G- 8 Summit Heiligendamm: The restricted area
If you ask the G-8 leaders, the focus of this week is clear. When the state leaders gather in Heiligendamm from Wednesday to Friday this week, headlines, they hope, will be filled with climate change proposals, pledges for aid to Africa and widespread agreement on what to do about Iran's nuclear program.
But with just a few days to go before Merkel, Bush, Putin and Co. arrive at the seaside resort in northern Germany, one topic seems to be getting more attention than any other: security. Given the staggering measures being taken by the German authorities, this is perhaps not surprising. A 12-kilometer-long, 2.5-meter-high fence, topped with razor wire, has been slung around the resort town of Heiligendamm. It is the biggest fence to have been built in Germany since the Berlin Wall. Fully 16,000 police have been mobilized. The German and US navies will be patrolling the waters off shore. In short, the coast west of Rostock is in lockdown mode.
Criticism of the security measures, though, has been mounting this weekend -- from, among others, the police itself. Konrad Freiburg, the head of Germany's police union, complained to the daily Stuttgarter Nachrichten on Saturday that the US has made far too many demands for the protection of President George W. Bush. "It is difficult to satisfy the number of security demands made by the United States," he said. "We don't have the freedom to determine our own strategies." He also regrets "that there are fronts being established, giving the German public the impression that the police and the demonstrators are against one another."
Germany is getting increasingly uncomfortable with the security measures taken to protect the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm.
Demonstrators are also unhappy. Organizers had been hoping to send marches right up to the fence to protest against the G-8 and globalization, but that demonstration was banned by the German authorities. An appeal to that ban is now heading to Germany's highest court.
Additionally, the controversy over the accreditation of journalists continues to simmer this weekend. Last week, authorities withdrew accreditation from a number of journalists planning to cover the event without offering justification for the move. Among those who lost accreditation was a reporter for the left-leaning Berlin daily Die Tageszeitung. The TAZ reporter has since been reinstated, but a number of politicians and journalists are calling for an investigation into the incident.
Conservative politician Wolfgang Bosbach told the Cologne daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that "the accreditation criteria have to be clear and comprehensible. It simply can't be that authorities say, 'he may and he may not but we won't say why.'"
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble defended the security fence in Heiligendamm on Saturday, saying "if we don't want to hold such summit meetings on the Zugspitze (Germany's highest mountain), then the event must be protected by a fence to ensure it is not disrupted." German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier likewise defended the security measures on German radio on Sunday, though he said that the public should expect world leaders to hold ambitious discussions in light of the security effort.