Fight against terrorism, the measures taken by the federal government and the speech of the Prime Minister
Last Friday, three terrorist groups perpetrated an indiscriminate attack against innocent people. Innocents whose only sin was to be alive. Living in freedom.
This attack in the heart of Europe comes after many others: the Jewish museum in Brussels, Charlie Hebdo, Verviers and the Thalys train between Brussels and Paris.
These attacks took place in Paris, and were decided in Syria. They were carried out by Franco-Belgian cells.
129 people died, 350 people were wounded, some of whom are still fighting for their lives.
Women and men of 19 different nationalities. Our thoughts are with their families and friends. Our three compatriots who perished as a result of this barbaric act are also in our thoughts.
We are outraged. We are sad. The terrorists are trying to destroy our values by spreading death. Our freedom to watch a concert or a football match or to relax sitting on a sidewalk cafe.
In this Parliament, we do not share the same ideological, political or philosophical beliefs.
We represent the diversity of our people.
Let us now, more than ever, transcend our differences and join together.
More than ever, we must stand united behind our universal values.
Equality, separation of church and state, freedom of expression, tolerance and respect for others…
These are and must remain the untouchable foundations of our democracy.
Fanaticism, just like racism, is a poison. A poison seeking to divide. A poison which must be destroyed.
The parliament and the government have a responsibility not to take this bait. It is the duty of all democrats to fight fanaticism and terrorism. Determined and ruthless. We shall fight the enemies of freedom with respect for the rule of law, adversarial procedures, presumption of innocence and the right to defence.
And let there be no doubt about this. We shall fight the enemies of freedom with respect for our constitutional state. That is the privilege of all democrats.
Growing fanaticism is not news. It is a known phenomenon that represents the greatest possible challenge to our democracy.
And maybe to our generation.
On Friday evening, our authorities were mobilized to obtain as much information as possible in cooperation with the French authorities, enabling us to assess the situation hour by hour.
The CUTA, the Crisis Centre and the National Security Council immediately held the necessary meetings to take emergency, preliminary decisions.
Enhanced controls were set up at the French border, as well as in railway stations and airports.
Local police were immediately instructed to increase vigilance and to strengthen surveillance for public events.
A recommendation not to travel to Paris was issued.
Monday night, I once again convened the National Security Council to take note of a new assessment from the CUTA increasing the threat level to overall level 3.
The Crisis Centre proposed operational measures and informed all police districts.
We also recommended the cancellation of the Belgium-Spain football match. The next day, the German authorities made a similar decision.
Military presence has also been bolstered. Up to 300 additional military staff (in addition to the current 220) can be deployed. They have mainly been deployed in large cities, for static surveillance missions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
From the time of the implementation of the Government agreement, we committed to take initial steps in the fight against fanaticism and terrorism.
The Charlie Hebdo attacks and those foiled in Verviers accelerated and strengthened the decision process.
- The National Security Council is operational. It has met 14 times and many decisions have been taken.
- The army can now provide reinforcements to the police forces when the threat level so requires.
- The withdrawal of identity cards and passports for potential jihadist fighters is now planned.
- Belgian nationality may be stripped by a judge when convicting someone for terrorism.
- The CUTA has started the implementation of a dynamic register in which "foreign terrorist fighters" can be recorded.
- The possibilities of wiretapping and recording communications are extended in cases of terrorism.
- The strengthening of joint patrols in international trains has been decided upon.
- On the fiscal side, in 2015, EUR 200 million were earmarked to strengthen security investments and resources. These include special units. But that is not all. It was decided that a new wave of recruitment would be carried out. For instance, 45 new police officers have been hired for state security and 28 other recruitments are underway.
We have taken many strong measures in a few months. But it is not enough.
We must do more and we must do better.
We owe as much to our fellow citizens.
The government has given a strong signal.
400 million EUR are being made available for the fight against terrorism.
An amendment to the budget for 2016 will be submitted next week.
In addition to providing the necessary budget, the government intends to continue its action in four areas. We must:
1. Eradicate the preaching of hate and calls to violence;
2. Focus efforts and resources specifically on individuals who are known to be potentially dangerous;
3. Strengthen the resources of our security forces;
4. Act at the international level.
Eradicate the preaching of hate and calls to violence.
We note that calls to violence or terrorism are being trivialized.
This is unacceptable, and we must put an end to this.
The government will strengthen the legislative framework to condemn and/or identify preachers of hatred and terrorism.
We do not want extremist preachers in our country.
Preachers of hate can be placed under house arrest and deported. There is a legal basis for this.
Instructions will be provided to strictly apply these provisions. We request an immediate and general screening of all preachers present on our territory.
We must also fight hate crimes on websites. We will propose a law under which such sites can be closed down.
Freedom of worship is a constitutional right. However, places of worship cannot be spaces enabling the spread of jihadism. Such unauthorized, often clandestine, places of worship (mosques or cultural centres) must be dismantled.
There must also be transparency regarding the funding of mosques. This also applies to financing from abroad. The process for becoming a recognised mosque must be clarified.
Finally, the training of imams must be better supported in Belgium. These measures are necessary in order to avoid all forms of amalgamation.
The federal government wishes to consult with other states on this topic.
Specifically focusing efforts and resources on individuals identified as potentially dangerous.
The second area. We must focus the resources of our security services primarily on identifying jihadist sympathizers and monitoring them much better once they have been identified.
We will continue to strengthen the intelligence service. Through recruitment, facilities and legal resources (EUR 400 million made available).
Specifically, the CUTA has made significant progress in setting up a dynamic register aimed at putting Foreign Fighters on file. This file will improve the flow of information between the security authorities involved.
In the attacks or intended attacks, the terrorist cells were almost always linked to foreign fighters.
Preventing young people from travelling to combat areas or training camps is not enough. We must stop them from returning when they are not Belgians.
For us, the rule should be clear.
Jihadists returning to our country belong in prison.
For the other individuals on the threat analysis services' files, adversarial proceedings will be instituted to force them to wear an electronic bracelet. This will be part of an evidential process aimed at achieving de-radicalization and also improving public security.
Exchanges of information between intelligence services are vital in foiling attacks.
For the past several months, we have been preparing the introduction of NRP to control the identity of passengers in aircraft and high-speed trains.
This is aimed at preventing passengers from boarding if they are on file in a register of persons who represent a threat. Belgium will therefore apply this long-planned project at European level.
We will also develop an action plan to support regional and local authorities, in Molenbeek in particular, in their efforts aimed at improving security and life as a society.
The first preparatory meetings have already taken place. It will be necessary to develop prevention and repression as part of a cross-cutting approach.
The fight against all forms of crime, including against the illegal economy, must be a priority.
Strengthening the resources of our security services
The third area is the strengthening of our security services (police, justice and intelligence). In addition to the extra hires, it is also crucial to invest in new technologies such as voice recognition or ANPR cameras for number plate recognition.
Our security services have made the fight against arms trafficking a priority. However, the efforts must be stepped up even further.
In addition, the legislation on special investigation methods must be reviewed to expand the use of special investigation methods. For arms trafficking, for instance.
We must also better support our investigators. Specifically, house searches are currently prohibited between 9pm and 5am. We will abolish this time limitation in the context of terrorism. In the future, house searches will be able to be carried out 24 hours per day.
In addition, the limitation of administrative detention to 24 hours is an obstacle in terror investigations. We propose reviewing the Constitution aimed at extending this period from 24 to 72 hours.
We also not that prepaid mobile phone cards can be used to deceive our services. In the future, buying such cards anonymously shall no longer be possible.
Finally, we want to modernize procedures for security certificates and notices. Controls will be broadened, procedural deadlines will be shortened, and their time of validity will be reduced. This is targeted at the sensitive positions.
We also intend to evaluate and adapt, if necessary, the legislation relating to the concept of the "state of emergency". In very exceptional circumstances, the Government should be allowed, under supervision of the Parliament, to take exceptional and temporary measures to ensure public security.
This battle for security must be fought at home and abroad.
War and armed conflict in Syria, Libya and Iraq, as well as insecurity in the Sahel, and other areas, are destabilizing factors for Europe.
We have seen an unprecedented influx of refugees in Europe since the Second World War.
In line with international conventions, our country fully accepts its responsibilities. Thousands of places to house refugees were created.
The foundations of the European project are peace, free trade and the free movement of goods and people.
The strict and effective control of the external borders of the European Union is the corollary of the Schengen area. I am careful in using these words. The risk which we are facing is the collapse of the European project.
Solidarity between European countries is essential. However, it is not always self-evident.
The external borders of the European Union have to be strengthened urgently. It is vital for the future of Europe.
We must also work towards securing and stabilizing the European Union's neighbours.
We need to develop a strategic partnership with Turkey. Syrian refugees must be able to work in Turkey. And humanitarian assistance must be strengthened, not only in Turkey but also in Jordan and Lebanon for example. We must also work hard towards ensuring a more dignified and safe reception of refugees close to conflict zones.
We must fight Daesh with total determination. This terror group controls a territory and has its own administration and funding. We must do more than simply stop its expansion. We must eradicate it. And again, we accept our responsibilities in this regard too.
Two weeks ago, we decided to mobilize the Leopold I frigate for an escort mission, as part of a defensive approach, for the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. This mission was confirmed yesterday by the Government on the basis of Article 42.7 of the European Treaty.
We advocate a broad international coalition, preferably under a UN mandate. We are convinced that a Europe - USA - Russia - Iran political dialogue is as indispensable as it is urgent.
In this international context, defining the strategic defence plan is an important issue for our security. It is necessary to establish our credibility on the international stage and solidarity with our allies. Our European roots and our commitment within NATO are and remain challenges of the utmost import to us.
This plan is well underway, and the final decisions, on the budget among other considerations, should soon be rendered.
These are the four areas and the specific measures that the government wishes to implement. However, this list is not exhaustive.
It can be added to and improved on the basis of operational proposals from our security services, as well as on the basis of a dialogue between the majority and the opposition.
All democrats must unite to strengthen our security.
I am taking the initiative of inviting our Minister-Presidents to draw up a coherent action plan.
The government is also requesting the authorization to set up a special parliamentary committee as part of the fight against terrorism.
The committee would enable all democrats to take and discuss initiatives and draft laws. The parliament is the beating heart of democracy. There is no better place in which to take action aimed at ensuring our security and safeguarding our freedoms.
Over the past few days, I have been in contact with my counterparts in our neighbouring countries. I expressed our full support and the full cooperation of our services to the President of the Republic, Mr. François Hollande.
The Belgian and French judicial authorities have been working together closely as of Friday night.
An attack was prevented yesterday in Saint-Denis thanks to information provided by the Belgian teams. Our two countries have been cooperating closely in the fight against terrorism.
Speaking to British Prime Minister David Cameron, I confirmed our desire to set up exchanges of information between our services.
Also, I do not accept criticism denigrating our security services that are carrying out a difficult and tenacious task. I want to join with you in thanking our police forces, our intelligence agents, our magistrates, and our investigators for their courage and their mobilization.
Thanks to them, potentially tragic attacks in Saint-Denis or from Verviers have been thwarted.
Thanks to them, lives have been saved.
Thanks to them, in a few months, over 160 convictions for terrorist acts were rendered by the courts.
We fully accept our responsibilities and remain loyal to our partners.
We must keep a cool head. This is a new chapter in the history of Europe.
Faithless and lawless enemies who hide and strike with cowardice seek to impose a totalitarian model.
The freedom to believe or not to believe.
The freedom to speak, debate, the freedom to caricature and criticize.
The freedom to work, the freedom to go out, the freedom to love.
In short, the freedom to live. For us, this is not negotiable.
We cannot accept any change in this respect.
The fight is not over.
We will not choose between safety and freedom.
We are proud of the universal values that we stand for.
We will not choose between the right to security and the exercise of freedoms. We want both. We want the one for the other.
There will be other threats, other attacks, and more suffering.
We will not give in to panic or to divisions or to amalgamations, nor to the spirit of revenge.
We will act with dignity and with an implacable will.
We will hold high our universal values. Those of Enlightenment and Human Rights.
We are standing strong and we will move forward.
Measures taken by the Federal Government: Measures_EN_19112015.pdf