Police bikers patrol the Great Beach of Biarritz, August 22, 2019 before the G7 summit.

Biarritz Prepares for a G7 Under High Voltage

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More than 13,000 police and gendarmes are mobilized on the Basque coast before the arrival of the leaders of the G7, while a counter-summit in Hendaye is fearing excesses.

Deserted by tourists and protected by more than 13,000 police and gendarmes. Biarritz and the Basque Country have turned into an entrenched camp to host this weekend the summit of the G7, where a large rally of opponents raises fears of violence.

Donald Trump, Angela Merkel or Boris Johnson will be greeted with pomp until Monday 26th August 2019, in the seaside resort, the former fishing village became the rendezvous of crowned heads in the nineteenth century, and today that of surfers.

Counter-summit in Hendaye

Around 20 kilometres away, thousands of opponents have already started their “counter-summit” in Hendaye and Irun (Spain). They denounce a G7 placed by France under the sign of the fight against inequality – while, according to them, Emmanuel Macron digs with a too liberal policy. They also regret the “disproportionate” security device “bewildering”.



NGOs gathered in the Climate Action Network (RAC) have already announced Thursday they would boycott the G7, denouncing the decision of the Elysee to “limit the number of accreditations of NGOs” and “keep them away Summit “.

Minister for the ecological transition Elisabeth Borne, who came to Biarritz, promised “concrete commitments on environmental issues” to the G7, citing biodiversity, carbon neutrality, green finance, maritime transport and cruise lines.

A CRS stands guard in front of the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, in the south-west of France, where G7 foreign delegations will be hosted on August 21, 2019.
A CRS stands guard in front of the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, in the south-west of France, where G7 foreign delegations will be hosted on August 21, 2019. (© AFP / IROZ GAIZKA)

Minesweeping robots, drones, military …

Tested by the crisis of “yellow vests, the French authorities have set up an” exceptional device “for” maximum vigilance “: demining robots, drones, rescuers, divers, canine brigades … with the support of the army and civil security.

“We will not tolerate any overflow,” warned Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, identifying “three major threats”: excesses during demonstrations, the terrorist hypothesis and the threat of cyberattacks.

France also praises its “exceptional cooperation” with Madrid, which mobilized nearly 3,000 police forces, not to mention the police of the Basque Autonomous Region. The sight of vehicles of the “Guardia Civil” on the French roads, however, cringe some sympathizers of the Basque separatist cause.

After long months of crisis “yellow vests”, police and gendarmes must again mobilize. Their morale is “excellent”, say the French authorities. But for police unions that denounce for months the exhaustion in the ranks, the G7 comes as a “cherry on the cake” with a bitter taste.

CRS on patrol along the beach on 22 August 2019 in Biarritz.
CRS on patrol along the beach on 22 August 2019 in Biarritz. (© AFP / LUDOVIC MARIN)

“Crescent repression”

If the organizers of the “counter-summit” ensure that their movement is part of the non-violence, the big event scheduled for Saturday from Hendaye to Irun (Spain) fears to overflow.

According to sources in French ultra-left circles, the tone is not the massive confrontation with the police, but rather the block to disrupt the summit. “It may be rather foreign (black blocks) who will weigh,” said a Parisian activist. In France, “crescendo repression has deterred”.

Two German nationals targeted by a ban on residence in France before the G7 were arrested this week and expelled.

17 prosecutors and 300 places of custody

For a possible judicial treatment of troublemakers, a special device was set up on the Basque Coast, with 17 prosecutors and 300 places of custody.

Baptism fire for the police, she framed without problems Thursday morning a small unauthorized demonstration of 200 opponents between Urrugne and Hendaye.

According to the Elysee, Biarritz expects 2000 accredited journalists and 3000 members of delegations, some 25,000 overnight stays for hotels in the region, which should partially offset the flight of tourists.

Puzzles for locals and traders

The city is looped in double turn since Thursday evening: two very strict zones have been delimited in downtown, the red and the blue, and it will be necessary to show paw, a puzzle for inhabitants and tradesmen.

For Mayor Michel Veunac (Modem), criticized by his constituents for spoiling the tourist season, there was no question of saying no to Emmanuel Macron, who personally chose Biarritz.

“How could our city, which historically has a welcoming vocation, have refused the biggest event on the planet? it is not discussed! “Argues the city councillor.

“I must not believe that in three days, traders will lose their revenue of the year …”, he added, referring to a compensation mechanism in case of significant losses.

Biarritz Prepares for a G7 Under High Voltage 1

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