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EURO 2024: Worried euphoria: Precarious security situation at European Football Championship

EURO 2024: Worried euphoria: Precarious security situation at European Football Championship

The European Football Championship is a big party with many unknowns. Security forces are facing a gigantic challenge. A terrorism expert talks about soft targets.

There is never 100 percent security. Not even for a European Football Championship without violent hooligans, terror or cyber attacks. When the German national team opens the European Championship festivities against Scotland at 9 p.m. on Friday, the excitement will rise not only for the DFB eleven.

The security forces, Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) and UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin are also under high tension for a month. “More and more violence. More and more aggression. The world situation is not ideal,” said Ceferin in an interview with the German Press Agency.

Germany is dreaming of a second summer fairytale. However, the escalation in the Middle East, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and, not least, the attack in Mannheim are dampening many people’s anticipation. “The security situation is tense,” Faeser admitted. This applies to cyberspace as well as to Islamism and other areas. However, there is no concrete evidence of planned attacks during the European Championships.

Almost half of the population is worried that there could be terrorist attacks in Germany during the tournament from June 14 to July 14. This is the result of a survey published by the YouGov opinion research institute together with the Sinus Institute. According to the survey, 12 percent of those surveyed are completely worried and 35 percent are somewhat worried. 24 percent are not very worried and 12 percent are not worried at all. 16 percent of those surveyed had no opinion or did not provide any information.

Attacks on soft targets more likely

The IS attack in Paris during a match between the German and French national football teams in 2015 or the one on Swedish football fans in Brussels last year show that concerns are not fundamentally unfounded. Attacks on soft targets in public spaces such as stadium entrances or public viewings are more likely because securing large crowds is more difficult here, terror expert Johannes Saal told dpa.

For years, the security authorities have been preparing for all conceivable dangers so that the approximately 2.7 million fans in the stadiums and up to 12 million visitors on the fan miles can enjoy the European Championships. “Of course, due to the whole situation, the changes in recent years, even in the last few weeks, there always has to be an adjustment. But that happens,” reported tournament director Philipp Lahm, adding: “I trust our security authorities, but of course 100 percent security, that will not be possible these days.”

Help from abroad

The security situation during the European Championships is being managed in a newly built police situation center in North Rhine-Westphalia. Over 600 officers from Germany and abroad work in the “International Police Cooperation Center” in Neuss.

For example, flight restrictions apply over the arenas. Around 350 foreign police officers will be deployed in Germany during the tournament. “The police will have a high presence at all venues and everywhere where there are large numbers of people. The federal police will protect the German borders, airports and rail traffic where national teams and fans move,” announced Faeser. After the knife attack in Mannheim, in which a 25-year-old Afghan fatally injured a police officer, potential lone perpetrators are also in focus.

One party, many strangers

That the authorities are taking action was shown last week when the Federal Prosecutor’s Office arrested a suspected IS supporter at Cologne/Bonn Airport. The suspect is reportedly being investigated on suspicion of supporting a terrorist organization abroad and violating the Foreign Trade Act. The “Bild” newspaper also reported on a connection to the upcoming European Championships. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office spokesman declined to comment on the report.

The foreign and domestic political situation is difficult. Faeser advises people to enjoy the tournament nonetheless. “Look forward to the tournament. Go,” the minister appealed on Deutschlandfunk. So the big football party can begin. Even if it is not clear who will come.

Source: Stern

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