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Europe

Security Tightens Ahead of EU Summit

The Danish capital Copenhagen is gearing up for large-scale demonstrations surrounding this week's EU summit on enlargement.

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Fortress Denmark: Police and border guards are taking no chances

One day before the beginning of the European Union's historic eastward expansion summit, EU officials have expressed confidence that a deal can be reached on financing expansion.

But the meeting faces challenges of a different kind, with thousands planning protests against an institution they believe creates social divisions and undermines human rights.

Police and activists have estimated that between 10,000 and 30,000 people will take part in street demonstrations in Copenhagen during the two-day summit.

The summit venue, about 8 kilometers from Copenhagen, is being sealed off with barbed wire and roadblocks, and will be guarded by armed police.

Policing protests

Half of the country's 10,000-strong police force has been put on duty for the summit, making it the largest civilian security operation in several decades. Police are working in close co-operation with the Danish secret service, PET.

PET believes the 'troublemakers' will be activists coming from outside Denmark.

"The problem with the foreign activists is that Copenhagen to them is just another city to vandalize," PET chief constable Lars Findsen told reporters. "They don't feel the same responsibility towards Copenhagen as the Danish activists do."

Danish authorities have approved eight demonstrations to be held on the outskirts of the city. Protesters have warned that they are planning to hold a number of additional events.

In a bid to stop protesters from travelling to Copenhagen for the summit, Denmark has suspended the Schengen agreement which allows free movement between fifteen European countries. The measure has become common practice during high-profile international meetings.

Non-violence pledge

Confrontations between police and protesters on the sidelines of high-profile international meetings have become increasingly violent in the past two years. Last year, Swedish police shot and wounded at least three protesters at the EU summit in Gothenburg, and one young protestor was shot dead by police in the Italian city of Genoa (photo) during a meeting of G8 leaders.

Gewalt-Gipfel

Police subdue a protester during the G8 summit protests in Genoa, Italy, 2001.

Denmark's left-wing and anti-capitalist groups say actions in Copenhagen will be peaceful. A grouping of left-wing parties, activists, students and trade unions calling itself The Initiative Towards a Different Europe has organised non-violent demonstrations during the summit against racism, global capitalism and privatisation.

Left-wing activists also hope to shut down the summit website by overloading the EU Presidency home page and blocking access to the site.

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