Athens in a security vice for EU chiefs

The most intrusive security arrangements ever enforced in peacetime Athens come into effect today ahead of the arrival of 40 European leaders and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the signing of 10 new European Union members’ accession treaties and an informal EU summit. From noon today until 3 p.m. on Thursday, all vehicles will be banned from using hundreds of kilometers of crucial roads in and around the capital, while tens of thousands of Athenian motorists will be forbidden to park outside their homes. And with the exception of the Athens Metro and Kifissia-to-Piraeus electric railway trains – which, at times, will not be stopping at the Acropolis, Monastiraki and Thiseion stations – there will be no public transport in the city center tomorrow and for most of Thursday. Some 11,000 police officers will provide security over the next three days of meetings, the centerpiece of which is tomorrow’s signing ceremony for the accession of 10 new EU members – including Cyprus – to be held in the Stoa of Attalos, a reconstructed second-century-BC mall in the central Athens archaeological site of the Ancient Agora. An informal EU summit will be held on Thursday. From noon to midnight today, 6 a.m. to midnight tomorrow and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, traffic will be banned from the entire Zappeion, Acropolis and Plaka districts, as well as Vas. Olgas, and Syngrou avenues, the southern coastal highway and the Vari-to-Koropi and Koropi-to-Markopoulo highways. Parking will also be banned in these areas from noon today to 3 p.m. on Thursday. Yesterday, police said demonstrations and public gatherings would be forbidden in a huge swathe of the city center that, however, leaves out the usual peace march route from Syntagma Sq to the US Embassy. The government said yesterday the Acropolis site and museum, Roman Agora, Theater of Dionysus, ancient Kerameikos cemetery and Kanellopoulos Museum will be closed until Thursday afternoon or Friday, while the Temple of Olympian Zeus will be closed tomorrow. The Ancient Agora has been off limits for weeks.