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Decision imminent on extra security near EU buildings

Details of additional security measures to protect the area around EU institutions are set to be announced in a "few weeks", an official working in the cabinet of Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans has said.

"There is a working group made up of EU and Belgian officials which meets regularly on the subject. In a few weeks we will make an announcement," Nicolas Dassonville told EUobserver on Wednesday (16 March).

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  • Belgian horse police at the Schuman roundabout in the EU quarter (Photo: _Skender_)

How far ranging any new measures may be has yet to be finalised. The working group was set up last year following a request for greater security from European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek.

The Polish politician called on Belgian authorities to create a special security zone around EU institutions, with some parliamentary officials complaining that thieves were specifically targeting the city's European quarter.

Estonian Liberal Democrat MEP Vilja Savisaar was robbed on her way home in Parc Leopold next to the parliament in early 2010, while German centre-right MEP Angelika Niebler suffered a similar assault in October 2009.

Break-ins at the European parliament have also occurred on a number of occasions, most recently when thieves made off with €8,000 in cash from the legislature's post office last month.

The official in the mayor's office stressed that the security zone issue was unrelated to a contract being signed between federal and local police on Wednesday that will see two policemen on horseback patrolling the European quarter five days a week.

A 2001 reform stripped local police forces in Belgium of their horses, resulting in an informal system of borrowing when the need arose.

Wednesday's accord between the Belgian federal police and Bruxelles-Capitale-Ixelles, one of six local police regions in Brussels, will see the local force gain six permanent horses, two of which will patrol between the European Commission, Council and Parliament.

"Mounted police have three main advantages," said Dassonville. "They are seen from a long way away, they allow police to see further, and also enable police to access places where cars and motorbikes cannot."

The federal police force will continue to take care of the additional security measures linked to meetings of European leaders in Brussels, an increasingly common occurrence.

Major protests against pan-European austerity measures took place in 2010, with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) this week announcing plans to hold a rally in the Rue de la Loi during next Thursday's summit.

The trial of eleven climate activists who carried out a protest at a European summit in December 2009 is set to conclude in Brussels this Thursday.

A car carrying the Greenpeace volunteers successfully joined the cavalcade of EU leaders entering the council's Justus Lipsius building, before the group sprang from the vehicle and proceeded to read their demands for the forthcoming Copenhagen climate conference.

Last month the Belgian public prosecutor called for the campaigners to receive one month prison sentences and fines of €1,100 per activist.

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