Sunday, 29 November 2015

NEWS: A Continent like Belgium


Illustration via The Economist.


"Brussels, wrote Tony Judt, is “a metaphor for all that can go wrong in a modern city”. The late historian, writing in 1999, was referring to the civic neglect that has left much of the Belgian capital, home to most institutions of the European Union, an unsightly mess of concrete and roadworks with the worst traffic in Europe. But his words could just as well apply to the string of terrorist plots and attacks that has provided Brussels, and some other Belgian cities, with a scabrous reputation as an incubator of jihadi ideology and a paragon of law-enforcement incompetence.

Belgium has long been the butt of European jokes, thanks in large part to its dysfunctional politics. In 2010-11 squabbles over the rights of Flemish-speakers on the outskirts of Brussels held up the formation of a government for 589 days, a world record. But the terror threat has exposed the darker side of Belgium’s maladministration, in the form of uncoordinated security services and neglected areas like Molenbeek, a down-at-heel Muslim-majority commune in west Brussels. After the Paris attacks, French officials sniped at their Belgian counterparts on learning that several of the perpetrators had hatched their schemes in Brussels. Two had been questioned by Belgian police earlier this year. One of them, Salah Abdeslam, fled to Brussels after having driven three of the Paris suicide-bombers to their destination.

(...)
We are all Belgians now

Yet no European country with a large Muslim minority has solved the problem of integration. Britain and France take different approaches, but each has seen scores killed in “home-grown” terrorist attacks. In Sweden, towns like Gothenburg are partially segregated; this week the government executed a screeching U-turn on its asylum policy. Even Germany, which is embarking on its own experiment in integration after having welcomed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, has struggled to accept that it is a land of immigration rather than of Gastarbeiter (“guest-workers”). In each of these countries and others, anti-immigration parties are climbing in the polls; in some, they top them.

Twenty years ago the main terrorist threat in Europe came from regional separatists. Ten years ago it was spectacular attacks by al-Qaeda, or groups inspired by it. It is now evolving into something messier, directed against softer targets, organised across borders and linked to gangland crime and weapons-trafficking. (Olivier Roy, a French expert on extremism, speaks of “the Islamicisation of radicalism”.) This raises urgent questions for officials across Europe, not least over how far they are willing to share intelligence and data with their counterparts elsewhere, whether within the EU or in other formats. It is time to stop bashing Belgium. Much of Europe is in the same boat."

Read the article in The Economist. E.T.P. 4'

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