Security for EU summit in Rome stepped up after London attack

Police worried about Isis threat and violence from extreme left and right factions

A military vehicle guards as a rally leaves from the  Colosseum  for a national strike of taxi drivers  in Rome on Thursday. Photograph: Angelo Carconi/EPA

A military vehicle guards as a rally leaves from the Colosseum for a national strike of taxi drivers in Rome on Thursday. Photograph: Angelo Carconi/EPA

 

Italian police authorities will step up security arrangements for Saturday’s informal EU summit in Rome following Wednesday’s terrorist attack in London.   The planned police presence has been increased from 3,000 to 5,000 for a summit due to be attended by more than 40 heads of state and government, as well as senior EU figures.

This summit has been called for commemorative reasons, marking the 60th anniversary of the 1957 signing in Rome of the EU’s founding treaty, the Treaty of Rome. With 30,000 demonstrators due to feature in four different marches, some pro-EU and some anti-EU, police have long been worried that both right wing “black blok” and neo-fascist elements as well as extreme left, social centre activists will attempt to infiltrate the protests.

Both sets of protesters have a track record of converting originally peaceful demonstrations into a head-on clash with police, with the “black blok” element responsible for three days of riots at the 2001 Genoa G8 summit, and with leftists at the heart of violent protests at any number of recent demonstrations, especially in Rome.  

Police will have their hands full making sure not only that the different marches remain peaceful, but also that the pro-EU and anti-EU elements, as well as the leftist and right-wing factions, do not come into violent contact.

On top of that, police are worried that anti-globalisation protesters from neighbouring Spain, France and Greece may see Saturday’s symbolic summit as a perfect protest moment.

Increased concerns

Pope FrancisVatican

For some time, Italian police have been worried by the numbers of fighters from Islamic State, also known as Isis, who, as it loses ground in both Syria and Iraq, have been returning to Italy via Libya, perhaps heading on to other European destinations.

Speaking after an emergency meeting of the Casa government security committee yesterday, interior minister Marco Minitti said: “We’ve got to increase our vigilance in all those areas where large numbers of people will collect . . . ”

In essence, the minister was saying that police were not worried about the area where Saturday’s formal ceremonies will take place, namely around the Campidoglio, Rome’s town hall.

Of much greater concern will be the routes followed by the four marches, where the police presence will not be so heavy.

Romans and tourists have been warned that rucksacks will be searched, while anyone wearing a motorbike helmet or a balaclava will also be stopped.  

Rome train stations, the nearby port of Civitavecchia and Rome’s two airports at Fiumicino and Ciampino will also be closely monitored.