Commentary

French politicians split on Euro 2016 security priorities

If you don't think France is taking security seriously for Euro 2016, which begins June 10, you only need to take a look at the cover of Wednesday's L'Equipe, the Paris sports daily. It shows a masked special forces agent sitting on the edge of what looks to be a helicopter and aiming an assault rifle, all overlooking Parc des Princes, home of Paris St. Germain.

The headline: "Face à la Menace" ("Up against the threat"). And it asks, "Are we really ready?"

More than 90,000 police, soldiers, special forces and private security guards will be deployed across the 10 venues in response to what French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve told L'Equipe was an "unprecedented terror threat" in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 attacks across Paris that included suicide bombings outside the Stade de France, where France was playing Germany in a friendly.

Since the Islamist attacks that killed 130 people, special emergency measures have been in force. Terror isn't the only threat -- concerns about hooliganism have resulted in a 24-hour alcohol ban around the England-Wales game in Lens -- but it is the big worry.

In light of the Stade de France assault -- suicide bombers tried unsuccessfully to get their way into the stadium without tickets -- extraordinary security measures will be implemented outside the stadiums.

The French Cup final between Paris St. Germain and Marseille at the Stade de France, itself a high-risk event between two rivals with many ultra supporters, was a dress rehearsal for French security. The results of security checks by private security firms were worrying: firecrackers and flares went off inside and outside the stadium, and banned objects were found inside the stadium.

Stadium security isn't the only issue. French plans to hold fan zones in all the host cities have become a national political issue as Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president whose influence turned the World Cup 2022 bid campaign in Qatar's favor and who is now the head of the Républicains party, has questioned the wisdom of organizing the events.

"Is it reasonable to organize fan zones in Paris when the nation is in a state of emergency?" he recently asked on national television network TF1. He is fine with France still organizing the tournament but adds that "police have other things to do than guard fan zones."

Cazeneuve doesn't agree. Caving in on fan zones, he says, would send the wrong signal to terrorists. Even if fan zones were abandoned, he says, fans will gather elsewhere and require security protection.

Cazeneuve's message to French citizens is hardly reassuring: "If we take 0 percent precautions, the risk is 100 percent. But if we take 100 percent precautions, the risks aren't zero.

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1 comment about "French politicians split on Euro 2016 security priorities".
  1. ROBERT BOND, May 26, 2016 at 2 p.m.

    the strike over the labor dispute is poorly timed.......

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