Belgium to Detain Foreign Fighters After Paris Attacks

The flags of Belgium and the European Union in Oostende, July 21, 2009
The flags of Belgium and the European Union in Oostende, July 21, 2009 (Fredrik Rubensson)

Belgians returning from jihad in Iraq and Syria will be detained in the future, Prime Minister Charles Michel has announced.

Michel also told parliament in Brussels that his government would budget an additional €400 million for security spending after Belgian nationals were identified as suspects in Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Other new counterterrorism measures include speeding up trials for returning foreign fighters and banning the anonymous sale of phone sim cards. Read more “Belgium to Detain Foreign Fighters After Paris Attacks”

Benelux Suggest Smaller Schengen, Germans Wary

Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium arrives for a European Union summit in Valletta, Malta, November 11
Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium arrives for a European Union summit in Valletta, Malta, November 11 (European Council)

Northwestern European countries are discussing proposals for a smaller free-travel area inside the European Union, the Netherlands’ leading daily reports.

According to De Telegraaf newspaper, Belgium is keen on a Dutch proposal to exclude Central and Southern European nations from the Schengen Area while the Germans are skeptical.

Other remaining countries would be Austria and Luxembourg. Read more “Benelux Suggest Smaller Schengen, Germans Wary”

French Farmers’ Protests Divide Europe

French president François Hollande answers questions from reporters outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, April 13, 2013
French president François Hollande answers questions from reporters outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, April 13, 2013 (Valsts Kanceleja)

Protests by French farmers against low dairy and meat prices are dividing Europe. While similar actions are expected in neighboring Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are irked that the Paris government is enacting protectionist measures in an attempt to quell the unrest. Read more “French Farmers’ Protests Divide Europe”

Belgium Deploys Troops with Europe on High Terror Alert

View of Antwerp, Belgium, March 28, 2014
View of Antwerp, Belgium, March 28, 2014 (Visit Flanders)

Belgium deployed troops in its major cities on Saturday to guard Jewish schools and government buildings, days after police in the country as well as in neighboring France and Germany carried out several counterterrorism operations.

Belgian police raided a group of suspected jihadists on Thursday in which explosives, guns and munitions were seized. A shootout in the city of Verviers left two suspects dead.

Thirteen suspects were arrested altogether and five were charged on Friday with participating in terrorist activities, prosecutors said. Read more “Belgium Deploys Troops with Europe on High Terror Alert”

Belgian Premier Unveils Labor, Pension Reforms

Belgium’s incoming prime minister Charles Michel emphasized labor and pension reforms in his first speech to parliament on Tuesday as head of a coalition of right-wing parties.

Alternating between Dutch and French, Michel, whose liberal Mouvement Réformateur is the only Walloon party in the new government, called for structural reforms in order to modernize Belgium. “To do nothing is to regress,” he said. “We reject fatalism and paralysis.”

For a country that hasn’t seen unemployment below 8 percent in two years, Michel can ill afford not to liberalize a jobs market that is far more rigid than those of its neighbors. Read more “Belgian Premier Unveils Labor, Pension Reforms”

Belgian Right-Wing Parties Close to Forming Government

Almost five months after parliamentary elections saw huge gains for Flanders’ nationalists, Belgium’s right-wing parties are expected to finalize a coalition deal later this week.

Among the most notable policy changes they are likely to enact is a two-year increase in the retirement age. None of the Flemish parties in the prospective coalition had promised such a raise in their election manifestos. It would be planned for 2030.

The Christian Democrat, liberal and nationalist parties that are negotiating a government deal also say they want to liberalize the labor market and reduce Belgium’s high labor costs relative to neighboring countries. Read more “Belgian Right-Wing Parties Close to Forming Government”

Belgium, Netherlands to Support Air Campaign in Iraq

Belgium and the Netherlands said on Wednesday they would join Arab and American airstrikes against Islamic militants in Iraq but stop short of carrying out attacks in neighboring Syria where the group that calls itself the Islamic State is also active.

While Iraq’s government has formally asked other countries to help it battle the Islamic State, Dutch ruling Labor Party leader Diederik Samsom said on Sunday his party could only support military action in Syria under an international mandate. However, a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing strikes is likely to be blocked by Russia, an ally of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. Read more “Belgium, Netherlands to Support Air Campaign in Iraq”

Di Rupo Resigns After Flemish Nationalists Win Election

Elio Di Rupo Enrico Letta
Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo greets his Italian counterpart, Enrico Letta, in Brussels, May 1, 2013 (Flickr/Elio Di Rupo)

Belgium’s prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, resigned on Monday after his Socialist Party lost the federal election to the Flemish nationalists.

Bart De Wever’s New Flemish Alliance got 32 percent support on Sunday when the country voted in both national and European Parliament elections, making it the largest party in both Flanders and Belgium as a whole. Di Rupo’s Socialists won 30 percent of the votes.

Di Rupo will stay on as caretaker premier while King Philip consults with party leaders in order to form a new government. Read more “Di Rupo Resigns After Flemish Nationalists Win Election”

Anti-Immigration Parties Drive Conservatives to Fringe

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010 (Geir Halvorsen)

“Far right” or “extreme right-wing” parties have emerged across Europe in recent years, if with varying levels of electoral success, demonstrating that they cannot be termed as constituting a pan-European movement. But they do have characteristics in common. Chief among them, from the perspective of European politics as a whole, is that they’re driving mainstream right-wing parties to the fringe. Read more “Anti-Immigration Parties Drive Conservatives to Fringe”

Secessionist Movements Threaten EU Foundation

Catalans demonstrate for independence from Spain in Barcelona, July 10, 2010
Catalans demonstrate for independence from Spain in Barcelona, July 10, 2010 (Wikimedia Commons/Josep Renalias)

The overwhelming electoral success of Flanders’ nationalists this weekend can be seen as part of a larger Western European regionalization movement that threatens the very foundation of the European Union.

In Belgium, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, secessionist groups are on the rise while across the north of Europe, popular resentment to the prospect of perennial transfer union is mounting. Read more “Secessionist Movements Threaten EU Foundation”