The government has revealed that it may close air space over the various Euro 2004 stadium venues during tournament matches. The plans are part of national anti-terrorist measures, although the country is only technically classified as a low to medium risk target.
Secretary of State for Internal Affairs, Nuno Magalhães, has confirmed that the authorities, “are studying this possibility of closing air space above the Euro stadia during the games”, but said it was still a confidential matter. “At this moment, according to information available, there is no increased risk of terrorism, aside from the normal risks present in any country of low to medium risk, like Portugal,” added Magalhães.
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Other sources have indicated that the air space will be closed and placed under the jurisdiction of the Portuguese Air Force. But Commander Sousa Monteiro, a specialist in aeronautical affairs, described the proposed plan as “unnecessary”, even though he admitted that an attack by a plane on a stadium was a possibility. “It would be something spectacular that would have repercussions throughout the world,” he said. “One could establish a 50 kilometre security zone where no plane can enter. This would give some reaction time to combat aircraft – but not more than five minutes. If an anomaly was detected, the air traffic controller would give the co-ordinates of the object and the fighter planes would then identify the alien aircraft, fly alongside it and signal directions for the plane to follow. If it didn’t obey, it would be shot down.”
Meanwhile, Captain Joaquim Carvalho, from the National Civil Aviation Institute, said that the closure of air space above areas staging major cultural or sporting events is, “a normal procedure” that occurs frequently during the year, “in different places and for different reasons”. He does not think that these kind of precautions would have any effect on the operation of Portuguese airports, not even in Lisbon, where two stadia holding Euro 2004 matches are located near one of the potential approach routes to Portela airport.
Magalhães also said he was not certain whether the Schengen Accords would be revoked during the competition. “This is a matter that will have to be decided in the Council of Ministers. Ultimately, the Prime Minister is the person who will have to decide,” he said.
Ticket sales clarified
Following the débâcle over ticket sales for the recent Portugal v England friendly, the minister also tried to clarify the situation regarding tournament entrance. “Each person will have a nominal ticket and will be responsible for his or her other three companions. If, at the entrance, the security forces request the identity of the person and it doesn’t match the name on the ticket, then that person will not be allowed to enter. This person will also be responsible for the others, who will then have to identify themselves if the authorities think it necessary,” he said.