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As families headed to the pool at a campsite near Bidart, a commune of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of France, they passed groups of paramilitary head-to-toe in black uniforms, guns slung around their waists.
The holidaymakers, rubber rings and towels in tow, didn’t bat an eyelid — they had grown used to the presence of gendarmes during their stay.
The officers weren’t in the midst of a security operation, but were waiting, pillows in hand, to be shown to chalets as guests on the site.
They are in town for the G7 summit in neighbouring Biarritz, which will see heads of state from seven of the world’s largest economies descend on the seaside town from August 24 to August 26.
At service stations dotted along the main motorway leading to France’s west coast, queues of gendarmerie lined up buying snacks for their trip.
While state authorities have not specified the number of security forces that have been mobilized, French President Emmanuel Macron said back in May that measures would be “unprecedented”.
“They [security forces] will be in Biarritz, but also in Anglet, Bayonne and in cities and places where some may be susceptible to creating disorder,” he added.
Two controlled security zones are to be established in Biarritz centre from August 23 to 26.
Zone 1 encompasses buildings deemed important during the summit, including the town hall, several luxury hotels and perhaps most importantly for holidaymakers the main beach “Grande Plage”.
Residents and other permitted parties (shopkeepers, employees, health professionals, etc.) will be allowed to access the area on foot upon presentation of a badge and a valid form of identity, but vehicles can’t pass through or park in the area.
Zone 2 will also require the same accreditation for pedestrians and drivers who have applied for a sticker for their vehicles can access its streets.
“To get a badge you must have a reason to enter these perimeters. So you must either be a resident or a professional,” said Stephane Costaglioli, vice-prefect in charge of the G7 project.
Biarritz airport and train station will both be closed to the public from August 23 through August 26.
Police and security forces are not the only ones convening around the surf city, with many groups planning protests in the presence of around 3,500 journalists set to attend.
While protesters have been given permission to create an “alternative summit” camp in the Basque village of Urrugne, located 25km south of Biarritz, some vowed to try and stage protests in the city’s restricted zones.
Many on social media are asking why a popular holiday destination has been chosen to host the August summit, at the height of the tourist season, while others see it as a chance to display what their city has to offer with an event on the world stage.
“Doing the G7 in the middle of August so high season in Biarritz is a huge mistake,” wrote one user on Twitter.
One thing is sure — measures in place for the summit will be impossible to ignore for residents and those on holiday in the city and its surroundings.Source: Euronews
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