inside the NATO summit

At one of the hundreds of tables in the 14,000 square meter press room, few journalists speak the same language. Spanish, German, Turkish, English or Ukrainian, among others. All sharing a table and with the same goal: to follow a historic NATO summit.

Each one works for a type of medium. Some prepare for television broadcasts, others write articles and some hide in their booths to enter the radio. But, despite the fact that everyone is in a hurry, with a lot of work and that each one speaks their own language, the collaboration between reporters reigns in the atmosphere of this huge press room.

Journalists also interview each other. They seek to know how each one sees this summit and how it affects the important decisions that are being made in their countries. The most requested, without surprises, have been the Ukrainians.

Space for the press at the NATO summit

Russian salad and high food prices

And although the Russian salad was the star dish for international reporters, there is diversity among the supplies that journalists bring to survive the marathon working days. Among the Turks, hazelnuts and dried fruits triumph, the Romanians have brought tangerines and the Germans prefer sweets and chocolate, although they have also discovered the Spanish palm trees.

The menu of the day is debate meat. For its high price -20.35 euros- and for what it includes. The first day won Russian salad -‘Russian salad‘-although not without controversy. The conflict with Ukraine and the western position towards Moscow have not only focused the debates between the leaders, but it has also been transferred to the food. Following comments on social networks, the IFEMA cafeteria changed the name of the popular cover to “traditional salad”, a diplomatic solution between the mention of the country and the “kyiv salad” served by chef José Andrés at one of the working dinners between ministers.

Poster of the food offered at the NATO summit

Beyond the salad, there is a wide variety of options to choose from: Cordovan salmorejo, chicken salad, knuckle, stew, Neapolitans, croissants… Spanish food has been successful, but its prices have not been so successful: two coffees and a bottle of water cost 8.15 euros and two apples about 5 euros.

Brix and the other 97 dogs: between looking for explosives and chewing shoes

Getting to the summit venue is not easy. IFEMA is armored at all its entrances and the only way to access it is with shuttle buses that depart continuously from the press accreditation center, more than three kilometers from the fairgrounds. In between, several police controls, exhaustive but fast.

The protagonists of the spectacular display of security, however, are the police canine unit dogs. From time to time, the barking of German shepherds, Belgian shepherds and Labrador retrievers interrupt the conversations and television broadcasts of journalists. They are here to detect explosives, although in the dead moments they play with the officers by nibbling on their feet or leash.

Javier and Brix, from the canine unit of the National Police

brix is one of the 98 dogs that patrol the summit. To secure the venue, the hotels and the places where the more than 2,000 participating delegates meet, the National Police has had to resort to canine units from all over Spain, from Algeciras to Galicia, explains Javier, the agent in charge of Brix.

So close yet so far

The summit occupies two pavilions of the Madrid Fair. One of them, for meetings of world leaders, and another for journalists. Are two separate worlds, two bubbles. Politicians can go to the reporters’ area to make their speeches and to give interviews, but there is no communication in the other direction. Those who report depend on live broadcasts and some huddles with ministers, something that annoys some reporters, but that does not surprise veterans of the Atlantic summits, accustomed to this separation marked by the strict security measures of the Alliance.

Sometimes, to find out that a minister from Sweden or Turkey is going to speak, you have to be attentive to the careers of journalists in their countries, more effective than official announcements to know the importance of what is going to happen next. The one who was undoubtedly going to intervene was Joe Biden, due to the long queues to enter the press conference room.

Veterans and newcomers agree on the good organization -leaving aside the prices of the food-. Many talk about what they have enjoyed in Madrid these days and have taken the opportunity to start their summer vacation here.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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