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Friday, 15 June, 2001, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
Security nightmare for summit hosts
Swedish police clashing with rioters
Swedish police are relatively unused to civil disturbances
By Grant Ferrett

The summit of European Union leaders in the Swedish city of Gothenburg has been accompanied by repeated clashes between police and anti-capitalist protesters.

As the riots raged, the EU leaders were forced to cancel a lavish dinner planned at a city restaurant, opting instead to remain inside the conference centre.

Tony Blair
Blair said the protestors were misguided
Ever since anti-globalisation demonstrators grabbed the headlines as a result of their clashes with police at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle in 1999, such international gatherings have become a security nightmare.

Sweden had been preparing for two years for this summit, but seems to have learned little from the example of others.

Conciliatory approach

The Swedish police, relatively unused to dealing with civil disturbances, acknowledged in advance that they feared they could be hugely outnumbered by the demonstrators.

So they adopted a conciliatory approach, emphasising the need for dialogue with protesters.

Their reward was to be pelted with bricks, sticks and bottles.

The political leaders gathered at Gothenburg, such as the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, could only express exasperation.

Anti-capitalist websites

"The protests are a complete outrage to result in this type of violence, and they're not just entirely wrong, they're completely misguided," he said.

The views of the protesters are expressed on the internet as well as on the streets.

Websites run by anti-capitalist groups urge activists to converge on summit venues to express their opposition to big business and Western governments.

Plans are already underway to descend upon the next World Trade Organisation meeting in November, although the fact that it is scheduled to take place in the Gulf state of Qatar may help to keep the numbers down.

Future problems

The next European Union summit is due to take place in Brussels.

Belgian police have been in Gothenburg this week to assess the problems they are likely to face.

They may well be cursing the recent success of their government in winning the right to stage all future top-level EU gatherings.

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See also:

15 Jun 01 | Europe
Three shot in EU summit riots
15 Jun 01 | Europe
Gothenburgers count the cost
15 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blair denounces EU protesters
14 Jun 01 | Europe
In pictures: Gothenburg protests
14 Jun 01 | Europe
Swedes still sceptical about EU
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