BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 15 March, 2002, 20:20 GMT
Clashes break out at EU summit
Protesters clash with police in Barcelona
Protesters have not managed to reach the main venue
Riot police have used batons to break up crowds of protesters staging anti-globalisation protests in the Spanish city of Barcelona, where European Union leaders are holding a two-day summit.

About 1,000 young protesters gathered in Las Ramblas, the main boulevard in the city centre, to taunt police and throw stones.

Summit goals
Open up energy markets
More flexible labour markets
Ease cross-border financial controls
Review Zimbabwe sanctions
Mid-East declaration
Police responded by hitting protesters with batons, but the BBC's James Coomarasamy, reporting from Barcelona, says the skirmishes so far have been localised and relatively small scale.

European Union leaders have been focusing on economic reform at the summit, amid the biggest security operation the city has ever seen.

They are also due to debate a range of international issues - from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iraq to the Balkans and Zimbabwe.

Rubber bullets fired

More than 8,000 police officers, backed by military aircraft and naval vessels, have been deployed to keep the peace in the city.

Two plain clothes policeman arrest a protester in Barcelona
Several demonstrators were arrested

Our correspondent says the violence so far has been short-lived and restricted to cursory charges up and down the street.

But he said some police had fired rubber bullets when the protests reached their peak, and a number of protesters had been arrested.

"The police started it," said one protester, Ruben Bayona. "I'm not saying they weren't provoked, but it takes very little to provoke them".

Terrorist threat

Local shop keepers were taking no chances, with most keeping their shutters firmly closed amid fears of a full-scale riot such as that witnessed at the G8 summit in Genoa last July, when a protester was killed by police.

There are also fears of an attack by Basque separatists or other militant groups, and Nato has sent an Awacs jet to provide early warning against a potential attack from the air.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica (left) with Montenegro┐s President Milo Djukanovik
The leaders from Serbia and Montenegro are attending
The protests have been taking place several kilometres away from the heavily guarded compound at the Palacio de Congresos on the city's outskirts, where the summit is taking place.

And the security surrounding their meeting is so tight that the authorities are confident there will no breaches of the protective ring.

Taking full part in the talks for the first time will be the heads of government of 13 applicant states, up to 10 of which could be invited to join at the end of this year - a potential turning point in the EU's history.

Balkan stability

In the first day of talks the Spanish foreign minister, Josep Pique, has indicated that an agreement signed between Serbia and Montenegro to stay together in a new, loose federation could be a first step on the path to EU membership.

A Spanish soldier stands guard at the warship Vencedora in Barcelona port
Security has not been so tight since the 1992 Olympics
He described the move as great news for the future stability of the two republics and the entire Balkans region.

"This is the only way to guarantee the future of Serbia and Montenegro and of the whole region from the perspective of their progressive integration into the European institutions and the international community as a whole," Mr Pique said.

The presidents of Serbia and Montenegro are attending the summit as special guests of the European Union, even though they are not on the official list of candidates in the current process of enlargement.

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Trade unionists are expressing increasing anger and worry"
The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
"This is what the authorities here have been dreading"
UK Minister for Europe Peter Hain
"This is part of a 10 year reform plan"
See also:

14 Mar 02 | Europe
Protesters rally in Barcelona
13 Jul 01 | Europe
Flashback to summit flashpoints
15 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Labour's union relations hit new low
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories