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EU Rome tightens security ahead of organisation's summit

Security was stepped up in key areas and police forces were put on high alert since Thursday, also following Wednesday’s terror attack in London.

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EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L) at a press with President of the EU Parliament Antonio Tajani (R) in Brussels on March 1, 2017 play

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L) at a press with President of the EU Parliament Antonio Tajani (R) in Brussels on March 1, 2017

(AFP)

Security measures were tight in Rome on Friday, a day before a summit to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Union (EU).

Security was stepped up in key areas and police forces were put on high alert since Thursday, also following Wednesday’s terror attack in London.

The air space over Rome would remain closed from 6 a.m. on Friday to 11 p.m. on Saturday, according to the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC).

The ban included commercial and emergency flights, ultra-light air crafts, and drones.

Two security zones were put in place around Rome’s sensitive districts, including parliament and presidential palace, and around the Capitoline Hill, where the celebrations of the 27 European leaders will take place on Saturday.

The most restricted zone namely the “Blue Area’’ will be off-limits for all transport means and all citizens (but residents) on Saturday, including those taking part in various rallies planned for the event.

Checkpoints were set up at the main gates to the areas, and about 100 surveillance cameras were added to help reinforce controls, police said.

Three metro stations near the restricted zones will be shut down from Friday evening to all Saturday.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti ordered the measures after an urgent meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Strategic Analysis Committee (CASA) was called on Thursday evening, following the London attack.

The Committee comprises all Italian intelligence agencies, and the chiefs of all police forces, and a representative of Scotland Yard in Rome took part in the meeting as well, according to Italian officials.

The CASA would meet in permanent session until after the EU summit, the Interior Ministry said.

Adding to the anti-terror alert, the security plan had to be adapted to six different rallies of both pro-EU and anti-EU forces which would move across the capital during the event.

The marches would develop on different paths and at different time to avoid possible tensions, and at least 25,000 people were expected to take part in them, Ansa news agency reported.

The anti-EU demonstrations were seen as more sensitive in terms of security, for there was a risk of possible infiltration by violent minorities from both left and right radical groups, Ansa added.

“The goal (of the security plan) is to ensure the safety of the participating personalities, the tranquility of the citizens, and the right to demonstrate peacefully,’’ Minniti said.

Since Thursday, vigilance had been increased at the Italian borders, at Rome’s airports and train stations, and on all major highways leading to the Italian capital.

On Saturday morning, the European leaders will gather to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome of 1957, from which the whole integration process kicked off.

Besides marking the anniversary, the 27 heads of state and government were expected to outline EU’s future after the forthcoming exit of Britain.

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