Salonica tries to win over protesters

Thessaloniki is bracing for the EU summit on June 20-21 by extending hospitality to some 100,000 protesters that organizers expect to converge on the northern Greek city while also taking measures to prevent violence such as that which has accompanied similar mass protests around the globe in recent years. Some 12,000 police will be on duty in the city and the vicinity of the summit at the Porto Carras hotel complex, 150 kilometers (93 miles) to the east on the Halkidiki peninsula on June 19-22. Parts of Thessaloniki, including those that host consulates and other likely targets, will be off limits. So will Porto Carras, which will be guarded by a cordon of police, coast guard and special forces. Summit participants will be conveyed to the site by sea, air and road. But shopkeepers, the usual victims of riots at such summits, are making efforts both to protect their shops and to appeal to the good will of activists. Their union has called on them to put stickers proclaiming «Thessaloniki: City of Dialogue» in their windows. They have also been advised to give the union emergency phone numbers, park their vehicles in garages, ensure that there are sufficient fire extinguishers in their shops and board up their shopfronts. PM Costas Simitis yesterday discussed the summit’s agenda and security preparations with aides. Foreign Minister George Papandreou pressed the «dialogue» aspect of the expected protests. «We will do all we can not only to allow them to protest but also to make their opinions heard. The views of the movements and non-governmental organizations are useful on the great issues of globalization, issues concerning development in the Third World, limiting poverty, protecting the environment and genetically modified products. These are things that concern us and we want to hear the voice of society,» he said. Giorgos Paschalidis, minister for northern Greece, added, «The Macedonia-Thrace Ministry supports, in many ways, issues of residence, transportation and information of citizens who will visit the city on those days, with a support framework that we have named ‘Hospitality-Respect.’ We offer hospitality and call on all to respect the city.»

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