Spain will deploy 10,000 police officers to protect upcoming NATO summit

More than 40 heads of state and government are scheduled to attend the gathering at a time of heightened global tension due to the invasion of Ukraine

Members of the National Police conducting a security check on February 15 in Madrid.
Members of the National Police conducting a security check on February 15 in Madrid.Alberto Ortega (Europa Press)

Security around Madrid will be ironclad between June 28 and 30, when the Spanish capital is due to host a NATO summit at a time of heightened global tension due to the invasion of Ukraine.

The Spanish government is planning to deploy 6,550 National Police officers and 2,400 members of the Civil Guard, in addition to 1,200 municipal police officers who will collectively watch over the safety of more than 40 heads of state and government scheduled to attend the gathering.

Each delegation will additionally bring their own security detail, while F-18s from Spain’s Air Force will watch over the airspace. Authorities are considering whether to declare a no-fly zone over a large part of the Madrid region and the neighboring provinces at some point during the summit.

The government is also studying the possibility of reintroducing controls at its land borders, a measure provided for under certain circumstances in the Schengen Agreements, to “detect and prevent the entry into Spain of any person who may be a danger to the summit,” said Interior Ministry sources.

According to police sources, Operation Eirene – so named after the Greek goddess of peace – will far exceed the security measures deployed the previous time Madrid hosted a summit of the North Atlantic Alliance, in July 1997. It will also be greater than the security operation at the wedding of Felipe VI (then still the heir to the Spanish throne) and Letizia Ortiz, or at Felipe’s proclamation in June 2014, or at the events held under the Spanish presidency of the EU in 2002.

Triple threat

The decision to increase security measures has been influenced by the convergence of a triple threat: Jihadist terrorism, violent anti-establishment groups and the risk of cyber-sabotage by Russia.

Sources at Spain’s Interior Ministry said that, so far, no signs of particular concern have been detected on any of these fronts. The national anti-terrorist alert level will remain at 4 out of 5, where it has been since June 2015. The Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO, which answers to the ministry) periodically conducts analyses to detect changes in these threats.

Planning for Operation Eirene began in October, just a few months after NATO decided to hold the summit in Madrid. On May 12, the operation entered a second “preventive” phase involving work to prepare Pavilions 12 and 14 of Ifema, Madrid’s convention center, where the main work meetings and sessions will be held. Ministry sources said that a new “alert” phase is due to begin on June 24, during which only authorized personnel will be able to access the site. Finally, on June 27, one day before the formal start of the summit, the “critical phase” will be activated and remain in place until all the delegations have left Spain on June 30.

The program includes events at the Royal Palace, where the king and queen will offer a meal to global leaders on June 28; the Prado Museum, where a working dinner will be held the following day led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez; Moncloa Palace, the seat of government, where the PM will have bilateral meetings with some of his counterparts; the Royal Theater, the Reina Sofía Museum and the Royal Glass Factory of La Granja (Segovia). These last three locations will host different cultural events for the companions of the attending leaders. Around 20 hotels scattered around the city will provide accommodation for the more than 2,000 international visitors expected at the gathering.

Getting around Madrid during the summit

The NATO summit will significantly affect mobility in Madrid, admitted sources at the Interior Ministry, who recommended using public transit whenever possible. In addition to the traffic snarls that will be caused by the motorcades moving across the city, and the closure of lanes on some main roads, authorities are considering whether to suspend Metro service on the 8 line, which has a stop near Ifema. The ministry has recommended that businesses headquartered in the area allow employees to work from home for the duration of the summit. The Prado Museum, where a dinner event is scheduled for June 29, will remain closed that day and the day before to finalize preparations.

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