Anti-globalization protests have become a routine part of the annual G8 economic summits, and activism against the meeting in Germany planned for June 2007 has already started -- with attacks this week on a politician's house and the luxury hotel that will host world leaders.
An unnamed group sent a letter to the German news agency DPA claiming responsibility and writing that the attack was a prelude to a series of protests against the summit. "It doesn't matter how many police are on the ground," the letter read. "There are more of us and we want to be at the site. And we will manage to do that."
According to a spokeswoman for the hotel, three or four paint balls were used in the attack. "The damage was small but ugly," she said. The paint was removed from the hotel by cleaners, and the hotel has since beefed up security on its grounds.
It is the second anti-G8 attack in two days. In the early hours of Tuesday morning there was an arson attack on a house in Hamburg belonging to Thomas Mirow, a state secretary in the federal Finance Ministry. Mirow's wife's car was set on fire and paint balls were thrown against the wall of the house. Mirow described the attack as "an act of banal violence of rare senselessness," saying that it was not the way to gain support for a fair world order.
The Kempinsky Grand Hotel complex at Heiligendamm
The arson attack was the 37th protest in Germany to date by militant G8 opponents, according to a police spokesperson from the special "Kavala" police unit which has been created for the G8 summit.
A massive fence around Heiligendamm
The Group of Eight industrial nations, or G8, has for years been the target of protests from anti-globalization protesters, who call it a club of rich nations and criticize it for failing to solve global problems like climate change and abject poverty. Annual G8 summits have been the focus of at times violent protests, most notably at the 2001 summit in Genoa.
Germany assumes the presidency of the G8 group at the start of 2007, and will host the summit on June 6-7.
Heinz Fromm, president of Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution -- its domestic intelligence agency -- told German daily Die Welt on Friday that he expected more protests from globalization opponents ahead of the Heiligendamm summit. "We have been observing strong efforts towards mobilization (in the activist scene) for a long time," he said, adding that militants were planning a campaign of "continuous attacks on institutions and people who represent the phenomenon of globalization."
Still, a huge security operation is planned to cope with the 100,000 protesters which police are expecting. As part of security precautions, a massive fence will be built around the resort town of Heligendamm, with construction work planned to begin on January 2. The costs for the over 12- kilometer (7.5-mile) long and 2.5-meter (8.2-feet) high barrier are expected to be over 12.5 million ($16.5 million).
Squabbles over money
Ringstroff is currently embroiled in a debate about who will pay the summit's bills -- which are meant to be split between the federal government and the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state government.
The summit is currently estimated to cost a total of 92 million, over twice an earlier estimate of 45 million, but still significantly below the 120 million cost of the 2005 summit in Gleneagles in Scotland. The federal government has said it will pay around 23 million of those costs -- leaving Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania to come up with the remainder, around 68 million.
However, Ringstroff told DPA that the costs for the state would be significantly lower than the oft-quoted 68 million figure. He said Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania would "not bear the main share of the costs."
The main sticking point is who will pay for the use of police from other German states, which is estimated to cost around 34 million. Currently Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is responsible for these costs. However SPD politicians from the state have recently called for the federal government to pay for the extra police, warning that Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania might not be able to host the summit if the federal government does not provide more money. The federal government responded by saying that relocating the summit was not a serious proposition. Ringstroff told DPA that solutions for meeting the costs of police from other states were "in the offing."
Originally the summit was supposed to cost the state only 10 million. Critics however claim that Ringstroff knew the real costs of the summit as early as January 2006 but did not want to make them public ahead of state elections in September 2006.
With reporting by Gunther Latsch.
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