France vows tight security to keep protesters far from G7 summit

Raft of unprecedented security measures set to transform French seaside resort into a fortress for G7 leaders' summit.

    Basque activists hold banners reading 'This is not your playground' as they block entry to the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz [Bob Edme/AP]
    Basque activists hold banners reading 'This is not your playground' as they block entry to the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz [Bob Edme/AP]

    Usually in late August, the picturesque beach in France's Biarritz would be packed with tourists and hordes of surfers.

    But the glamorous seaside resort will be transformed into a security fortress this weekend as it gears up to host G7 leaders, including Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel

    Christophe Castaner, France's interior minister, said on Tuesday he is deploying 13,200 police backed up by soldiers and drones to secure the August 24-25 summit. 

    "We will not tolerate any serious trouble," he told a news conference. "If it happens, we will respond."

    Activists have announced a "counter-summit" of thousands of people to lambast the policies of world powers, and the French authorities want to avoid violence at all costs.

    After months of anti-government "yellow vest" protests in France, which sparked criticism of heavy-handed policing, the president and host, Emmanuel Macron, warned in May that security measures in Biarritz would be "unprecedented".

    In addition to the troop deployment, authorities said access to the Grande Plage beach will be forbidden while the Hotel du Palais overlooking its sands hosts the talks between world leaders.

    Throughout the summit, trains will not serve the stations in Biarritz or the neighbouring resort towns of the region, and its airport will be closed to scheduled flights.

    Authorities have banned all demonstrations, not just in Biarritz but also in the conjoined towns of Anglet and Bayonne.

    Biarritz
    People swim in the sea and walk on the beach in front of the 'Hotel du Palais' in Biarritz [Iroz Gaizka/ AFP]

    Campaign groups and demonstrators will be allowed to congregate in the towns of Hendaye and Irun, which straddle the border of France and Spain border about 30km away. There they will hold a "counter-summit" that touches on themes ranging from the end of capitalism and climate change to the fight for social justice and the advance of feminism.

    The event, which 5,000 to 10,000 people are expected to attend, will conclude with a protest in Hendaye on Saturday as the world leaders arrive.

    "We are going to act with determination. We will not damage anything and we are not going to take part in one-upmanship," said Aurelie Trouve of the Alternatives G7 activist group.

    Common ground

    The G7 groups France, the United States, Britain, Germany, Canada, Japan and Italy.

    Seven other heads of state have also been invited to this year's summit.

    Finding common ground between the G7 allies has become increasingly tough, however, with the US an outlier in its approach to handling disputes over trade and the environment.

    A Japanese government official told Reuters news agency that the August 24-25 meeting will likely end without a joint communique due to member nations' diverging opinions on trade. 


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    "It's crucial for everyone to create a common understanding through debate. But it's hard to deliver messages to the rest of the world when a communique isn't going to be issued," the official said, confirming an earlier report by Japan's public broadcaster NHK that there was no plan so far to issue a communique after the G7 leaders' meeting.

    It would be the first time a G7 summit ends without a communique since meetings began in 1975, underscoring the rift Trump's "America First" trade policies has created among the world's advanced economies.

    Last year, Trump threw the G7's efforts to show a united front into disorder by leaving early and backing out of a joint communique, undermining what appeared to be a fragile consensus on the trade row between Washington and its top allies.

    Trump has expressed his preference for bilateral trade pacts over multilateral agreements and is locked in a lengthy trade war with China.

    He also pulled the US out of the landmark Paris Agreement to limit the effects of climate change against European opposition.

    The US president's first bilateral meeting at the summit will be with the UK's new primr minister, Johnson, before other leaders - including Macron, the host of the event. 

    Johnson wants to sign an ambitious trade agreement with Washington after Britain leaves the European Union, as an antidote to the major economic shock that Brexit is predicted to cause if Britain leaves without a divorce deal.

    William Hague, former leader of the Tory party, said the summit was an opportunity for Johnson to boost his credentials and domestic status.

    "A new British PM has the world's attention and the goodwill of America," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday. "This is a rare opportunity to present some clear ideas, to take a global lead, and in doing so show a better face of Britain."

    The group was formerly known as the G-8, but Russia was kicked out of the club over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea. Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday at the French president's summer retreat, a fortress on the Mediterranean coast.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies