Brussels on lockdown in preparation for Obama visit

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Brussels on lockdown in preparation for Obama visit

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Much of Brussels will be paralysed on Wednesday for Barack Obama’s first visit as US President.

Though the Belgian capital is used to hosting gatherings of heads of state during EU summits, the level of security in place for Obama’s trip is unprecedented.

“The reactions are a bit exaggerated, that in fact the whole city life has to stop because of an American president. But I think they agree that security and safety has to come first,” spokesperson for Brussels Mobilité, Inge Paemen, told euronews.

The shopping district around the hotel where Obama will spend the night has been cordoned off, but it seems not everybody knows about the high-profile visit, like this one local who said: “It’s surprising, because I did not expect him to come here. I think it’s for a political event. Something like that. “

With Crimea causing tensions between Moscow, Washington and Brussels, Russian tourist Anna was optimistic about Obama’s trip: “This question is really important for me to know what is going to happen. What will the decision be? As for me, I prefer that there will be a good relationship between all our countries.”

Obama will be in Brussels to attend EU and NATO summits. He will also visit and lay a wreath at a cemetery in Flanders, where US soldiers who died during both World Wars are buried.

Euronews correspondent in Brussels Sándor Zsiros said: “Three planes, nine helicopters and 45 cars will make the president and his 900-strong delegation feel secure here. For many days, American secret service agents have been working on it and there will be 800 extra local police officers on the streets. Belgium is spending 10 million euros on the 24-hour presidential visit.”