EURO 2016: What Dangers Is France Facing?
On the 10th of June, the first match of the UEFA European championship will take place. Being a big event in the football and sports world, the championship also becomes a risky event for France.
What dangers are there for the football fans and how French authorities will cope with it?
First of all, the police discovered the plot of ISIS terrorists to target England fans during the game on the 11th of June. It was found on the laptop of one of the main suspects to be guilty of Paris and Brussels attacks, Salah Abdeslam. UK security is afraid that English fans can be targeted not only at the games but also during their time in parts of France, where the security is not as high as it is at the stadiums and fan-zones.
Moreover, the threat for all the football fans is not only from the terrorists but also from the French protesters. As you may know, recently there have been huge clashes between the police and some of the French unions, because of the new divisive labor bill passed by the government. After several weeks of protests, the union leaders claimed to have transport strikes during the games in the 10 cities, in which the championship will take place. As well as this, the leaders of the protest are planning to call a strike at the streets during each match. The French government says that the strikes will damage France’s image and is trying to find a solution to this problem.
Authorities also advise fans not to stay in the streets during the matches, but to remain at the special fan-zones. This advice is not issued only because of the threat of the terrorist attacks, but also because of the unpredictable behavior of some of the supporters (special attention is drawn to English and Russian fans due to their behavior during previous championships). French police say that people suspected of antisocial behavior may be subjected to a football banning order and sent back to their country.
Going deeper into the topic of the security, during some matches cars will not be allowed to come too close to the stadiums and special buses will take people to the games. As well as this, alcohol may be banned for 24 hours during some of the matches, like the match between England and Wales in Lens. Also, all of the people will be searched.
French police too take some other steps to increase security. First of all, they increased the number of policemen guarding the streets to around 100.000. Secondly, law-enforcement authorities, who will be heavily armed, are given additional powers. For example, they can arrest anyone they suspect of being a threat to security and public order.
But is this all enough to keep people safe during the period of EURO 2016? Jean-Christophe Lagarde (the head of France’s Union of Democrats and Independents party) says that «the securities measures demanded by UEFA don’t appear at all suitable and risk to increase rather than reduce the threat». He is not the only one to be worried: Philippe Galli (state representative for the Seine-Saint-Denis region) claimed that «there are weak points that are not acceptable» when referring to the security of the stadiums.
For example, there was a lot of controversies considering a fan-zone under the Eiffel Tower. There are around hundred thousand people expected to attend the fan-zone. However, the prime minister of France – Manuel Valls – said: «we need to live, otherwise we give in to fear, and fear and turning in on ourselves is a victory for terrorists».
I want to end this article on this note:no one can predict if something will happen during the championship and I think the best way to act for the fans is to just enjoy the matches. If people are panicking and are afraid every minute of the game, then, well, there is no point in the game at all, as it should be a way to enjoy the evening. Of course, the authorities should provide the best security they can, but this applies to all big events and not only ones happening in the period of active terrorist attacks.
To wrap things up, I want to say that although every country with such a big event faces a certain amount of danger, usually everything goes fine and hopefully it will be the case for France as well.