Limburg 'ready' for Bush visit
6 May 2005, AMSTERDAM — The province of Limburg finalised security measures on Friday as the Netherlands geared up for the weekend visit of US President George W. Bush.
6 May 2005
AMSTERDAM — The province of Limburg finalised security measures on Friday as the Netherlands geared up for the weekend visit of US President George W. Bush.
"We're ready," Maastricht Mayor Gerd Leers said.
Intense security measures have been taken in Margraten, Maastricht and Valkenburg, where city mayors have imposed emergency ordinances.
The bylaws will be in force from 8am on Friday to 4pm on Sunday and are considered necessary due to a serious fear of "the disruption of public order, partly due to announced large-scale demonstrations by various groups".
Protestors will be locked up in the Overmaze prison in Maastricht if they breach the ordinances as the police intend to apply the regulations strictly.
It is extremely busy in the region. All hotels in southern Limburg are booked, with Leers estimating that 6,000 beds have been filled. Among the guests are the hundreds of US security personnel and journalists.
Taxi companies have been reinforced by firms from other parts of the country, while Margraten will deploy 40 shuttle buses to transport 10,000 people from the town hall to a commemorative service at the town's US war cemetery on Sunday.
As part of the security measures, more than 500m of screening was erected on Friday to block the hotel St Gerlach in Houthem — where Bush will sleep on Saturday night — from local roads. Police posts were also set up.
Dutch soldiers previously rolled 3km of 1m-high barbed wire out around the hotel on Thursday.
A large area around the hotel is closed to the public and only accredited people can come within its vicinity.
The Department of Waterways and Public Works has fences ready at the A2 and A79 exits to block both roads to traffic for several hours over the weekend.
The war graves cemetery in Margraten was sealed off to traffic on Thursday.
Dutch authorities have mobilised 1,600 police officers, 1,000 soldiers, 200 military police and 300 support staff to secure the president's visit.
US security personnel have been issued with a permit enabling them to also carry weapons in the Limburg area.
The regional police chief, Wim Velings, has estimated the cost of the operation at EUR 1 to 5 million. However, he stressed that the Dutch have made no concessions to the US.
To reinforce this, Valkenburg Mayor Constant Nuytens said the US wanted to close the A79 for two weeks, but that this has been restricted to just a few hours.
Nevertheless, police unions ACP, NPB and VMHP are concerned by the "ease" with which Interior Minister Johan Remkes has approved the deployment of so many officers. The decision is "devouring" millions of euros, union officials claimed.
Unions are angry because the government is economising on funding for police safety and health. At union meetings in recent weeks, many officers urged industrial action during the president's meeting.
"The time of soft action is over," a union spokesman said. But he ruled out industrial action during the weekend visit based on safety concerns for police officers.
Meanwhile, a national action group was granted approval on Friday to carry out a 'noise protest' at Maastricht Aachen Airport on Saturday night when Bush flies into the Netherlands.
However, a police escort will transport the protestors by bus to the airport and a maximum of 100 protestors may attend. The protestors will also be screened and frisked.
Bush will meet with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Queen Beatrix during his overnight visit, before flying onto Moscow. His trip coincides with services commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news