The G7 leaders are meeting for three days in Elmau, Germany. The summit has turned this idyllic corner of Bavaria into a high-security zone that has impacted local businesses and schools, as Sabine Kinkartz found out.
Chocolate is everywhere you look. Different varieties are stacked on large plates in a display case. There’s cranberry white next to peanut-salt-whole-milk, and dark chocolate refined with cardamom, clove and pepper. Chocolatier Franz Kässer makes the delicacies and sells them in his store in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. But customers have been staying away for weeks. “We’re losing out big time,” Kässer says angrily.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a spa town in Upper Bavaria that lives primarily from tourism. Skiers come in the winter, hikers in the summer. “The tourist beds are occupied, but for the past three weeks they’ve been police officers, security guards and people doing the set-up for the G7 summit,” Kässer says, explaining his problem. “Of course, they don’t shop with us or eat with us, because they’re catered for differently.”
And it’s not just him, he adds: “I went out to eat last night, there were three people sitting in the restaurant, where normally everything is booming at this time of year.”
Even the schools are closed
At least 18,000 police officers have been deployed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Elmau, the small village located above the resort town in a valley that is difficult to access, to provide security for the G7 summit. Police cars are lined up everywhere, and helicopters are repeatedly rattling through the air.
The heads of state and government are hermetically sealed off at Schloss Elmau, a remote luxury spa retreat, while in Garmisch the media center has been set up for the 3,000 or so journalists who have arrived. Hundreds of manhole covers have been sealed with white stickers, no trash cans are allowed on the streets, schools are closed, with students forced to take their classes online.
Police checkpoints have been set up on all access roads within a radius of 16 kilometers (10 miles). Motorists must stop, personal details are checked. The plan is to spot and filter out troublemakers and potentially violent protesters before they reach Garmisch.