Saturday, 22 March 2014

Nuclear Security Summit - Location, Location, Location

If you were to wander around some parts of The Hague at the moment, you could be forgiven for thinking that the political capital of the Netherlands is under siege. Thankfully, you'd be wrong. Well, sort of.

All the security measures in a large area around the World Forum are actually preemptive security measures for the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS)* which starts this Monday, the 24th March, and ends the following day.

So, in a way, The Hague is preparing itself for a siege of sorts: More than 50 countries are sending prominent delegates, as well as other international organisations who will attend in an observation role. 58 world leaders, 5000 delegates and 3000 journalists will be streaming into The Hague over the next two days and the eyes of the world will be on the Dutch city.

No wonder then that the security measures are debilitating for the local residents who suddenly find themselves in all effects cut off. Many roads are closed (some from Friday 21st already), public transport routes are disrupted, air space will be cleared above parts of the Netherlands, coastal waters will be a no-go zone within a kilometre of the Dutch shore, some beaches are off limits, as are some hotels, and there are barriers, cameras and (military) police and missiles lurking in places you don't even want to think about. (You can find all the current information linked to this article on the NSS website to keep up to date with traffic restrictions). But be assured, everything is being done to ensure that you, Joe Public, suffers the least inconvenience possible,

"The authorities are doing their utmost to ensure that any inconvenience to the public is kept to a minimum. Nevertheless, motorists travelling between Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam should be prepared for severe disruptions. The same applies to the area around Wassenaar, Leiden, Katwijk, Noordwijk, the ‘Bollenstreek’ and Haarlemmermeer. 
At times of peak travel, there will be a ‘rush hour over and above the regular rush hour’. The director-general of Rijkswaterstaat Jan Hendrik Dronkers has said, ‘Our advice is not to go to this part of the Randstad on Monday 24 March and Tuesday 25 March, if you don’t absolutely have to. If possible, try to work from home or some other location.’"
Ah, disruption in the Bollenstreek -just as Keukenhof opens its doors to the public. Gratis tip - stay away from the opening weekend in Lisse and go next weekend instead. (Second gratis tip for the smart ones  - stay away next weekend too because the Keuekenhof will be busy with all the people who didn't go this weekend.)

Businesses and organisations around the World Forum have essentially been told to shut their doors to their employees from today, as well as all tourist and cultural attractions (think Omniversum and Museon) so if you were thinking of taking in the sights of the Hague I would think again.

The suggestion is that employees work from home but if you consider the organisations that are situated in the immediate vicinity of the World Forum Centre (Europol, OPCW) it would be worrying to think about some of them taking their work home with them. In short, for security reasons many of these employees are unable to work from home. If the weather plays ball maybe they could spend their days off work with a laptop on a beach. Oh no, wait, some beaches may be closed.

Cameras, screens, road signs, barriers - preparing for the
You get my point. It is disruption with a capital D. And then there is the cost. I read some Dutch comments on a recent online news article that assured me they were under the impression that the Netherlands is not bearing the financial costs for hosting this summit. After I wiped up the coffee I inadvertently spit out whilst laughing, I clicked on the link that one knowledgeable reader posted who's head is not up in the clouds to learn that the summit is costing..... drumroll......
"The budget to organise NSS 2014 is €24 million, excluding security costs...... 
The €24 million budget will cover the cost of the location, organisation, catering, technology, ICT and transport for delegates. It will be paid from the central government budget, more specifically from the Homogenous Budget for International Cooperation (HGIS, a sub-budget within the central government budget to promote cooperation and coordinate various ministries’ expenditure on foreign policy). A number of companies are also willing to act as sponsors in kind."
This is again taken direct from the NSS website, and of course is only half the story. €24 million does not take into account economic losses due to the inability of employees to get to work, lost revenue from attractions that are closed, the hours of traffic jams etc etc etc. There is no compensation for those, like my father in law who works for himself, who cannot work on Monday and Tuesday because of closed transport links. Oh, and of course the security costs are not included - which are immense! I am not sure The Hague has seen anything like it before.

So, to say that the summit has attracted attention (positive and negative) is an understatment. This information taken from the NSS website then is hardly surprising,

"Three-quarters of the Dutch public are aware that a major summit – the NSS 2014 – will be held in The Hague at the end of March. Awareness is even greater among people living in The Hague region (86%) and among residents of The Hague (94%). Most people are also aware that the summit is about nuclear terrorism (63% of the Dutch public, 68% of people living in The Hague region and 82% of residents of The Hague)."

One of the many strange security preparation
measures for the NSS in the World Forum
car park
Unless you are a hermit, it would be extremely difficult to miss that something major is going on in The Hague this weekend, and if you really were unaware you'll soon know about it when you spend your weekend sitting in a traffic jam. Or are carried off by military police because you stumbled into the wrong zone.....

Hosting an important global summit in the most densely populated country in Europe is no easy task. My condolences to those behind the scenes who have been planning this for the past goodness knows how long - deep breath, it is nearly over. I am guessing their families can take them straight to an asylum or a hospital on Wednesday.

If you happen to be one of the many adversely effected by the summit take heart from the benefits of hosting such a prestigious event (from the NSS website):

"What are the benefits of NSS 2014?
This question can be answered on several levels:
  • a safer world and therefore a safer Netherlands;
  • confirmation of the role we fulfil internationally;
  • positioning of the Netherlands in general and as a country of peace, justice and security in particular;
  • positioning of The Hague as an international city of peace and justice."

Makes it all better right?

*Disclaimer* I know the NSS is important. I know it's prestigious for the Netherlands to host the summit. I know it's great to welcome Obama to The Hague. I know my boys will love seeing the jet fighters zoom (do jet fighters zoom?) over our house a hundred times a day. I know my husband is not making much of a sacrifice being forced to stay at home for three days. I know. So don't post comments about how wonderful it all it. And how we should all count ourselves lucky. I know and I do. But really? The location sucks.

1 comment:

  1. "Experts have put the cost of security operation at between €150m and €250m."

    - See more at: