Protests, security for EU meet

As authorities prepared to mobilize thousands of policemen for next week’s European Union top-level meeting in Athens, when the accession agreements of 10 new members are to be officially signed, anti-war groups yesterday pledged to stage rallies in the city center. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said there was no intention of banning protests, but stressed that public access to key parts of the capital would be curtailed. Last week he announced proposals to declare next Wednesday, when the accession agreements including that of Cyprus are to be signed in the Stoa of Attalos – a reconstructed, 2,150-year-old building inside the ancient city’s Agora – a holiday for thousands of civil servants working in Athens. This is intended to relieve traffic congestion in the city center. «We do not intend to ban anything, and we will not do so,» Protopappas said yesterday. «There will be specific areas where the [summit’s] activities will take place or that will be in contact with the areas where the officials are for which security measures will be taken.» He added that the government would approach media officials to «explain the meetings and, naturally, purely for reasons of national interest, seek corresponding coverage from everyone.» EU officials will start arriving next Tuesday, and two days of meetings will follow. Sources say security will be intense, offering a foretaste of conditions Athenians will have to face during the August 2004 Olympics. But yesterday, groups opposing the US-British invasion of Iraq announced plans for protests against the presence in Athens of the prime ministers of Britain and Spain. The Action Thessaloniki group said it would organize rallies in Syntagma Square at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. next Wednesday.