Berlin police enforce tight security ahead of Obama visit

AFP/DPA/The Local
AFP/DPA/The Local - [email protected]
Berlin police enforce tight security ahead of Obama visit

Police started rolling out high security measures in central Berlin on Monday in anticipation of Barack Obama's final visit to Berlin as President of the USA.


Despite delighting hundreds of thousands of spectating Germans with a speech in central Berlin during campaigning to become president in 2008, Obama has only visited the capital once during his time in office.

During that June 2013 visit, large sections of the Regierungsviertel (government quarter) of Berlin were blocked off to the general public for several days.
Similar restrictions are set to be enforced on this occasion.
The outgoing US president is set to touch down at the military airport in Tegel in the north of the capital on Wednesday evening. His departure is scheduled for Friday at noon, when he will fly to Peru for the APEC CEO summit.
By Monday morning, police had already created a security zone encircling the government quarter and the Brandenburg Gate where cars, bicycles and large containers are now prohibited from being left unattended.

The Berliner Zeitung reported on Monday that residents of Wilhelmstraße in central Berlin were informed over the weekend that they must keep their windows closed from Wednesday at noon until the same time on Friday.

Police marksmen in Pariserplatz in downtown Berlin during Barack Obama's 2013 visit. Photo: DPA

Residents were also told not to leave their apartments without personal identification and to report anyone acting suspiciously to authorities.

The famous Hotel Adlon, where Queen Elizabeth stayed during an official visit in 2015, lies inside the security zone which police have set up, and is one possible location for the President’s residence. Authorities have however made no official statement on where Obama will stay.

In 2013 the Democrat leader stayed with his family in the Ritz-Carlton on Potsdamer Platz, where police cordoned off the normally bustling area in front of the hotel entrance for days.

As is usual with state visits, German police are not commenting on their security measures. But the highest possible security precautions, so-called "1+ measures", apply for the US President.

During Obama’s three days in Berlin, the parts of the city he visits will be completely blocked off - this applies to the air space as his flight lands, the airport terminal and the streets through which his convoy passes.

Obama’s last visit to Germany was in April this year when he attended the Hanover Messe, a major global trade fair for industrial technology.

Residents of the northern town were told not to approach their windows as the president passed by, and were even instructed not to wave.

Soothing German concerns

Obama will arrive in Greece on Monday before heading for Germany in a final official visit designed, in a strange bit of political contortion, at reassuring worried Europeans about a man he once warned was "unfit" for the presidency: Donald Trump.

The irony is cruel: In the name of a peaceful transition, the American president, having thoroughly denounced the billionaire Republican during the recent campaign, must now do his best to reassure his European counterparts about the future of American democracy under a President Trump.

"I think the design of the trip was meant to just give everybody some reassurance that we made it through this campaign and we're going to come out of it all right," said Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington. "We just have a different scenario now."

The bombastic populist, whose victory over Hillary Clinton surprised virtually everyone, has given Europeans ample cause for concern.

He has questioned the relevance of some of America's paramount alliances, starting with NATO; put the Paris climate-change accord in doubt by calling global warming "a hoax," and sharply criticized the strenuously negotiated pact that Washington and five other countries signed with Iran to curb its nuclear program.


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