US Issues Travel Warning for EuropeJune 6, 2016 in Europe, United States
The United States government on Tuesday 31 May warned Americans travelling to France this summer that stadiums hosting matches in the Euro Cup 2016 Tournament as well as other affiliated venues likely to draw large numbers of fans could be vulnerable to becoming terrorist targets. The advisory however stops short of telling Americans to stay away from Euro 16 host cities.
On Tuesday, the US State Department issued a new Europe-wide US travel advisory. In it, it highlighted concern about the potential for terror strikes aimed at the European Soccer Championships, which are due to run from 10 June – 10 July. It included venues where large numbers might gather to watch the games on jumbo screens, for instance in outdoor squares or parks, amongst the sites at risk. The advisory indicates that “we are alerting US citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centres and transportation.” IT states that “France will host the European Soccer Championship from June 10 – July 10…Euro Cup stadiums, fan zones, and unaffiliated entertainment venues broadcasting the tournaments in France and across Europe represent potential targets for terrorists, as do other large-scale sporting events and public gathering places throughout Europe.” It adds that “France has extended its state of emergency through July 26 to cover the period of the soccer championship, as well as the Tour de France cycling race, which will be held from July 2 – 24.” While the advisory stop short of telling travellers to stay away from areas of potential risk, it does recommend that they “exercise vigilance,” monitor local media nad law down plans to stay in touch with family in case of an emergency.
The advisory comes as French authorities are already bracing for a possible resurgence of hooliganism at some of the venues. Matches that have already been identified as having the potential for fan violence include England v. Germany and Russia V. Wales. With twenty-four teams competing, about 2.5 million fans, most form other countries, are expected to converge on France over the next month. The French government has conceded that the fear of new terror attacks, potentially carried out by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group, is a reality, with Patrick Calvar, head of the DGSI intelligence agency, telling the French parliament’s defense committee in May that “we know that (IS) is planning more attacks…and that France is clearly a target.” While he did not mention the Euro 16 specifically, he added that the French police “may be coming face to face with a new type of attack – a terrorist campaign characterized by planting explosive devices where where large crowds are gathered…to create as much panic as possible.” He went on to state that “the question, when it comes to the threat, is no ‘if,’ but ‘when’ and ‘where.’”
The US travel advisory also noted that France, where police resources have been stretched since the November 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, also must contend with the staging of the annual Tour de France bicycling race, which will take place throughout July.
The US advisory also singled out the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day festival, which is set to take place for five days starting on 25 July in Krakow, Poland. It notes that this event will likely trigger unusual levels of security vigilance and associated complications for travellers. The US State Department travel advisory will remain in effect until 31 August.