French security chief: Strikes won't threaten sports events

Associated Press

May 25, 2016


A poster reads "Fuel Shortage" in a closed gaz station in Sevres, outside Paris, Wednesday, May 25, 2016. France has started using its fuel reserves to deal with gasoline shortages caused by strikes and protests over a bill weakening worker protections.

PARIS Violent labor protests and strikes causing gasoline shortages won't jeopardize the upcoming European Championship or other sporting events, France's interior minister said Wednesday.

About 1,500 people have been detained in recent weeks and hundreds of police officers have been injured while breaking up protests and dislodging protesters from fuel depots.

The tensions and fuel panic have added to concern about security for Euro 2016, already facing what Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called the double menace of violent Islamic extremism and hooliganism.

Cazeneuve told reporters Wednesday that the government respects the right to strike and does not see the labor movement as a "threat."

He said it won't disrupt protection of the June 10-July 10 championship, which will involve an unprecedented 90,000 police, soldiers, private guards and others ensuring security. That includes dozens of security officials from the other countries whose teams are competing.

"Public transport is working ... (oil) supply points are unblocked, gas stations have stocks, so I invite all those who want to come to France to come and enjoy an important sports event," he said.

Cazenueve said border checks would be reinforced, noting that 18,000 people have been turned away from French borders since Islamic extremist attacks in November on the national stadium, cafes and a rock concert that killed 130 people.

The government would not give estimates for the overall cost of the security, though has said 24 million euros are being spent on fan zones in the 10 host cities.

Jacques Lambert, president of the Euro 2016 organizing committee, said organizers are working to ensure that security measures at the event don't overshadow the sport, saying authorities won't be checking "every sandwich."

Cazeneuve reiterated his determination to hold the championship and open fan zones as planned.

"France must remain France and that is why, despite the high level of the terrorist threat which continues to weigh on our country ... the Tour de France will take place and in the same way, that is the reason why the football Euro 2016 will take place," Cazeneuve said. "It will take place because nobody, and especially not the terrorists, will prevent us from continuing to live normally."