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Swiss backtrack on G-8 policing

German police will help keep the peace during the anti-globalisation protest on June 1.

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland is to draft in 750 German police reinforcements to keep order during planned anti-globalisation protests in Geneva during the upcoming G-8 summit.

Thursday's announcement marks a U-turn by the Swiss government, which had previously insisted it would not be seeking German assistance.

The G-8 meeting is taking place from June 1-3 in the French town of Evian, just across the border with Switzerland.

Massive protests are planned during the summit, with up to 100,000 demonstrators expected to take part in a march in Geneva on June 1.

Last week Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey ruled out asking the Germans for help, saying it would signal that Switzerland could not guarantee security at major events.

Ruth Metzler, the justice minister, added that she would seek a "Swiss" solution to the G-8 policing shortfall. She promised to try to recruit extra officers from local forces across the country.

Before last week's announcement, the cantons had already agreed to supply 720 officers during the summit. However, this number fell short of the extra 1,500 policemen demanded by the Geneva authorities.

The head of canton Geneva's G-8 task force, Micheline Spoerri, said she was "satisfied" that their demand had been met. She said that cooperation with German security forces would not pose a problem - command of all personnel would lie with Swiss police.

Policing system

The Swiss authorities are expected to make a formal request to Germany next week. Germany can send members of its police force to Switzerland under an agreement signed between the two countries last year.

The extra police would be used to reinforce security at Geneva's international airport, where most of the leaders attending the G-8 summit are expected to land.

In support of the government's decision to approach Germany, Metzler said on Thursday that requesting outside help did not tarnish Switzerland's image.

Security surrounding the meeting has been the subject of fierce debate in Switzerland, and many specialists say the difficulty in mobilising forces on a nationwide scale has highlighted weaknesses in the country's policing system.

Security is a cantonal rather than a national affair, making it difficult to coordinate efforts. Preparations for the summit have also been hampered by the lack of a federal police force.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The G-8 summit in Evian lasts from June 1-3.
Around 5,600 Swiss soldiers will be supporting security efforts in Switzerland.
The cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Valais will be receiving reinforcements of around 2,000 police officers from other parts of the country.
Geneva will also have an extra 1,500 police officers from outside the canton -including 750 Germans - on June 1, the day of a protest expected to draw up to 100,000 demonstrators.

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