Brussels and Belgium seem overall as places where there is growing instability and where serious economic growth has been left behind.
Certainly many of the “hamlets” through this very small country have been economically devastated over decades and now its capital lives in fear that not even the airport is safe which was recently bombed or the subway which was targeted.
Is it essentially in a state of security siege if not an economic and jobs one. And how can the situation be made better on the shorter, as well as longer term to prevent more chaos and serious social, economic and political dysfunction that “nation” is facing?
One problem but Europe wide is its unfavorable demographics such as low birth rates but have been offset somewhat by the increased flow of immigrants from Africa to the Middle East many of whom are Muslims. The relatively fast changing face of ethnography has posed additional challenges though has added benefits as well in stymying demographic decline.
These immigrant entrants though are suffering along with many others in terms of unemployment but are possibly more marginalized with the rise of the extreme right parties and blowback on them from mounting terrorism in Europe and the Middle East. Marginslized communities are getting too isolated and becoming too negative.
This is all receiving constant media attention making them feel defensive, increasingly unwanted and more open to offensive thought and actions. It is a do-loop to despair and polarization and must be broken – and soon.
This attention is especially heightened given the two serious terrorist attacks, the first one emanating from Brussels but manifested in Paris and now having taken place in Brussels. The carnage had been large and frightening and by all considerations Brussels has to be now seen as the European epicenter for ISIS or related extremism.
This brings one to first ask the question is Belgium approaching a failed state status both in terms of the overall standards serious western countries measure success and adequate security protection? Is it in fact no longer a first world country? Even one that should be open to UN development assistance in social development if not security affairs?
And is Belgium the worst tip of the manifestion of significant parts of the Islamic minorities having great challenges in integrating in the West. One is certainly not saying the vast majority but certainly a worrisome and sizable fringe are dangerously angry and dysfunctional to say the least.
Let us also put this in the context of the serious political and economic failures of Belgium before we look more widely at the EU which interestingly is essentially headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
Belgium has been a very fractured country linguistically. The problem became so bad that for about one year the various factions, the French speaking Walloons and the Flemish in the more northerly parts could not even produce a government.
Belgium in fact has become the butt of many jokes for a long time and has looked like a rather dullard of a country in terms of functionality. Is this a fair analysis showing sufficient empathy, maybe not?
The country was however, very artificially hobbled together around Napoleon’s time by foreign powers wheeling and dealing in their compromising interests to those then and I suggest now who occupy Belgium territory. In summary Belgium may be the most artificial state that currently exists in the EU.
Economically, it has suffered more deindustrialization than just about any other region excluding northeastern France. Unemployment levels in many parts compete with the worst of Mediterreanean countries.
In essence it is a “time bomb” of youth alienation and interlinguistic and ethnic and particularly religious tension. It is a formula to raise tensions along the current hardening pro-Islamic -anti-Islamic divide leading to propping up far right parties, which can further aggravate this polarizing process feeding on itself.
And many have really been suffering economic marginalization to high struggles coping with maintaining a reasonable standard of living, expressing these frustrations sometimes with xenophobia or through extremism. Belgium is apparently more and more a recipe for frustration if not hatred along ethnic, and class divides, historically and certainly more recent ones.
Given these problems, the question has to be more specifically asked as well does “tiny” Belgium have the political leadership, cohesion and security resources to stem this growing epicenter of ISIS or pro-ISIS extremists. It is true that this country is not the only one experiencing some of these negative forces but they seem the worst of the EU lot especially in the western part of Europe.
The additional precise question is should its security be given over, combined etc with that of France and Holland, countries that seriously border it and have serious resources as well as concerns of becoming collateral damage.
After all, Europol to Interpol do not have the boots on the ground to go into certain neighborhoods or likely through advanced and sizable local communication mechanisms to gather sufficient vital information where need be.
One thing for sure, the status quo is dead. Belgium cannot be allowed to be a key factor in destroying the security of Europe, both more immediately or longer term. Its neighbors will not put up with it and it could even lead to the transatlantic spread of terrorism and more broadly from an overall global perspective.
The added question is whether what happened in Brussels recently in terms of terrorism along with the mismanagement of floods of refugees into Europe needs to be examined in the context of the EU as well?
Safe to say, the mass attacks in Paris and Brussels coupled with the rising reactionary far right parties, no doubt are reinforced by these terrorist attacks. This along with the streams of badly managed refugee flows means pro EU forces will be in a more desparate state to show the EU is effectively working.
The forces wishing that Britain exits the EU, the so-called BREXIT supporters, may make the failure of the EU to stabilize Belgium even more of an issue. The Brits may just get fed up if the continent becomes awash with more (Brussels) connected terrorism – or more overall terrorism wherever it emanates from including the seemingly unstoppable flow of refugees Brussels has not been able to control.
It is doubtful that Brussels will be seen as sufficiently effective particular by doubting countries to EU power. And that the EU must now worry that its central bureaucracy there could become under threat. It would be a sad reflection if the EU itself such as the parliament to bureaucratic institutions were to be physically attacked.
Much of this reinforces the anti-Schengen elements on the continent who believe the EU with its open borders has been brought to the point that the EU capital cannot be protected. It would be indeed highly embarassing to EU leaders if such feelings became dominant particularly because of new incidents.
Before the risks of EU institutions being physically attacked are further heightened due to an additional breakdown in security or any more serious terrorist attacks anywhere nearby, Belgium and the local Brussels governments must at least give up a certain degree of sovereignty under possible emergency measures.
Specifically, it must invite in French police forces and if necessary properly trained French military forces in support of Belgium police and security.The latter would be a last gasp measure. The Dutch might consider doing the same as well, with particular attention on Brussels.
Finally, any resident non-citizens or other non-citizens giving succor or support to extremists who are not full citizens should be kicked out summarily after getting proper judicial review. And certainly such types should not be let in the first place which adds impetus for Belgium to regulate its borders more thoroughly.
Belgium, as well should temporarily be removed from Schengen with much more careful inspections strengthening immigrant eligibility and visas. This could be lifted when security officials feel the risk is reasonable.
At the same time more positive resources by the EU should be used in promoting better understanding cross culturally between Muslims snd non Muslims especially in Brussels and overall Belgium.
There is no time to drag heels and over time guaranteeing Belgium’s future as a safe and politically and economically sustainable state must be better examined and whether new political structures are required to better stabilize it.
It may be that not only that the two linguistic parts need to join larger countries but that Brussels itself should become a EU capital entity with its own top police force, security agency and overall political control. There are too many key officials and EU operations for it to be caught up in failed state problems.
Belgium must not become the sore of Europe as it is currently becoming. The EU is more and more becoming a reminder through Brussels, its host city that it too is failing too often as well to meet the basic security needs on the continent.
Enough is enough. Action is required to stop a pattern of greater frequency of terrorism on the continent that I saw coming in my New Year predictions. It the inevitable shorter term consequence of the stepped up clobbering of ISIS in the Middle East which is absolutely necessary but catalyzes the return of European homegrown terrorists from Syria.
The question is how has the failing EU and dysfunctional Belgium prepared for this. The answer is not surprisingly -badly. Hopefully lessons have been learned to stop or reduce the hemorrhaging of innocent lives before worse is visited upon the West.