place, including a non-dom program for wealthy investors and a low flat tax rate for pensioners.  The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is another example of the government’s commitment in this area.  In November 2015, the Greek government and TAP investors agreed on measures and began construction on the largest investment project since the start of the financial crisis.  The pipeline began operations in December 2020 and in March 2021, TAP announced that a total of 1 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas from Azerbaijan entered Europe via the Greek interconnection point of Kipoi.  Law 4710/2020 gave a strong push for electro-mobility, with several incentives and subsidies to those interested in acquiring an electric vehicle. The law has paved the way for greater U.S. investment.  For example, Tesla has installed the first pop-up stand along with three electric vehicle (EV) charges at a major Greek shopping mall, while Blink expanded its EV network in Greece.  Additionally, there are directives that have eased the bureaucracy regarding renewable energy source (RES) projects, including establishing a deadline for the issuance of Environmental Terms Approvals (ETAs) of 120 days and limiting the environmental licensing stages to three stages instead of the previous six or seven stages required for companies to abide by.

In the past decade, the country underwent one of the most significant fiscal consolidations in modern history, with broad and deep cuts to public expenditures and significant increases in labor and social security tax rates, which have offset improved labor market competitiveness achieved through significant wage devaluation.  While there has been notable progress, corruption and burdensome bureaucracy continue to create barriers to market entry for new firms, permitting incumbents to maintain oligopolies in different sectors, and creating scope for arbitrary decisions and rent seeking by public servants.  

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment  

As a member of the EU and the European Monetary Union (the “Eurozone”), Greece is required to meet EU and eurozone investment regulations.  Foreign and domestic private entities have the legal right to establish and own businesses in Greece; however, the country places restrictions on foreign equity ownership higher than those imposed on average in the other 17 high-income OECD economies, such as equity restrictions on airport operations and limits on foreign ownership in electricity and media.  The government has undertaken EU-mandated reforms in its energy sector, opening much of it to foreign equity ownership.  Restrictions exist on land purchases in border regions and on certain islands because of national security considerations.  Foreign investors can buy or sell shares on the Athens Stock Exchange on the same basis as local investors.  Greece does not maintain an investment screening mechanism.  

Other Investment Policy Reviews 

The government has not undergone an investment policy review by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), or United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) or worked with any other international institution to produce a public report on the general investment climate in the past three years.  However, in July 2020, the OECD published a periodic economic survey describing the state of the economy and addressing foreign direct investment concerns, especially regarding needed reforms in the public sector and judicial system.   In particular, the OECD report lauds the Ministry of Digital Governance’s progress in instituting digital and public administration reforms, and recommends continued effort in this area. 

Business Facilitation  

In 2020, Greece eased processes for starting a business by reducing the time to register a company and removing the requirement to obtain a tax clearance.  Accessing industrial land in Greece is relatively quick, with only three weeks required to lease land from the government.  Private land can be leased in 15 days.  Arbitrating commercial disputes, however, can take almost a year.  Establishing a limited liability company takes approximately four days with three procedures involved, including registering the business, making a company seal, and registering with the Unified Social Security Institution.  Greece’s Ease of Doing Business score in 2020 is 96, for a rank of 11 for starting a business and rank of 79 overall.  Greece is not one of the 37 countries listed on www.businessfacilitation.org 

Greece’s business registration entity GEMI (General Commercial Register) has the basic responsibility for digitizing and automating the registration and monitoring procedures of commercial enterprises.  More information about GEMI can be found at http://www.businessportal.gr/home/index_en The online business registration process is relatively clear, and although foreign companies can use it, the registration steps are currently available only in Greek.  In general, a company must register with the business chamber, tax registry, social security, and local municipality.  Business creation without a notary can be done for specific cases (small/personal businesses, etc.).  For the establishment of larger companies, a notary is mandatory. 

Outward Investment 

The Greek government does not have any known outward investment incentive programs.  Capital controls were eliminated in September 2019.

Enterprise Greece supports the international expansion of Greek companies.  While no incentives are offered, Enterprise Greece has been supportive of Greek companies attending the U.S. Government’s Annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, which promotes inbound investment to the United States, and similar industry trade events internationally. 

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Greece and the United States signed the 1954 Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation, which provides certain investment protection, such as acquisition and protection of property and impairment of legally acquired rights or interests.  Enterprise Greece is now housed within the Economic Diplomacy and Extroversion Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.       

Greece has Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with: 

Albania 
Algeria 
Argentina* 
Armenia 
Azerbaijan 
Bosnia and Herzegovina 
Bulgaria 
Chile 
China 
10  Congo* 
11  Croatia 
12  Cuba 
13  Cyprus 
14  Czech Republic 
15  Egypt 
16  Estonia 
17  Georgia 
18  Germany 
19  Hungary 
20  Iran 
21  Jordan 
22  Kazakhstan* 
23  Korea 
24  Kuwait* 
25  Latvia 
26  Lebanon 
27  Lithuania 
28  Mexico 
29  Moldova 
30  Montenegro 
31  Morocco 
32  Poland 
33  Romania 
34  Russian Federation 
35  Serbia 
36  Slovakia 
37  Slovenia 
38  South Africa 
39  Syria 
40  Tunisia 
41  Turkey 
42  Ukraine 
43  United Arab Emirates 
44  Uzbekistan 
45  Viet Nam 

*Signed, but not in force   

Greece and the United States signed a Treaty for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income in 1950.  As an EU member state, Greece does not have a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States but is a party to all U.S.-EU agreements.  Greece reached an agreement in substance on November 30, 2014, on the terms of an intergovernmental agreement with the United States to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which was signed January 2017. 

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives  

Investment incentives are available on an equal basis for both foreign and domestic investors in productive enterprises.  The investment laws in Greece aim to increase liquidity, accelerate investment processes, and ensure transparency.  They provide an efficient institutional framework for all investors and speed the approval process for pending investment projects.  The basic investment incentives Law 4146/2013, “Creation of a Development Friendly Environment for Strategic and Private Investments,” aims to improve the institutional and legal framework to attract private investment.  Separately, Law 3908/2011 (which replaced Law 3299/2004) provides incentives in the form of tax relief, cash grants, leasing subsidies, and soft loans on qualifying investments in all economic sectors with some exceptions.    

In evaluating applications for tax and other financial incentives for investment, Greek authorities consider several criteria, including the viability of the planned investment; the expected impact on the economy and regional development (job creation, export orientation, local content use, energy conservation, environmental protection); the use of innovative technology; and the creditworthiness and capacity of the investor.  Progress assessments are conducted on projects receiving incentives, and companies that fail to implement projects as planned may be forced to give up incentives initially granted to them.  All information transmitted to the government for the approval process is to be treated confidentially by law.  

Investment categories are:  

  1. General Entrepreneurship
  2.  Regional Cohesion 
  3. Technological development 
  4. Youth Entrepreneurship (18-40 years old) 
  5. Large Investment Plans (above EUR50 million) 
  6. Integrated, Multi-Annual Business Plans 
  7. Partnership & Networking

The entire application and evaluation process shall not exceed six months (more information can be found at https://www.ependyseis.gr).  

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation 

Greece has four free-trade zones, located at the Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, and Platigiali Astakos Etoloakarnias port areas.  Greek and foreign-owned firms enjoy the same advantages in these zones.  Goods of foreign origin may be brought into these zones without payment of customs duties or other taxes and may remain free of all duties and taxes if subsequently transshipped or re-exported.  Similarly, documents pertaining to the receipt, storage, or transfer of goods within the zones are free from stamp taxes.  Handling operations are carried out according to EU regulations 2504/1988 and 2562/1990.  Transit goods may be held in the zones free of bond.  These zones also may be used for repackaging, sorting, and re-labeling operations.  Assembly and manufacture of goods are carried out on a small scale in the Thessaloniki Free Zone.  Storage time is unlimited, as long as warehouse rents are paid every six months. 

Performance and Data Localization Requirements 

The Greek government does not follow a policy of forced localization or mandate local employment designed to require foreign investors to use domestic content in goods or technology, with the exception of economic development requirements in many defense contracts (see Research and Development, below).  Some foreign investors partner with local companies or hire local staff/experts, however, as a way to facilitate their entry into the market.  In 2019, the government enacted a new amendment to the Greek tourism legislation, which obligates tour operators from third countries who do not own a travel agency in Greece to collaborate with a local travel agency established in the country to be able to conduct its business locally.  The government is not taking steps to force foreign investors to keep a specific amount of the data they collect and store within Greek national borders. 

Research and Development 

Offset agreements, co-production, and technology transfers are commonplace in Greece’s procurement of defense items.  Although the most recent Greek defense procurement law eliminated offset requirements, there are some remaining ongoing active offset contracts, as well as expired offset contracts with U.S. firms that are potentially subject to non-performance penalties.  Defense procurements are still subject to economic development requirements, which are, in effect, similar to offsets.  In 2014, the government committed to resolving offset contract disputes in a way that would satisfy both parties and avoid the imposition of penalties or fines.   

In general, U.S. and other foreign firms may participate in government-financed and/or subsidized research and development programs.  Foreign investors do not face discriminatory or other formal inhibiting requirements.  However, many potential and actual foreign investors assert the complexity of Greek regulations, the need to deal with many layers of bureaucracy, and the involvement of multiple government agencies all discourage investment.

9. Corruption

Greece saw a slight increase in perceptions of corruption, as it went up one place to 59 on Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index, from 60 in 2019 and 67 in 2018.  By contrast, the country had improved since 2012, partly due to mandatory structural reforms.  Despite these structural improvements, burdensome bureaucracy is reportedly slowing the progress.  Transparency International issued a report in 2018 criticizing the government for improper public procurement actions involving Greek government ministers and the recent appointment of the close advisor to the country’s prime minister to be the head of the Hellenic Competition Commission, which oversees the enforcement of anti-trust legislation.  Transparency International released another report in October 2018, warning of the corruption risks posed by golden visa programs, mentioning Greece as a top issuer of golden visas.  In Transparency International’s 2020 report, the organization outlined the costs directly stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, including cases of foreign bribery occurring in the health care sector.

On March 19, 2015, the government passed Law 4320, which provides for the establishment of a General Secretariat for Combatting Corruption under the authority of a new Minister of State.  Under Article 12 of the Law, this entity drafts a national anti-corruption strategy, with an emphasis on coordination between anti-corruption bodies within various ministries and agencies, including the Economic Police, the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE), the Ministries’ Internal Control Units, and the Health and Welfare Services Inspection Body.  Based on Law 4320, two major anti-corruption bodies, the Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Administration (SEEDD) and the Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Works (SEDE), were moved under the jurisdiction of the General Secretariat for Combatting Corruption.  A Minister of State for combatting corruption was appointed to the cabinet following the January 2015 elections and given oversight of government efforts to combat corruption and economic crimes.  The minister drafted coordinated plans of action, monitored their implementation, and was given operational control of the Economic Crime division of the Hellenic Police, the SDOE, ministries’ internal control units, and the Health and Welfare Services’ inspection body.  Following the September 2015 national elections, the government abolished the cabinet post of Minister of State for combatting corruption, and  assigned those duties to a new alternate minister for combatting corruption in the Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights.

Legislation passed on May 11, 2015, provides a wider range of disciplinary sanctions against state employees accused of misconduct or breach of duty, while eliminating the immediate suspension of an accused employee prior to the completion of legal proceedings.  If found guilty, offenders could be deprived of wages for up to 12 months and forced to relinquish their right to regain a senior post for a period of one to five years.  Certain offenders could also be fined from EUR3,000 to EUR100,000.  The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected officials, including nonpublic sector employees, such as journalists and heads of state-funded NGOs.  Several different agencies are mandated to monitor and verify disclosures, including the General Inspectorate for Public Administration, the police internal affairs bureau, the Piraeus appeals prosecutor, and an independent permanent parliamentary committee.  Declarations are made publicly available.  The law provides for administrative and criminal sanctions for noncompliance. Penalties range from two to ten years’ imprisonment and fines from EUR10,000 to EUR1 million.  On August 7, 2019, Parliament passed legislation establishing a unified transparency authority by transferring the powers and responsibilities of public administration inspection services to an independent authority.  In November 2019, laws addressing the bribery of officials were amended to include a specific definition of “public official” and to make active bribery of a public official a felony instead of a misdemeanor, punishable by a prison sentence of five to eight years (as opposed to three years).  On November 17, 2020, the government established the Financial Prosecutor’s Office to deal with financial crime in the wake of public complaints about an investigation by the Corruption Prosecutor’s Office into a case involving the pharmaceutical company Novartis.  The new office, headed by a senior prosecutor selected by the Supreme Judicial Council of the Supreme Court, included 16 prosecutors, and became operational in November 2020.

Bribery is a criminal act and the law provides severe penalties for infractions, although diligent implementation and haphazard or uneven enforcement of the law remains an issue.  Historically, the problem has been most acute in government procurement, as political influence and other considerations are widely believed to play a significant role in the evaluation of bids.  Corruption related to the health care system and political party funding are areas of concern, as is the “fragmented” anti-corruption apparatus.  NGOs and other observers have expressed concern over perceived high levels of official corruption.  Permanent and ad hoc government entities charged with combating corruption are understaffed and underfinanced. There is a widespread perception that there are high levels of corruption in the public sector and tax evasion in the private sector, and many Greeks view corruption as the main obstacle to economic recovery.

The Ministry of Justice prosecutes cases of bribery and corruption.  In cases where politicians are involved, the Greek parliament can conduct investigations and/or lift parliamentary immunity to allow a special court action to proceed against the politician.  A December 2014 law does not allow high ranking officials, including the prime minister, ministers, alternate, and deputy ministers, parliament deputies, European Parliament deputies, general and special secretaries, regional governors and vice governors, and mayors and deputy mayors to benefit from more lenient sentences in cases involving official bribes.  In 2019, Parliament passed an amendment to Article 62 of the constitution, which limits parliamentary immunity to acts carried out in the course of parliamentary duties.  In addition, Parliament amended Article 86 of the constitution, abolishing the statute of limitations for crimes committed by ministers and to disallow postponements for trials of ministers.

Greece is a signatory to the UN Anticorruption Convention, which it signed on December 10, 2003, and ratified September 17, 2008.  As a signatory of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Government Officials and all relevant EU-mandated anti-corruption agreements, the Greek government is committed in principle to penalizing those who commit bribery in Greece or abroad.  The OECD Convention has been in effect since 1999.  Greek accession to other relevant conventions or treaties:

  • Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption: Signed June 8, 2000.  Ratified February 21, 2002.  Entry into force: November 1, 2003.
  • Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption: Signed January 27, 1999.  Ratified July 10, 2007.  Entry into force: November 1, 2007.
  • United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime: Signed on December 13, 2000.  Ratified January 11, 2011.

Resources to Report Corruption

Government Agency

Organization: The Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Administration
Address: 60 Sygrou Avenue, 11742, Athens
Telephone number: +30-213-215-8800
Email address: seedd@seedd.gr

Watchdog Organization

Organization:  Transparency International Greece
Address:  Solomou 54, 4th floor, 10682 Athens
Telephone number: +30-210-722-4940
Email address: tihellas@otenet.gr

10. Political and Security Environment

There have been no major terrorist incidents in Greece in recent years; however, domestic groups conduct intermittent small-scale attacks such as targeted package bombs, improvised explosive devices, and unsophisticated incendiary devices (Molotov cocktails) typically targeting properties of political figures, party offices, privately owned vehicles, ministries, police stations, and businesses. In addition, domestic anarchist groups often carry out small-scale attacks targeting government buildings and foreign missions.  Bilateral counterterrorism cooperation with the Greek government remains strong, and support from the Greek security services with respect to the protection of American interests is excellent.  Demonstrations and protests are commonplace in large cities in Greece. While most of these demonstrations and strikes are peaceful and small-scale, they often cause temporary disruption to essential services and traffic, and anarchist groups are known in some cases to attach themselves to other demonstrations to create mayhem.

The masterminds of Greece’s most notorious terrorist groups are currently imprisoned, including leaders of November 17 and Revolutionary Popular Struggle, active between the 1970s and 1990s and responsible for hundreds of attacks and murders.  Greek authorities largely eliminated these groups in advance of the 2004 Olympic Games.  Following the Olympics, a new wave of organizations emerged, including Revolutionary Struggle, Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, and Sect of Revolutionaries, though authorities rounded up these groups in a wave of arrests between 2009 and 2011, and again in 2014.

Domestic terrorist groups include “OLA,” also known as the Group of Popular Fighters or Popular Fighters Group, which claimed responsibility for the December 2018 bomb outside a private television station and the December 2017 bomb outside an Athens courthouse.  OLA also claimed responsibility for the November 2015 bomb attack at the offices of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, which caused extensive damage to the offices and surrounding buildings, the December 2014 attack on the Israeli embassy in Athens, which resulted in no injuries and minor damage to the building, and the attack on the German Ambassador’s residence in Athens in December 2013.  OLA also claimed responsibility for an indirect fire attack on a Mercedes-Benz building on January 12, 2014, and an attack in January 2013 against the headquarters of the then-governing New Democracy party in Athens.

Investment Climate Statements
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select a Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future