France stalled by new strikes as Euro 2016 starts

Published 09.06.2016 22:43

France was facing new labor action from pilots unions, train were disrupted and trash piled up in Paris with waste treatment centers on strike yesterday as France hosts its biggest event since last year's wave of extremist attacks.

France is anticipating around 10 million visitors for the month-long football championship, but strikes continue to disrupt transportation and create challenges for both organizers and visitors.

The strikes by rail workers have this week seen services canceled on the SNCF train network, including from Geneva where tournament organizer UEFA is based. Air France pilots are also planning to strike from Saturday to Tuesday, infuriating Jacques Lambert, president of the Euro 2016 organizing committee.

After two months of massive strikes and demonstrations against proposed labor law reforms, Lambert said it is worrying "because it could affect the mobility" of teams, referees and supporters. "We are very concerned by the strike movement of the Air France pilots," Lambert said through a translator on Wednesday. "It is not a good situation for us, we will admit that. It is regrettable.

"We have no control over these social movements and these strikes."

Waste treatment centers around Paris were also on strike, blocking trash collection and prompting piles of refuse to collect on pavements. Sports Minister Patrick Kanner on Thursday blasted the strikes, telling France Inter radio: "It is spoiling the party, and by spoiling the party, spoiling the image of France."

Access to a train carrying the European Championship trophy across France was blocked by protesters fighting to stop planned labor law reforms as it reached the end of its 25-city tour of France at Paris's Gare du Nord station on Wednesday.

Supporters who make it to France will see beefed-up security in stadiums and fan zones in the 10 host cities. A 90,000-strong security force, including police, soldiers and private guards, has been assembled since the attacks in Paris in November that left 130 people dead. The Stade de France was targeted by suicide bombers in the attacks while France hosted Germany in a friendly.

The French government has created an emergency alert application for smartphones intended to send swift warnings to smartphone users in the event of a bombing, shooting or other disaster.

"We want to ... ensure Euro 2016, as a sporting tournament, suffers as little as possible from this particular context. Our main goal over the last eight months has been the hope that we can bring an end to this negative spiral," Lambert said.

Meanwhile, bar and restaurants owners will not be allowed to set up TV screens outside their businesses during the European football championship. The move is aimed at improving security during the tournament, with French authorities expecting fewer people will gather if outdoor screens are banned.

Junior Minister for Sports Thierry Braillard said yesterday that official fan zones are the only outdoor public spaces where screens will be installed. The ban is expected to annoy bar owners, especially in the south of France were people spend warm summer evenings outdoors.

France has been under a state of emergency since last November's coordinated extremist attacks that killed 130 people at a rock concert, on bar and restaurant patios and outside the Stade de France.


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