Deserted by tourists, protected by more than 13,000 police and gendarmes, Biarritz and the Basque Country have turned into an entrenched camp to host this weekend the summit of the G7, where a large rally of opponents raises fears of violence.
Donald Trump, Angela Merkel or Boris Johnson will be greeted with pomp until Monday in the seaside resort, former fishing village became the rendezvous of the crowned heads in the nineteenth century, and today that of surfers.
Around 20 km away, thousands of opponents have already started their "counter-summit" in Hendaye and Irun (Spain).
The "anti-summit" denounce a G7 placed by France under the sign of the fight against inequality - while, according to them, Emmanuel Macron digs with a too liberal policy. They also regret the "disproportionate" security device "bewildering".
Tested by the crisis of "yellow vests, the French authorities agree to have set up an" exceptional device "and a" maximum vigilance ": demining robots, drones, lifeguards, divers, canine brigades ... with the support of the army and civil security.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has identified "three major threats": overflowing during protests, the terrorist hypothesis and the threat of cyberattacks.
"We will not tolerate any overflow and if they do, we will respond," he warned.
France also praises its "exceptional cooperation" with Madrid, which has mobilized nearly 3,000 police forces, not to mention the police of the Basque Autonomous Region. The sight of vehicles of the "Guardia Civil" on the French roads, however, cringe some sympathizers of the Basque separatist cause.
After long months of crisis "yellow vests", police and gendarmes must again mobilize. Their morale is "excellent", says the French authorities. But for police unions that denounce for months the exhaustion in the ranks, the G7 comes as a "cherry on the cake" with bitter taste.
- "Crescendo repression" -
If the organizers of the "counter-summit" ensure that their movement is part of the non-violence, the big event planned Saturday of Hendaye in Irun (Spain) fears overflowing.
According to sources in French ultra-left circles, the tone is not the massive confrontation with the police, but rather the block to disrupt the summit. "It may be rather foreign (black blocks) who will weigh," said a Parisian activist. In France, "the crescendo repression has dissuaded a certain number of people".
For a possible judicial treatment of troublemakers, a special device was set up on the Basque Coast, with 17 prosecutors and 300 places of custody.
Two German nationals targeted by a ban on residence in France before the G7 were arrested this week and expelled. One of them, arrested not far from Biarritz, "made himself known for violent action at a G20 summit," according to a judicial source.
In Biarritz, the city will be looped double round on Thursday evening: two very strict areas have been defined in the city center, the red and the blue, and it will show paw, a headache for locals and traders.
For Mayor Michel Veunac (Modem), criticized by his people for spoiling the tourist season, there was no question of saying no to Emmanuel Macron, who personally chose Biarritz.
"Do not make me believe that in three days, traders will lose their revenue of the year ...", he added, referring to a compensation mechanism in case of significant losses.
He does not fear the violence either: "The people of the counter-summit have an interest in everything going well, if they are polluted by rioters, their message will be inaudible ... Look what happened to the yellow vests. . "
bpe-bedroom-nal-emd / pjl / DLM
© 2019 AFP