A Realized Opportunity for Enhanced German-Greek Police Cooperation


Dimitris Karapatakis is the Head of the International Relations and Missions Department of the Hellenic Police. He is a senior police officer with operational and strategic/policy experience, qualified in security, intelligence, strategic analysis, CT-PCVE, conflict analysis and resolution, peacekeeping and peace building. He holds an MA in international relations, an MSc in security, conflict and international development, and a BA in law and security studies. He represents Greece and the Hellenic Police to the EU (COSI, LEWP, Steering Board on Radicalisation, Schengen Police Cooperation) as a main delegate and other regional/international organizations. He is an active member of RAN expert pool in policy-making, police and extremist ideology, while since 2017, has been assigned special associate to Greece’s Center for Security Studies (KEMEA), partner to EU funded projects and research programs. He can be reached at d.karapatakis@hellenicpolice.gr or dkarap@ymail.com.


Greece | May 19, 2020 | Opinion Article

Border protection and migration management is, and will remain, the basis of the Greek-German police cooperation. Since 2015 and the migration-refugee crisis, the Hellenic Police and the German Federal Police have come closer together than ever. Given the situation on the ground, as well as general trends within Europe, security will continue to constitute a fundamental pillar of Greek-German relations.

Mass migration has presented a major challenge for both Greece and the EU. Greece is a front-line member state that receives intense migratory pressure in the Eastern Mediterranean Route, as documented by Frontex. Despite its decline compared to previous years, hundreds of irregular migrants still arrive daily by sea at the Greek Aegean islands, reaching European territory. Migration to Europe from the Middle East and Asia, as from North Africa and sub-Saharan African countries, has led to controversies and friction among EU member states, often resulting in the European North criticizing first entry countries for inadequate measures. First entry countries increasingly argue for a revised EU migration and asylum pact.

With the influx of migrants to the EU, complex challenges arise related to human, state and Union security. On the one hand, authorities have to meet needs in terms of humanitarian aid, nutrition, water and sanitation, medical and legal support, while on the other hand, have to deal with the threat of foreign (terrorist) fighters and returnees, infiltrating the flows. The terrorist attacks in 2015 in France illustrated these security implications, as one of the Bataclan plotters arrived in Paris through Greece, hidden among migrants posing as an asylum seeker. A year later, 12 people died at Berlin’s Christmas market in a terror attack perpetrated by a Tunisian asylum seeker who entered Germany through Italy. Besides terrorism, migration – as a phenomenon – offers opportunities for organized crime to flourish. It is evidenced that migration routes can become routes for migrant smuggling, human trafficking, drug dealing, forgery of travel documents, etc.  

Police Cooperation

Nevertheless, in the midst of tension and divergences among member states, migration brought the need for enhanced law enforcement cooperation. Germany was the first to comprehend the implications of the situation at the external borders of the EU and the internal security impact. Until 2015, German-Greek police cooperation was limited to certain cases, using standardised communication channels. Currently, however, through the EU Institutions and agencies, though mostly on a bilateral basis, Germany has become a strong supporter of the Hellenic Police in the field of border protection and migration management. 

Intelligence remains crucial. Europol and SIS facilitate this type of collaboration. However, Germany has deployed Police Liaison Officers in Athens that cooperate closely with central and local police authorities; while, both countries commonly agreed to increase their cooperation by positioning Liaison Officers at the airports. Information sharing and synergies are now part of a routine, as officers from both sides can easily pick up the phone and ask each other for assistance. 

Furthermore, Germany is one of the top logistics’ supporters of Greece, as it provides technology related to border surveillance and policing, person identification and screening procedures. The two countries have also mutually benefited from a number of training activities improving investigative techniques, cross-border cooperation, and capacity building in the field of returns.

The fruits of this cooperation are twofold: illegal border crossings and secondary movements have decreased; while, at the same time, a significant number of organized criminal networks, active in both and third (transit) countries, has been dismantled. 

Nowadays, new dimensions of migration confront both Greek and German authorities. Recently, the EU and Member States witnessed Turkey manipulating migrants for political purposes. In early March, Turkish authorities pushed migrants residing in the country to illegally cross the Greek borders in the Evros region, utilizing both force and fake news. Greece and the EU responded to this hybrid form of threat, preventing thousands from crossing the borders in the midst of clashes at the borderline, while the Turkish Gendarmerie stood idle, enjoying the show.

Migration is a phenomenon of our times and will not stop. As dynamic in nature, it will continue to create arenas of emerging and evolving security challenges. International cooperation and synergies are prerequisites to address these challenges, as neither the EU, nor any other member state has the capacity and resources alone, to respond to such complex security risks. 

The Greek-German police cooperation reveals an exemplifying approach. Both sides saw the opportunity; common understanding led to joint actions. Yet, there remain other paradigms to follow. 


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