Has the Belgian state failed?

A growing number of police and intelligence glitches have come to light in the run-up to the Brussels attack. Commentators see the incidents as part of a long chain of failures on the part of the Belgian authorities.

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Libération (FR) /

Terrorists delighted over failed state

Six weeks after the terrorist attack the departure lounge at Brussels Airport has once again opened for travellers. But Belgian politicians have failed to draw the right lesson from the attack, Libération believes:

“50 years of conflict between the Flemish and the Walloons and the deconstruction of the central state to the benefit of the regions have led to a dead end marked by helplessness, incompetence and irresponsibility. ... However the politicians refuse to draw the right conclusions: after losing ground in the polls to the far-right Vlaams Belang party, the strongest governing party, the [Flemish nationalist] N-VA, has now adopted a harsher tone. All evidence to the contrary, its leaders maintain that the attacks have confirmed the failure of the central state whose demise must hence be accelerated. Terrorists of all stripes can rub their hands in glee: what could suit their purposes better than the absence of a state?”

Le Monde (FR) /

Belgium bashing uncalled for

People should not be too hasty with their criticism of the Belgian authorities in the fight against terror, political scientist Didier Leroy urges in the centre-left daily Le Monde:

“All those who systematically criticise Belgium tend to forget that foreign fighters are part of a global phenomenon. In fact there has always been a migratory dynamic in political violence, and unfortunately there always will be. The real challenge the special forces face in the states concerned lies in the unprecedented magnitude of this phenomenon in the context of the 'Arab fire' now raging in Syria and Iraq. No doubt the meteoric speed at which this situation developed has a lot to do with the exponential growth of the role played by the social networks in the spread of information in recent years.”

Ziare (RO) /

Belgium reflects EU's mistakes

The Belgian state greatly resembles the EU as a whole in terms of the way it is put together, and this should serve as a warning to the latter, economist Daniel Daianu writes on news website Ziare:

“Large communities (nation states) that speak different languages; lacking cooperation among law enforcement and security authorities (police and intelligence services); a failure to understand the social and political threat posed by the formation of enclaves with cultural practices that differ to those of the European civilisation. … Belgium seems like the alter ego of the EU when it comes to cooperation among the authorities that are supposed to guarantee the citizens' protection and combat terror. The Belgian experience doesn't hold out much hope that a more efficient community policy in these areas is in the offing.”

Duma (BG) /

Absurd fight against terror in Belgium

Under the planned legal amendment police searches would also be allowed between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. The left-leaning daily Duma pokes fun at the law:

“Just what is going on? Is Brussels now running roughshod over human rights? The special forces can now carry out searches around the clock? What a cheek! What if the terrorists are asleep? Or tinkering with a bomb? How dare the police disturb them at such times? This is a gross violation of their private sphere, unthinkably unjust! In fact all of this would be incredibly funny if it weren't so absurd and horrifying. ... It seems Europe's politicians aren't in any particular hurry to come down and join us in the real world. They prefer to live in their ivory tower, surrounded by bodyguards, in the beautiful world of expensive suits and hackneyed phrases.”

De Standaard (BE) /

The Belgian system has failed

Belgium's authorities again failed on every level during the commemorative ceremony for the victims of the attacks, the liberal daily De Standaard comments in anger:

“Since the attacks of March 22 it has become clearer day by day that the Belgian system can't go on like this. The organised irresponsibility must stop. It simply doesn't work. ... When it's clear as day that chaos undermines the security system, the result can only be deadly, in the literal sense of the term but also politically and diplomatically. ... All the relevant authorities knew that the hooligans were planning their march, but no one felt responsible. ... It's not the state structures that are the problem, but the illusion that they can work together while turning their backs on each other. ... The top priority is that every link in the chain should exchange information and take responsible decisions.”

Evenimentul Zilei (RO) /

Secret services and politicians to blame

The Belgian secret services and the politicians are pointing fingers at each other but both sides are to blame for the attacks of 22 March, the daily paper Evenimentul Zilei affirms:

“The intelligence services are mainly to blame because counter-terrorism is their job and they must prevent attacks. But the Belgian services are under-financed and tiny compared to the number of terrorist fighters returning home - 1,500 agents to more than 500 fighters. Europe has the largest per capita ratio of terrorists who travel to conflict areas and then return home. But independently of that it is up to the politicians to set up an administrative framework to deal with the threat. … Among the shortcomings here are the limited legal instruments available to the Belgian secret services and the lack of financing in view of their current tasks.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Unprofessional security forces

The public's trust in the Belgian security services has been badly shaken, the conservative daily La Vanguardia also concludes:

“The attacks in Paris and Brussels raise doubts about the professionalism of the security services. So many mistakes have been made that one wonders how the capital of Europe's institutions through which the EU's leaders pass every day can be in the hands of such ineffective security forces. … A fierce debate has broken out in Belgium between the minister of the interior, Jan Jambon, who insists he ordered that the metro be closed down straight after the attack on the airport, and Stib, the company responsible for public transport, which maintains the message never arrived. Agatha Christie used to say that the secret to a good police novel was that the detective should never know more than the reader. But the situation becomes dramatic when in reality the police know even less than the citizens.”