Germany and France join call for action against protests

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The Independent Online

Germany and France called for urgent Europe-wide measures yesterday to combat the groups of well-organised protesters from across the Continent that caused mayhem in Gothenburg over the weekend.

The call, which follows similar suggestions from Sweden, is the latest sign of alarm at the way extremists hijacked protests around the EU summit, and over the threat to future international meetings. Europe's leaders are particularly concerned over security at the summit of G8 leaders, which will be attended by George Bush, in Genoa next month.

Germany's Interior Minister, Otto Schilly, said he and his French counterpart, Daniel Vaillant, wanted talks on how to agree a "co-ordinated and hard response to this new form of extremist, cross-border criminality". Most governments were surprised at how ill-prepared the Swedish police were and that they had no recourse to tear gas or water canon.

The growing sophistication of anti-capitalist demonstrations is causing increasing anxiety. On Saturday, Göran Persson, the Swedish premier, called for discussions with the French, whose last summit in Nice in December was hit by violence during an anti-capitalist protest, and with Belgium. The Belgians are due to take on the EU presidency in July and are to host summits in Ghent and Brussels.

Mr Schilly said "bands of criminals are systematically trying to disrupt political summit meetings" by exploiting the presence of the media and hijacking peaceful demonstrations.

In Italy, the threat to the Genoa meeting is already producing political fallout. The Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has said if there is trouble at Genoa, "the responsibility will be of the preceding governments".

Few would argue with his claim that Genoa was a bad choice. With one of the largest medieval city centres in Europe, a labyrinth of narrow alleys, a huge industrial and tourist port, and a 12-mile sprawl along the seafront, it is a security nightmare. Moving the summit is almost impossible at such late notice, though; the G8 leaders are due to meet from 21-23 July. The preliminary gathering of foreign ministers, to be held in Portofino, was shifted to Rome last month.

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