Sofia today: Half the city blocked for EU guests

Written by on January 11, 2018 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Sofia today: Half the city blocked for EU guests

So far, Sofia residents thought Europe was about free movement. it isn’t. At least not today. What Sofia needs to endure today and for the next three days is pretty much the exact opposite of free movement.

EU Commissioners and many other guests will be landing at Sofia Airport all day long, the same airport which had to evacuate its Terminal 2 yesterday, because of a bomb scare. Hordes of correspondents from Brussels will be coming too. They will photograph Sofia’s city centre from all angles, and with all lenses they carry in their fancy camera bags.

The VIP guests will attend a nice opening ceremony at the National Theatre and lots of meetings. Every single spot in the centre of Sofia will be open for them, but not for the residents.

Bulgarian-language publications say “draconian security measures” were in place and that there would be a “transport blockade” in the capital. They are right.

Traffic and parking in the centre of Sofia will be limited, starting today. Hardly anyone will even be allowed to walk around the National Palace of Culture (NDK) or the National Theatre, for security reasons.

Streets will be closed for regular traffic, including those badly needed. The City Park will be blocked. So will a huge part of the centre, namely the area between Boulevard Vassil Levski, Boulevard Czar Osvoboditel, Graf Ignatiev Street and King Alexander I Street.

Any stray dog which might get lost in that area will probably get arrested and be taken to Guantanamo without trial.

In the early morning, some fences were installed around the NDK. Photo by A. Martínez.

Nobody envies the Ministry of the Interior today. Any security faux pas will definitely be blamed on them, because they run the “joint operational headquarters” for security. The ministry was already sending out elite police units carrying machine guns, agents and municipal police patrols this morning. Drivers and pedestrians will be checked, every bush will be searched and questioned.

Flexibility was part of the security concept, a representative of the Interior Ministry said yesterday. This means, they will react spontaneously, and drive police forces to any spot they are being needed at, at a moment’s notice.

Anton Zlatanov from the ministry was quoted by Bulgarian National Television, saying he hoped no one would try to provoke the authorities. Anything like that would not benefit anyone, he said.

Even Sofia residents who live around the NDK will be in trouble. They will hardly be able to approach their homes by car. And if they try to walk home, they might have to take long deviations and answer police questions.

Apart from all of the above, police will have to deal with a total of nine protests in Sofia. Two additional ones were actually organised by their own police union.

Drones are banned from both the city centre and the area around Sofia Airport. The authorities say that if they see any drones flying around they will “land them with special devices”.

Any unforeseen incident would probably not overburden the police, since they already are, even without incidents, but create a situation which could quickly become a mission impossible.

 

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