French PM: It’s ‘vital’ Euro 2016 goes ahead


The attacks in Belgium and Paris have raised doubts as to whether Euro 2016 should go ahead in June. (Christophe Ena/AP)

PARIS — Striking a defiant tone, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says it is "vital" the European Championship in France goes ahead to show the country will not cower in the wake of the deadly attacks in Brussels and Paris.

More than 30 people were killed and 200 injured after explosions at Brussels airport and subway on Tuesday, and France remains in a state of emergency since 130 were killed on a night of attacks in Paris in November.

The attacks have raised doubts as to whether Euro 2016 should go ahead in June.

"Big sporting events, big cultural events, are vital to show that we are a free people standing on our feet, that we’re not scared, that we know we’re facing up to a terrorist threat," Valls said on Wednesday on Europe 1 radio. "So, yes, Euro 2016 and the Tour de France will take place."

Other big events coming up include the Paris Marathon next week, and the French Open tennis in May.

These events, Valls said, were "a strength for our democracy," and show that "life is the best answer to this ideology of death."

With Europe on high alert, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said everything will be put in place to guarantee the tightest security at Euro 2016, with the mobilization of specially trained emergency staff, police, and firefighters.

Tournament organizers strengthened security measures and made changes to the particularly vulnerable fan zones well before the events in Brussels.

French secretary of state for sport Thierry Braillard told sports daily L’Equipe on Wednesday that "we can’t do better in terms of security for the Euro," and reiterated that "to cancel or to postpone the European Championships would be giving in."

Three weeks ago, UEFA tournament director Martin Kallen raised the possibility that matches could be postponed and even played behind closed doors because of security reasons or terror attacks.

But organizing president Jacques Lambert was totally against the idea.

"The objective is clearly not to play matches at the Euro behind closed doors," Lambert said on Wednesday. "It would be an unequivocal absurdity to organize an event like this and for it to take place in empty stadiums."

France plays Netherlands in a friendly in Amsterdam on Friday, and hosts Russia at Stade de France next Tuesday.

Both matches are set to go ahead, and it will be the first time France plays a soccer match at the national stadium since suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the stadium on Nov. 13 during France’s friendly against Germany. France played three Six Nations rugby matches there recently without incidents.

Stade de France hosts the opening game of Euro 2016 when France faces Romania.

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