18 February 2005
BRUSSELS – Security is set to be at an all-time high next week when U.S. President George Bush rolls into Brussels for meetings with European allies.
The U.S. president, due to arrive in the Belgian capital Sunday evening, will travel in his armoured Cadillac – affectionately referred to as “the Beast” by the White House press corps – he brings on all his foreign trips.
On Bush’s first foreign visit since the start of his second term, the president and first lady will arrive in Brussels Sunday evening and stay through Wednesday, when they head to Germany.
Police will cordon off a reinforced security zone in the EU neighbourhood during the visit. Only local residents, people who work in the area, accredited journalists and those with special passes will be allowed inside the security zone.
A source close to the government was quoted in the Belgian press as saying that authorities are only taking “regular” security precautions as is the norm for EU summits and other high-level affairs.
Nevertheless, it is clear that authorities are taking no chances during the visit of the world’s most powerful man, especially given the numerous protests planned by dozens of non-governmental organisations.
Staff in the Commission’s Berlaymont building “not directly involved” in Bush’s visit have been told to stay home Tuesday, while the Schuman metro station will be closed all day.
In addition, the U.S. embassy, which will be closed Monday for President’s Day, will also close all day Tuesday, providing consular services in emergency situations only.
The streets around the embassy and a number of other roads will also be cordoned off.
On Monday, the first day of his visit, Bush will meet his Belgian hosts, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and King Albert II, and host a working dinner for French president Jacques Chirac.
After breakfasting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair Tuesday, Bush will head to NATO headquarters, where he has bilateral meetings scheduled with Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as well as a meeting and luncheon with NATO heads of state and government.
On Tuesday afternoon, the president will meet for the first time since the EU admitted 10 new member states last month with the now 25 member countries.
Later that day, he will hold a joint press conference with Luxembourg Prime Minister and Finance Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who holds the EU’s rotating presidency, European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso and EU High Representative Javier Solana.
Bush will be in Brussels until Wednesday, when he departs for Frankfurt, Germany and then heads straight to Mainz for a roundtable discussion with German citizens and the Gutenberg Museum.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news