Belgium’s forces of law and order are facing what may be their biggest challenge ever, with a Nato summit on 11 July in the presence of US president Donald Trump, and the day before, a possible World Cup semi-final featuring the Red Devils national side. The football event depends on the result of the match between Belgium on Friday against Brazil, with prognosticators divided on the likely outcome.
The Nato summit, on the other hand, is a sure thing, as is the presence of President Trump, as well as the protest march organised against his visit.
“We are facing the biggest security operation ever,” said Olivier Van Raemdonck, spokesperson for federal home affairs minister Jan Jambon. “For the summit alone, a lot is required. On 9, 10, 11 and 12 July we will be deploying 10,000 police officers, with about 800 military personnel a day on top of that.”
Should Belgium make the semi-final, he said, the problem extends across the entire country rather than just Brussels, with large-screen TVs planned in public places across the land.
According to the police, it’s all within the realms of possibility. “The Nato summit is planned far in advance, and it would be a pretty bad show is we couldn’t organise that. The same goes for the summer festivals, and the large football screens, which are not happening unexpectedly,” said Vincent Houssin of the police union VSOA. “Apart from anything else, these are events with a good atmosphere, so we’re not expecting fights or other problems. There’s not a single cop who wants to see the Red Devils go home early. They have to make it into the final.”
One problem, however, is the continuing strike by prison officers, now two weeks old. In many cases, in order to maintain a minimum service, police officers have been drafted in to make up the numbers, placing pressure on local police zones.
Meanwhile a demonstration will be organised on 7 July, several days before the summit, to express dissatisfaction at the presence and policies of President Trump. The march starts at 1500 from the North station in Brussels, and is organised by some 70 organisations including Amnesty, the Women’s Council, 11.11.11 and others.