- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2001

A major international summit, once considered a plum for the host city, has become a distinctly dangerous honor.
Pitched battles in the street at this months European Union summit in the Swedish port city of Goteborg proved just the latest in a string of violent confrontations at major international gatherings, with masked anarchist protesters and helmeted local police squaring off in city after city in North America and Europe.
"We were all shocked by what happened in Goteborg," said Andre Querton, press officer for the Belgian Embassy in Washington. Brussels plays host to the next EU summit Dec. 14 and 15.
"We are very much aware of the problems there and are working now to make sure that the works of the December summit are not impeded," Mr. Querton said.
The World Bank, a frequent target of anti-globalization groups, last month quietly canceled a conference of development scholars set for June 25 to 27 in Barcelona after learning that protest groups planned major demonstrations at the gathering.
The development conference instead will be conducted over the Internet, details of which were announced by World Bank officials last week.
"We were deeply disappointed to have to take that step, but from what we learned of the scope of the protests, we did not feel it would be in keeping with the peaceful, scholarly discussions that we wanted," said World Bank spokesman Lawrence MacDonald.
Mr. MacDonald said bank officials invited various protest groups to participate in some of the conference discussions.
"But some of these groups would rather remain outside the hall, shouting at us across the barricades," he said.
Dating back to the ill-fated November 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Seattle, protester violence and vandalism have been constants at major international gatherings. In addition to "mainstream" protest organizations, many of the demonstrating crowds have been infiltrated by shadowy anarchist and extremist groups seeking to provoke police reaction.
The list of organizations and institutions that have been targeted has expanded to include the WTO; the World Bank and International Monetary Fund; the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April; and now the European Union.
Summits provide a tempting target, security analysts say. They are announced well in advance, they are tightly scheduled in predictable locations, and the presence of world leaders guarantees heavy press coverage of any significant disruptions.
Protests forced the annual IMF and World Bank meetings in Prague in September to conclude a day early. In Goteborg, the EU summiteers called off a lavish closing dinner at a local restaurant, while several delegates were moved from their hotels because police could not guarantee their safety.
Intense attention now is being trained on the July 20-22 Group of Eight industrial nations summit in Genoa, Italy. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has criticized the previous governments choice of Genoa, with its small central city and numerous small roads into town, as the site for the summit.
During the summit, Genoas harbor will be closed to maritime traffic for what is believed to be the first time ever.
Sandro Biasotti, governor of the region that includes Genoa, told the Reuters news agency last week: "Ive been seriously worried [about the threat of violence] for about a year, and my worries were compounded when I saw the footage of recent [EU] summits in Nice [France] and Goteborg."
Some 20,000 Italian security personnel will police the summit city, compared with 2,000 police in Goteborg. Officials in Rome last week attempted to scotch rumors that the summit might be moved to a more secure location, possibly a military base or even on a ship put out to sea.
Italian Security Services Minister Franco Fattini said in a radio interview that the government planned a "zero-tolerance" stand against violence.
Italys lower house of parliament last week voted 498-13 to double the budget for the July summit to $53 million, money that will go to organizing the event and ensuring security.
The bill now will go to the Senate for final approval.
Several of the 13 deputies who voted against the draft law have called for the summit to be canceled entirely.
Italian protest groups say they intend to organize a flotilla of boats to the summit if land routes are closed off.
The fear of violence has prompted the Italian government to move the July 18-19 pre-summit meeting of G-8 foreign ministers from Portofino, near Genoa, to Rome.

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