Fortress Athens for EU

Athens is bracing for next week, when it is to host the signing of the EU accession treaty by 10 new countries, an informal summit and a meeting of the European Convention. These events will be attended by the leaders of 41 countries and international organizations, while unions and other organizations will be taking part in a number of protests against the war in Iraq. The Greek capital will resemble something like a city under siege, with 11,000 police officers taking part in security arrangements from Tuesday through Thursday. They will form a protective wall for the leaders of European countries in central Athens. Access to the center, especially on Wednesday, when the accession treaties will be signed by Cyprus, Malta and eight members of the former East Bloc, will be almost impossible. Traffic will be barred for hours from certain parts of the city. Details are to be announced in the next few days but the measures will involve the route from the airport to the center, around the hotels where the delegations will be staying (Vouliagmeni and Athens, which are linked by Syngrou and Poseidonos avenues), and the areas where events will be held, such as Zappeion Hall, the Acropolis, Plaka, the Ancient Agora, Thiseion and Monastiraki. From Tuesday to Thursday parking will be banned completely in some of the above areas, while traffic will be barred from noon to midnight on Tuesday, from 6 a.m. to midnight on Wednesday and from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday. The police have appealed to Athenians to limit their driving as much as possible these days. The government has declared Wednesday a holiday for civil servants in a bid to reduce traffic. Schools and municipal services also will be closed. But adding to Athenians’ woes will be the planned anti-war demonstrations, with a protest march from Omonia Sq to Syntagma Sq at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and two marches from Syntagma to the British, Italian, Spanish and US embassies at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Wednesday will be the most critical day, with EU leaders holding an informal summit at Zappeion Hall before going to the Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora for the signing of the accession treaties.