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Hosts on the ball over Euro 2008 security

(Keystone)

Security measures ahead of the Euro 2008 football championships are on track in both Switzerland and Austria, officials have said.

Speaking on Friday, security chiefs dismissed concerns that police handling of last Saturday's violence in the Swiss capital, Bern, could cast a shadow over the tournament preparations.

Representatives from the eight host cities for the event, which is being jointly held by Switzerland and Austria next June, have been meeting in Zurich for a two-day conference on security issues.

Martin Jäggi, head of Swiss security operations for the competition, said that he was confident that the cities would ensure a peaceful tournament.

The authorities were cooperating well and following the same line over security, he added, with all cities ready to react quickly and decisively if hooligans made their presence felt or violent behaviour broke out.

Last weekend violence at a pre-election rally in Bern left 21 people injured and caused more than SFr100,000 ($85,000) in damage after leftwing militants prevented a rightwing Swiss People's Party march – which was officially sanctioned - from reaching the parliament building.

Bern lessons

Bern police have been criticised in the media over their handling of the incident. But Stefan Blättler, from Bern cantonal police, said on Friday that although the events had not given a very good impression, lessons had been learned.

He said that the Euro 2008 security measures in Bern would, however, take place under different circumstances and that the two events could not be compared - comments echoed by other participants at the meeting.

"When you talk about violence at the football championships, it is always a discussion about hooligans," Gerhard Lips, head of security in Zurich, told swissinfo.

"What we saw in Bern last weekend was a totally different situation, a political discussion which is happening in Switzerland at the moment. It has nothing to do with hooligans."

He added that incidents of hooliganism had been low this year in Switzerland and that the cities were not expecting huge problems in 2008.

Lips said that the biggest challenge facing the host cities, which include in Basel, Bern and Geneva in Switzerland, was the length of the championships.

"We are used to having events for a weekend or a day, but never three weeks and so for everybody the biggest question is if they have enough personnel to sustain this effort," he said.

Extra help

Lips said Zurich was increasing and coordinating staff across the canton.

Cooperation is also being considered. Monica Bonfanti, head of Geneva's cantonal police, said a security concept had been worked out for the whole of western Switzerland involving other cantons.

The Austrian cities – Salzburg, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt and the capital, Vienna – are ready to draft in help from neighbouring Germany.

Switzerland has already signed an agreement with the French authorities and is still in discussions with Germany.

However, Swiss and Austrian officials said that they would only be able to finalise their security plans after the final draw in Lucerne on December 2.

This will set out where the teams will be playing and allow the authorities to work out how many high-security matches they are facing.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Zurich

In brief

Euro 2008 will take place from June 7-29, 2008 in Switzerland and Austria.

Fifteen of the 31 matches will be played in Switzerland and the rest in Austria.

Switzerland will play the opening match of the tournament at Basel's St Jakob's Park on June 7, 2008. The final will be in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on June 29.

Up to 5.4 million people are expected to travel to watch games at the four main stadiums and on big screens in Switzerland during the three-week tournament.

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Uefa's visit

Earlier this month Uefa president Michel Platini carried out an inspection of Swiss stadiums.

The former star of the French national team declared all stadiums to be "beautiful and in perfect working order". Lots of work had been done in the past five years, he said.

The four Swiss stadiums had all had some work on them ahead of the tournament. Zurich's Letzigrund stadium was rebuilt and officially opened a few weeks ago.

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