BRUSSELS — When President Trump lands in Brussels on Tuesday for this week's NATO summit, Belgians will be cheering in the streets — though not for him.
Trump will arrive on the same day Belgium's national soccer team plays France in the World Cup semifinals, the first time Belgium has reached this stage of the tournament since 1986. Bars, cafes and more than 25 public areas will be packed with Belgian fans — not to mention some of the 80,000 French citizens living in Brussels.
The combination of the two events has created a perfect storm of security issues, even for a city that is accustomed to high-profile international summits.
“It is true we feel a certain tension while preparing the summit,” said Benoit Ramacker, a spokesman for Belgium’s Crisis Center, to Le Soir, the country’s main French-speaking publication.
Security will be tighter than usual, and several areas of the city will be blocked off during Trump's visit. According to the police, those areas include streets and squares near the U.S. Embassy, districts near NATO headquarters and potentially areas in the city center where European Union institutions are. Brussels’ main park will also be closed to the public July 11 as NATO leaders and their spouses attend a dinner at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History.
If Belgium wins Tuesday, sending the team to its first World Cup final, the party could collide with the extensive security measures. When Belgium scored an upset win Friday against Brazil, most streets in the center of Brussels and several other districts were filled with cheering fans and horn-honking cars.
But Ilse Van De Keere, a Brussels police spokeswoman, said fans shouldn't worry. “We are not going to change plans,” she said, adding that Belgians are used to gathering in the streets after big wins.
Leaders from both Belgium and France are expected to be in St. Petersburg for the match Tuesday. French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to travel to Russia for the game before arriving in Brussels on Wednesday; Belgium's King Philippe and Queen Mathilde will also attend, according to the king's spokesman.