Mr VAN DER MAELEN (Belgium, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group) – As your rapporteur on the report on foreign terrorist fighters, I would love to share with you my reflections on the Brussels attack.
First, I hope that we are all aware that all intelligence information we have at the moment points in one direction: the more Daesh is under pressure in the Middle East, the more likely it is that it will plan and attempt new attacks in Europe. Those attacks could be in Paris or in Brussels, or they could just as well be another European capital.
Secondly, the current terrorist threat is not constrained to national borders. In the investigations into the Paris and Brussels attacks, connections have emerged between individuals and hideouts across Europe, from Germany to Greece, and from Sweden to Italy, to mention only a few countries. Europe’s national security is a collective responsibility. International co-operation is indispensable. When terrorists cross borders, our counter-terrorist efforts should also cross borders. The challenge is global. A recent debate taught me that not all colleagues are convinced that we need something like a European CIA. I am a realist. However, in the meantime, we need to make more progress on solutions for real police and judicial co-operation, and there is a lot of room for improvement.
Two weeks ago, we gathered in the Hague with presidents of commissions for foreign affairs and defence. There, we learned that, in the latest evaluation of the co-operation between the 28 member States with the Eurojust and Europol framework, only five countries have implemented what was agreed. I am proud to say that Belgium is one of those countries.
Thirdly, the Brussels plot was not just an attack against Belgium. It was an attack against Europe and, more broadly, against our democratic values and societies. Our response should be to stand firm together. Bashing one country only serves to create divisions and dilute the sense of responsibility. As with all other attacks, the Brussels attacks have been followed by revelations. Warnings were ignored, and raw intelligence was not evaluated in a timely and effective manner. However, as the leader of our delegation said, we parliamentarians of Belgium are taking up our responsibility. We agreed in parliament on a parliamentary commission inquiry.
I have learnt three new things. The first is that we need smooth information flow back and forth between local, national and international levels, because that is crucial to prevent attacks. Secondly, the presence of criminals in terrorist cells is a new phenomenon, which is why we need to link the databases on criminals and on terrorists. Finally, my biggest concern is the dark web, by which, with only a few clicks on a computer, terrorists can communicate anonymously with one another. The dark web is also used for fast-track radicalisation and recruitment of new jihadist terrorists. Those points deserve all our attention.