The Hague: the center of the world for 2 days

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Let’s face it: The Hague is a small city. With a population of about 500,000 inhabitants, it is often called the “biggest village of Europe”.  So how come my little Hague gets to organize the 3rd world nuclear security summit, after cities like Washington DC (2010) and Seoul (2012)? I’m talking about hosting 58 world leaders, Obama included, that will travel with 5,000 delegates, plus around 3,000 journalists.

The World Forum, location of the Summit

The World Forum, location of the Summit

3 major reasons why The Hague and The Netherlands were chosen

  1. The Netherlands is known as a country that is committed to peace, justice and security. As for The Hague, 150 international organizations are located here, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. This is why the city is also known as the “judicial capital of the world”.
  2. Who would have thought that The Netherlands is a major player in the nuclear industry? This is another reason for choosing the location. They produce radiopharmaceuticals and isotopes at NRG in Petten and enrichment of uranium at Urenco in Almelo.
  3. Last but certainly not least, The Netherlands is a strategic hub in the passage of many goods and people in the port of Rotterdam and Schiphol, which makes the risk of nuclear smuggling pretty high.

And maybe there was a secret 4th one, like for instance world leaders wanting to smoke a little legal weed? 🙂 That is the only funny part in the article, I promise. So you won’t think that I don’t take the nuclear summits seriously.

From Pride City to Ghost City

At first people were happy and proud that The Hague was chosen as the location, which literally makes it the most important place in the world for 2 days. And omg, yes, Obama is coming! One of my friends was saying she couldn’t wait to see him. I told her: “Honey, I don’t think that even his wife can see him without a security clearance, how do you expect to see him?” Time of world leaders mingling between people is long gone…

But then, the security measures kicked in and made The Hague a closed city, where people are almost not allowed to leave their houses during the summit. Rumors have it that some were even told to move from their houses if they were living too close to the action spot, but this was not confirmed.

What I could see and experience was the building of 3 m high wire-walls around the “red zone”, the area where the event is going to take place. Basically no one can get into that area without a security clearance. There are several rigs of wall, which protect the place where the leaders will meet.

The 3m high wire walls and cameras everywhere

The 3m high wire walls and cameras everywhere

All the houses in the red area are surrounded by the wall

All the houses in the red area are surrounded by the wall

Any type of public transport will be canceled

Any type of public transport will be canceled

Then cars were checked off the list. Residents can’t park their cars anymore in the streets they live on. I really wonder what those people did with the cars, where did they take them?!

Not to mention the small businesses that are trapped in the red zone, which will have to close their doors for few days and lose money.

Small businesses trapped between the walls will have to close for few days

Small businesses trapped between the walls will have to close for few days

You’d think only The Hague is affected, but in fact the entire Netherlands is. Some of the major highways were closed for safely transporting the participants. And because Obama will visit the most famous museum in Amsterdam, the traffic here will be frozen for at least a day.

In the end, everybody around me was only talking about security measures. From the more gossipy ones like where is Obama going to sleep (this created such a buzz that it was actually a press release saying: “A misconception can be removed: President Obama overnight is NOT on a vessel or drilling platform in the North Sea, but somewhere on land.”) to the complains and objections expressed towards what was seen as exaggerated measures that would severely affect the day to day life. One thing is for sure: most of my colleagues, similar to most of the people from The Hague, will not come to work for 2 days and it is highly likely they won’t leave their homes due to security reasons.  I heard people saying: “Why the hell don’t they just organize an event in the woods, so they don’t paralyze an entire country??”

As it happens all the time, no matter how important the bigger topic is, people will always talk about the direct impact it has on their lives. Hey, we are only humans!

A lot of security over…. what?

What is the topic of the nuclear security summit?! Nobody knows or at least nobody’s talking about it. Is it somehow normal? Are people not interested, as terrorism seems so far away? Is it too difficult to understand these types of information (what the hell is enriched uranium, anyway)? Is it because regular citizens should not have access to this type of data? Probably there’s some truth in every question.

Nevertheless, if you are interested in finding out more about the purpose of the summit, here are the 3 major objectives:

1.    reducing stockpiles of hazardous nuclear material around the world;
2.    better securing nuclear material;
3.    intensifying international cooperation.

For more information on the topic, a must read is the interview given by Piet de Klerk, the lead coordinator and negotiator for the event: Interesting enough, countries like North Korea and Iran not taking part at he summit, because “in the current circumstances the NSS is not the right setting” …

If the topic is out of hand, let’s get back to the security measures. It has become very clear over the last years, that if you want to fight terrorism, the first major challenge is to organize an event where you can talk about it. If you can have all the leaders of the world in one place, without any security incident, then imposing anti-terrorism measures it’s a piece of cake! I’m joking of course.

But unlike in my other articles, now it’s difficult for me to express an opinion. Yes, at a first glance, the security measures seem over-the-top. I know that first rule of blogging is to be opinionated, but in all honesty, I have no idea if the measures were truly extreme or not.  Being blessed to live in countries that lacked any notion of danger and war, I can’t even begin to imagine how it is to feel threatened every day. Having so little information (like any other regular person) about the types of terrorist threats, I have no idea how big the danger is.

What I do know is that since I started reading the international news, not a week (even day) goes by in the world without a violent attack. Today, nine people, among which 2 children, were killed when a gunmen broke into a hotel in Kabul and attacked them while they were casually having dinner. Not to mention the suspicion that the Malaysian jet was deliberately diverted by someone on board. This is unfortunately the world we are living.

Bombs don’t kill people, people kill people

Let’s not forget that nuclear material has an important role in medicine, by curing people and is also is a fuel source. It’s more than that. It’s mainly about people. In the end, I hope that one of the 3 objectives up there is also meant to change mentalities. It’s not only the type of threats that matter (guns, nuclear weapons etc.), because these will only get more advanced. It’s changing the easiness to disregard human life in the name of a cause that will truly make a difference. I know I might sound like a flower-power-out-of-reality person; this is why I salute people who are willing to take harsh criticism (for blocking a country) in order to make positive changes in the world. And people who, on the other side, understand that sometimes you need to stop your daily life for 2 days in order to save a life-time for others.

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Julie is the editor of She's a Romanian girl, stranded in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

For how long, she doesn't know yet. But what she does know is communication and psychology. already a bachelor in psychology, she is now also preparing to be a life coach. This is due to her genuine interest in people and the every day joy to be there for those who have questions about themselves. Working in communication for the last 4 years has helped her pursue the life-long dream of writing. But her secret love was and will always be painting, along with piano and shoes, because yes, every girl has her thing.

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