By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]
Final security preparations were underway in Lisbon this week for perhaps the most important NATO summit since the end of the Cold War which will define the alliance’s new long-term strategy – the New Strategic Concept.
Topping the agenda tomorrow (Saturday) at this NATO summit will be the start of the security and policing transition from NATO forces in Kabul to the Afghan authorities amid widespread belief from some military sources and analysts that a definitive victory against the Taliban is out of reach.
The summit, which will discuss questions such as the future of Afghanistan, Russia-NATO relations and terrorism, including cyber-terrorism and piracy, will involve the participation of over 40 international government figures and heads of state, including the President of the United States, Barack Obama and the President of Russia Dimitry Medvedev.
The NATO summit will also examine cost-cutting reforms aimed at efficiency and effectiveness as well as discussing the Collective Missile Defence System and the future of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Restrictions for motorists and pedestrians at Parque das Nações began on Monday and will stay in force until Sunday.
Access restrictions will also affect Lisbon’s law courts (Campus de Justiça) and local companies in the immediate area whose staff are being advised to take public transport and not bring large quantities of personal items to facilitate police checks.
According to information published on the Procurator-General’s Lisbon District website, the Public Ministry is warning that Avenida João II will be sealed off between the Vasco da Gama roundabout and the roundabout at the Campus de Justica from 3pm today (Friday) to 5pm tomorrow (Saturday).
The NATO summit is also set to affect the receipts of airline companies using Lisbon’s Portela airport not only during the event itself today and tomorrow but also yesterday (Thursday) and Sunday after the two-day event ends. According to the airports authority ANA, around 100 flights are likely to be affected by cancelling or delays.
Over the weekend police and security forces led by the PSP’s Special Police Unit (UEP) carried out a number of mock riot and crowd control exercises – some using controversial Taser stun guns – both at Lisbon’s Oriente metro station and the former Expo site at Parque das Nações where the summit will take place.
Amid widespread security fears following recent demonstrations in both London and Paris, it was announced last week that the PSP police would only receive two of the five armoured cars promised on time and will have to fall back on GNR police vehicles.
The Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff, General Valença Pinto has also criticised the lack of Government planning over the summit’s security.
The fact that the GNR vehicles have been pressed into service have only served to confirm the fears of PSP National Director, Superintendent Oliveira Pereira who said it would be difficult for the bullet proof vehicles to arrive in time.
There has also been criticism that some of the 45 vehicles intended to transport police squads and equipment to control public order, which had been promised by the Secretary of State for Internal Administration, Conde Rodrigues, on November 4 , had also not arrived at the time the Algarve Resident went to press on Wednesday.