Biarritz – this is an idyll with rocky coastlines, palm trees and hotel palaces. But for the summit of the major industrialized countries, the holiday paradise is being converted into a fortress. Not everybody likes that.
No surfers on high waves, no children digging in the sand: At the summit of the major industrialized countries (G7), the chic French seaside resort of Biarritz will turn into a high-security zone.
Residents, businessmen and tourists have to make way in the place on the Atlantic coast for host Emmanuel Macron, US President Donald Trump or Chancellor Angela Merkel. The central beach is closed – in the middle of the summer season. The train station and the airport are closed to ordinary citizens.
The summit brings everyday life to a standstill
Before the meeting of Heads of State and Government, which begins this Saturday (24th August), the grumbles of the Biarrots, as the inhabitants of the seaside resort are known in French, are unmistakable. “I’ll leave the city during the summit,” announces a woman selling ice cream on the sunlit seafront promenade.
Christine Vargas, who has recently launched handmade soap bars and metal cans with the G7 logo, is still unsure whether or not to open her store in a narrow alley. “We do not know what’s coming,” she says. A surf instructor at the “Grande Plage” in the shadow of the casino just says dry: “I’m hampering my work,” and turns back to his students.
The president personally addressed the mayor
In the nearby town hall of the resort near the Spanish border, the problems of the inhabitants are well known, because there have already been numerous information meetings. Mayor Michel Veunac says that President Macron personally asked him to hold the international top meeting in the fashionable seaside resort.
“There is no mayor who rejects such a thing,” he told the German Press Agency. A meeting of this magnitude has not existed so far in Biarritz, and ultimately the French Basque Country will benefit economically.
The worries of traders and businessmen are quite justified, admits the local politician from the Center Party MoDem. Again and again, people ask if there could be violence.
The restaurants should stay open
“Biarritz will be the best secured city on earth,” assures the mayor. The municipality should not become a bunker despite policemen, barricades and special access cards for many citizens. The city therefore appeals to restaurateurs and traders to open restaurants and shops despite the barriers.
The G7 opponents of numerous groups will gather – not in Biarritz, but in the much less elegant border town of Hendaye, on the road about 30 kilometers to the southwest.
At the “counter summit” on the border with Spain, according to the media, up to 12,000 people are expected. Also, a demonstration is planned, which will lead to the neighboring Spanish city of Irun. Regional anti-globalization scourges Biarritz’s choice as a “monarchical mood” – personally attacking 41-year-old host Macron.
“Minister, that’s a bad idea”
“The G7 summit was negotiated between the Bureau and Biarritz, but the counter-summit was imposed on us by the state,” says Kotte Ecenarro. The Socialist Mayor of Hendaye, with 17,000 inhabitants and many summer guests, makes no secret of his position: “I said to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner: Minister, that is a bad idea to host a G7 in the middle of the tourist season in the heart of the Basque Country. That seems to me inappropriate and inappropriate.”
The city is now doing its best to accompany the demonstration this Saturday, Ecenarro told the German Press Agency: “We trust the local organizations, but there are question marks from potential participants who are not from here.” In particular, so-called black blocks with rioters are feared in the small town. The organizers of the counter-summit already pledged not to seek confrontation with the security forces.
Unlike in Spain, the Basque Country in the far southwest of France is not an independent region. However, there is a community association with 158 municipalities. “It is still claimed (in the region) to create a French Basque country, as in Spain,” concludes Ecenarro.
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