The terror attacks in Brussels is the consequence of the opening of the borders on the European Continent; the policing in Europe and lack of common strategy. The Police authorities in European Union member states exchange too little data and the Schengen Agreemeny, which regulates the freedom of borderless travel within the EU, is questioned.
Belgium now finds itself at the center of a major terror attack. It is not known yet rather the suspected masterminds of the Brussels terror attack came from Brussels or other European cities. However what we know is that the Brussels has long been considered to be the hotbed for radical Islamists. Troubled neighborhoods like Molenbek and Anderlecht are known as being homes to secluded communities of immigrants in which radicals can easily go underground. So has Belgium become the center of terror in Europe and security risk for the entire continent.
I am not personally surprised at all about today evil terror attack in Brussels. I can attribute two factors to this attack: The sectionalism of Belgium policing and a lack of monitoring and social control of radicalized Muslims.
Brussels is a city of 1.2 million people and it has not one, but six different police agencies. These agencies answer to 19 different municipal mayors who are often political rivals. It is unbelievable that something like this exists in Europe's capital. Furthermore, the unresolved conflict between the country's two largest populations, the Dutch-speaking Flemish and the French-speaking Wallons is casting a shadow over all this.
The Belgian government has sought for the past 40 years to defuse the situation through the decentralisation of the state. The country's flemish interiour minister has called for the six police authorities in the greater Brussels area to be merged in response to the Paris attack, but he failed dramatically. The security agencies are also considered to be poorly equipped, especially in less-prosperous areas like Molenbek. Besides, the budgets are always very tight in Brussels. Surveillance, wire-tapping and the deployment of informants is costly, both in terms of personnel and money.
The result is that many Muslims who have become radicalized or received military training and may even have been traumatized are returning home from Syria without anyone checking on them whatsoever. It is a problem that is bigger in Belgium than anywhere else in Europe. No other country on the Continent has seen as many jihadists travel to Syria relative to the overall population.
Belgian authorities estimate that out of a population of 11 million residents, around 500 have so far made the journey to jihad in Syria, by comparison, it is estimated that 800 people from Germany, a country with a population of 81 million, have traveled to Syria. And even with its much larger security apparatus, the dimension of the Islamist terrorist threat has already taken Germany to the limits of its capabilities.
In this sense, Belgium's problem is also a European Problem. The exchange of information is working , but it is slow and cumbersome and in acute crisis situation, like this one, channels of communication are frustratingly complex. For example, European police authorities do not use common databases. Information has to be transferred from country by fax or email and then fed into national systems.
Despite this, politicians in EU countries are still placing their emphasis on policing in order to finally get a lid on the problem of Islamism. Belgium, as well as the rest of Europe, has tried prevention and Belgium needs to get repressive. It has been a form of laissez-faire and laxity. Now Belgium is paying the bill.
Some are calling for more work in the long term to convince Muslim youth that there is an alternative to radicalism. But these people who are firing their weapons and blowing themselves up do not appear out of nowhere. They were not born yesterday, in the months or solely in the context of Daesh. They are children and grandchildren of 50 years of radical ideology and jihadists. And whereas it has taken a half-century to create this jihadi culture, it will take many more years to convince Muslims that the jihadi culture has led Islam to its current moral and intellectual disaster; but it is never too late to start.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
World Affairs Expert
Photo-Credit: Agence France Presse-Photo of Belgian Police at Zaventem Airport, Brussels