(JE) A Justiça belga decidiu este domingo que Carles Puigdemont e outros quatro ex-ministros catalães vão continuar em liberdade, ficando obrigados a permanecer na Bélgica e a apresentar-se periodicamente às autoridades.
O presidente destituído da Generalitat (Governo regional) da Catalunha, Carles Puigdemont, emitiu esta segunda-feira a primeira mensagem pública, depois de as autoridades belgas terem decidido que, por enquanto, não vão extraditá-lo. Carles Puigdemont escreveu na rede social Twitter que fica “em liberdade e sem fiança” e lamenta o facto de alguns dos membros do seu Governo terem sido “injustamente detidos”.
A Justiça belga decidiu este domingo que Carles Puigdemont e outros quatro ex-ministros catalães vão continuar em liberdade, ficando obrigados a permanecer na Bélgica e a apresentar-se periodicamente às autoridades. Os restantes membros do antigo Governo catalão foram detidos e encontram-se neste momento em prisão preventiva, acusados de rebelião, insurreição e mau uso de fundos. Entre eles está o antigo vice-presidente do Governo regional, Oriol Junqueras.
“O nosso pensamento está com os companheiros que estão injustamente presos por um Estado afastado da prática democrática”, afirma Carles Puigdemont na mensagem publicada.
A Audiência Nacional espanhola adiou a audição dos antigos membros da Generalitat convocada para a passada quinta-feira, para que os advogados de defesa dos membros do parlamento tivessem mais tempo para preparem melhor as suas defesas. A audiência preliminar deve acontecer na próxima quinta-feira, dia 9 de novembro.
Além de Carles Puigdemont, a justiça espanhola quer ouvir o ex-vice-presidente, Oriol Junqueras, e a ex-presidente do Parlamento, Carmen Forcadell, assim como os restantes 11 memebros que componham a equipa que presidia ao Governo catalão: Jordi Turul, Raul Romeva (Assuntos Internacionais), Antoni Comin (Saúde), Josep Rull (Território), Dolors Bassa (Trabalho), Meritxell Borràs (Governação), Clara Ponsatí (Ensino), Joaquim Forn (Interior), Lluís Puig (Cultura), Carles Mundó (Justiça), Santiago Vila (Empresas) e Meritxell Serret (Agricultura).
(BBG) Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was released after less than a day in custody as a court in Brussels considers how to respond to a Spanish demand for his arrest.
Puigdemont and four former members of his government are barred from leaving Belgium without the court’s consent and must comply with all summons made by judicial or police authorities, the Brussels prosecutor’s office said in a statement early Monday. Puigdemont and the other separatists had turned themselves in to police on Sunday morning.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy invoked extraordinary powers last month to reassert his authority over Catalonia and fire Puigdemont and his government. Since then, eight politicians and two activists have been jailed pending trial in Spain, and an arrest warrant is out to bring Puigdemont and his colleagues back from Belgium.
“It had been looking positive for Rajoy as he seemed to be trying to restore order in Catalonia in a restrained way,” said Caroline Gray, a lecturer at Aston University in the U.K. who specializes in nationalist movements. “The jailings have made everything more problematic.”
The Belgian judge’s decision leaves Puigdemont free for now to continue to challenge Rajoy, who called regional elections for Dec. 21 in a bid to draw a line under the secessionist challenge. Puigdemont will appear within 15 days before a court in Brussels, which will decide whether to execute Spain’s Nov. 3 order to hand him over. Including time for possible appeals, the former Catalan leader could extend his stay in Belgium to as long as three months.
An opinion poll published Saturday by La Vanguardia newspaper showed the regional election was too close to call, with projections for a near even split of seats for pro-independence and non-separatist parties.
Activists in Barcelona were left rudderless and divided when Puigdemont bolted following his ejection from power. But the spectacle of the jailed leaders has reinvigorated the movement and thrust the constitutional crisis into the international spotlight.
At its home soccer match Saturday against Seville, FC Barcelona unveiled a giant Catalan flag and banners saying “Justice” to voice its opposition to the jailing of the ousted regional officials.
Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt arrives at a euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, August 14, 2015.REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
The euro zone will go ahead with its bailout programme for Greece with or without the involvement of the International Monetary Fund, Belgium’s finance minister told Reuters on Wednesday.
Johan Van Overtveldt said the involvement of the IMF – which has said can only happen if it is the last bailout for Athens and includes debt relief for Greece – would be preferable, but that Euro countries would go ahead even without it.
“As the Eurogroup, and as a monetary union, we would have to go ahead anyway. Preferably with the IMF, but we will go ahead anyway,” he said.
“If the IMF really insists on other issues than those that we consider to be important within the Eurogroup, then we have to face the consequences of that. But there can be no doubt that the presence of the IMF is in every respect a very desirable and efficient thing to have.”
Van Overtveldt added that he was confident that a solution would be found so that the IMF can join the bailout programme.
The Eurogroup holds its next meeting on Jan. 26, when Van Overtveldt said the issue of the bailout would be on the agenda.
Two female officers were attacked and wounded by a man wielding a machete and shouting “Allahu Akhbar” outside a police station in the Belgian city of Charleroi on Saturday, police said.
They said in messages posted on Twitter that the attacker was shot and later died of his wounds. The attack occurred in front of Charleroi police station.
A police officer reached by telephone declined to make further comments. According to RTBF state broadcasting, one officer suffered severe injuries to her face while her colleague was slightly injured. It said a third officer shot the assailant.
Both officers are “out of danger,” Charleroi police said Saturday evening on Twitter.
Prime Minister Charles Michel condemned the attack which happened as police in Belgium remain on high alert in the wake of the Brussels suicide bombings claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 32 people in March.
“Thoughts go with the victims, their relatives and police officers,” Michel wrote on Twitter. “We are closely monitoring the situation.”
(JN) O indivíduo, identificado no fim-de-semana como jornalista independente, chegou a ser apontado como o terceiro homem que estaria no aeroporto de Bruxelas para perpetrar os atentados. Agora a procuradoria diz que não se confirma.
O jornalista independente Fayçal Cheffou foi libertado esta segunda-feira, 28 de Março, depois de ter sido detido na sequência dos atentados de terça-feira em Bruxelas. Segundo a procuradoria federal belga, as pistas iniciais não foram sustentadas por investigações posteriores.
“As pistas que levaram à detenção de Fayçal Cheffou não foram sustentadas pela evolução do atual inquérito. Em consequência, o individuo foi libertado pelo juiz de instrução”, informou a procuradoria, sem acrescentar mais pormenores.
Fayçal Cheffou chegou a ser apontado como o terceiro homem que estaria no aeroporto de Bruxelas para perpetrar os atentados. No sábado passado, tinha sido acusado da prática do crime de terrorismo.
Mas a divulgação esta segunda-feira de um vídeo do denominado suspeito do chapéu levantou dúvidas, na imprensa local, sobre se a polícia não estaria a procurar um outro homem que não Fayçal Cheffou.
(FT) Is Fayçal Cheffou the “man in white,” the third conspirator captured on CCTV footage just before last week’s Brussels airport attack pushing a baggage cart next to the two suicide bombers? Belgian prosecutors are operating under that assumption after charging him with terrorist murders on Saturday, but they have yet to formally name him as the man who dropped off the largest bomb at Zaventem airport but later fled after it failed to detonate.
The Belgian press was filled with accounts of Mr Cheffou’s recent activities, including attempts to radicalise migrants who were seeking shelter at a refugee camp in central Brussels. Some accounts have described Mr Cheffou as a freelance journalist, but the only real evidence of that is a video posted to YouTube where he reports on Muslim detainees at a Belgian facility who were allegedly protesting over being given daytime meals during Ramadan.
The charges against Mr Cheffou were just one in a series of moves by law enforcement across Europe to roll up members of the Islamic State network at the weekend. Yesterday alone, Belgian prosecutors brought charges against a man for his role in a Paris terrorist plot broken up by French police last week; Italian policearrested another man on allegations he helped Isis terrorists obtain false residency permits; and just last night Dutch police rounded up a third man in Rotterdam on charges related to the failed Paris attack.
The FT’s security correspondent Sam Jones has a look at whether all the recent arrests are evidence that the Isis network in Europe is far bigger than security services originally believed. In its account of the Europe-wide manhunt, the Wall Street Journal reports French and Belgian authorities have sought US assistance as they attempt to map out the full breadth of the cell.
Last night, the Belgian crisis centre updated the numbers of those killed in Tuesday’s attack, saying a total of 34 (including the three suicide bombers) died in the bombings. Of the 31 victims, only 28 have been identified thus far, including 15 at Brussels airport and 13 at Maalbeek metro station. Of those killed at the airport, six were Belgian and nine were foreigners; at Maalbeek, there were 10 Belgians and three foreigners.
What we’re reading
There is some evidence the new EU-Turkey refugee return deal is beginning todissuade migrants from making the crossing into Greece. The latest numbers from the UN’s refugee agency shows arrivals were down last week, and the Washington Post says that while some think it might be due to temporarily rough seas, there are signs in areas once popular with migrants in Izmir, Turkey, that the trade in human smuggling is drying up. In Greece, however, things are not improving all that quickly, with recent arrivals to the island of Lesbos — who will eventually be returned to Turkey — being segregated into camps under police guard. The Greek daily Kathimerini reports that the mood also remains tense near the border with Macedonia, where migrants in Idomeni engaged in a standoff with border guardsamidst rumours they would be allowed to move northwards. Unlike EU leaders, the WSJ reports Barack Obama, the US president, will be giving Turkey the cold shoulder this week, refusing a one-on-one with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his visit to Washington for a summit on nuclear security.
Pope Francis dedicated his Easter Sunday message to both the victims of terrorism and the thousands of refugees fleeing war zones. According to La Stampa’s Vatican Insider, the Pope called terrorism a “blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world,” mentioning Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and Iraq as countries that had suffered from attacks. The Roman daily Il Messaggero also quotes his message on refugees, which appeared aimed at EU countries refusing entry to asylum seekers: “These brothers and sisters on their way too often encounter death or the refusal of those who could offer them hospitality and help.”
The latest person to weigh in against Britain leaving the EU is David Petraeus, the former US commander in Iraq and CIA director who was forced to step down after allegations he shared classified intelligence with his mistress. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Petraeus says that leaving the EU would hurt the global fight against terrorism, arguing it would divide the West just at a time when it needs to stand united. The Petraeus warning comes after Richard Dearlove, the former head of the British intelligence service MI6, wrote in Prospect magazine that Brexit would not have much effect on security at all — and could actually help the UK, since it would allow it to shed EU conventions on human rights and better control immigration from the EU.
In a somewhat bizarre turn of events, Florence Hartmann, a former Le Monde correspondent who served as the press spokeswoman for the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal at The Hague, remains jailed by the court for disclosing that it had sealed incriminating information against accused Serbian war criminals. In its account of the detention, broadcaster France 24 said Ms Hartmann was convinced of contempt of court in 2009 for the disclosures in her book and was apprehended while awaiting the verdict for former Bosian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity last week.Brussels-Briefing_-The-man-in-white-—-FT
(FT) Inquiry to examine failure to close metro system in time to stop second bombing.
Belgian authorities are attempting to determine whether a man they have charged with terrorist murders is the third plotter in last week’s Brussels airport bombings, using DNA obtained from the blast site to compare against a man captured on Thursday evening while he was driving in front of the federal prosecutor’s office.
The man, officially identified as Fayçal C but named in local media as Fayçal Cheffou, appears to have none of the ties to November’s attacks in Paris that the three other men named as conspirators in the Brussels bombings do.
But he is reported to have attempted to radicalise refugees in Brussels migrant camps last year and can be seen in an online video reporting on mistreatment of Muslims in Belgian custody.
Investigators have been hunting for the third conspirator since a “man in white” was shown in CCTV footage, moments before the explosion, pushing a luggage cart with a large suitcase next to two suicide bombers.
The arrest of Mr Cheffou came as the Belgian government fended off new accusations that they failed to do enough to prevent Tuesday’s attacks, which claimed 28 victims and wounded 340.
Government ministers on Sunday denied failing to shut down Brussels metro following the 8am airport blast, insisting they gave the order to close the system before a second bomb detonated at Maalbeek station an hour later.
Transport officials have denied receiving the shutdown order, but Jan Jambon, the interior minister, told state broadcaster VRT on Sunday the system had been told to evacuate commuter stations and that the failure to do so in time would be examined by a parliamentary inquiry.
“On the morning of the attacks, the command was given from the crisis centre to stop and evacuate the Brussels metro,” said Mr Jambon, who already offered to resign over security failures last week.
Tempers remain raw in the Belgian capital, where hundreds of demonstrators defied government requests to cancel a “march against fear” in the city centre — only to be confronted by dozens of far-right neo-Nazi marchers who had to be pushed back by riot police armed with water cannon.
Mr Cheffou is one of three men who have been charged by Belgian authorities as part of their investigation into the attack.
According to the federal prosecutor’s office, one of the men charged is Abderamane Ameroud, a 38-year-old who was convicted in absentia for the 2001 al-Qaeda assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the renowned Tajik commander who helped lead the Northern Alliance against the Afghan Taliban and was killed the day before the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
Belgian police carried out 13 additional raids across the country on Sunday — eight in Brussels and four in nearby suburbs — detaining nine suspects, although five were later released.
Italian police announced they had arrested an Algerian man wanted in Belgium for helping the cell that organised the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks to smuggle operatives into Europe illegally.
The police said the man, who the Italian news agency Ansa identified as Djamal Eddine Ouali, was part of a “network of forgers of residence permits” that were linked to the Brussels bombing.
According to Ansa, Mr Ouali was picked up in Bellizzi, a small town in the south-western Italian provide of Salerno, and is connected to a forgery workshop in Brussels’ Saint-Gilles neighbourhood broken up last year, which was reported to have provided fake IDs for at least one of the Brussels bombers.olmhj
(BBG) Belgian authorities conducted 13 raids across the country on Sunday, detaining nine people as part of their efforts to prevent further terrorist attacks and learn more about the fatal March 22 airport and subway bombings in Brussels.
The raids came a day after Italy arrested an Algerian man with a possible connection to the attacks in Belgium, which left at least 31 dead, including three suicide bombers. Prosecutors in Brussels said late Sunday that a group including the Algerian, whom they identified only with the initial J, may have produced false documents used by some of the attackers in Paris and “probably also by Salah Abdeslam,” the only surviving suspect in the Nov. 13 assaults, who has been in Belgian custody since March 18.
Investigators are looking into whether the group also provided fake documents to the perpetrators of the Brussels atrocities. The prosecutors have charged a suspect identified as Faycal C. with terrorist murder in that case. Faycal C. may have been the man in a cream-colored jacket seen on security cameras at the Brussels airport, according to Belgian media.
Meanwhile, riot police used water cannons to push back hundreds of protesters in downtown Brussels. Police made 10 arrests in connection with the demonstrations, Belga reported.
The raids on Sunday took place in greater Brussels and the Flemish suburbs, with four searches carried out in Mechelen, one in Duffel, three in Brussels, one in Molenbeek, one in Anderlecht and three in Laeken. Prosecutors released five of the nine people detained after questioning and haven’t decided whether to place anyone in custody, according to a statement.
The terrorist attacks led to a wave of investigations, recriminations and efforts to prevent further violence as authorities have struggled to find out what happened in the build-up to the bombings. The Brussels airport, where 11 were killed, is expected to stay closed until at least Tuesday. The Maelbeek metro station, the site of the other attack, is closed to passengers but trains are passing through.
A suspect identified as Abderamane A. was charged on Sunday with participating in activities of a terrorist group in connection with the investigation of a plot in France, according to Belga news agency. Another suspect, identified as Rabah N., was charged on Saturday with participating in terrorist activities in the French case, which earlier saw the arrest of Reda Kriket in Argenteuil, France, according to the Belgian prosecutor. Abderamane A. was shot and apprehended on Friday at a tram stop in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels.
Also in connection with that case, Dutch police on Sunday arrested a 32-year-old Frenchman in Rotterdam on suspicion of involvement in planning a terrorist attack, Belga reported, citing prosecutors. The suspect is expected to be extradited to France soon.
(BBG) Former Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain should stay in the European Union, adding his weight to those in David Cameron’s Conservative Party who are arguing against exit.
Hague, who led the Tories from 1997 to 2001, taking the party in a euro-skeptic direction, wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that while he’s a critic of much of the way the EU functions, leaving would damage the work the bloc does with developing democracies in eastern Europe, as well as provoking another referendum on Scottish independence.
“To end up destroying the United Kingdom and gravely weakening the European Union would not be a very clever day’s work,” said Hague, who’s now a Tory member of the upper, unelected House of Lords. “So, even as a long-standing critic of so much of that struggling organization, I am unlikely in 2016 to vote to leave it.”
His intervention in support of Cameron, who is aiming to keep Britain inside the EU, comes in the days after the prime minister was pressed to allow ministers in his government to campaign against him. Cameron announced the referendum to placate those within the party who believe Britain should leave, and faces a split when he finally calls the vote.
The prime minister said at an EU summit in Brussels last week that there’s a “pathway” to reaching a deal in February with the other 27 members of the bloc on changes he’s seeking to the U.K.’s membership terms. That would allow the referendum to be held in June.
The most recent poll of voting intention, released Tuesday, found 45 percent of respondents saying they’d opt to stay in, with 38 percent opposed. A Bloomberg surveyof economists published Wednesday found 43 percent of those responding saying a U.K. departure from the EU is the biggest threat to the British economy next year.
(BBG) If David Cameron and Angela Merkel thought they had earned a moment’s respite from their woes, the murderous attacks in Brussels only deepened their political turmoil.
The bombings at the heart of the European Union that killed at least 31 people were seized upon by proponents of Britain leaving the bloc to argue that EU membership puts the U.K. more at risk, rather than making it safer as the prime minister asserts. In Germany, an insurgent party that benefited from opposition to Chancellor Merkel’s open-door policy on refugees immediately warned of the threat of “political Islam.”
The Brussels attacks may increase xenophobic and anti-immigration sentiment across the EU, which has already been rising in light of the refugee crisis, said Mujtaba Rahman, director of European analysis at the Eurasia Group in London. That has implications both for the survival of the passport-free Schengen area championed by Merkel and the outcome of the U.K.’s in-out referendum on the EU in June, he said.
The blasts are a “nail in Schengen’s coffin,” and create the perception among the public that EU leaders are “not in control,” Rahman said in a Bloomberg Radio interview. Outside the Schengen zone in Britain, “Cameron has argued that the U.K. will be safer in the EU, but these events will make that narrative harder to sell.”
The Sun newspaper picked up the baton Wednesday, referring to comments Cameron made in an interview that Europe helps make Britain safer. “How hollow that sounds today after the atrocities in the heart of Brussels,” it said in a op-ed.
Cameron will address Parliament on the attacks later on Wednesday, his office said.
Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the explosions, four days after Belgian authorities seized the chief suspect in the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people in November. Those assaults were carried out by French and Belgian nationals at least some of whom who had joined Islamic State in Syria, and made their way back to Europe along routes used by Syrian refugees.
The U.K. Independence Party’s defense spokesman, Mike Hookem, issued a statement saying the “horrific act of terrorism” in Brussels showed that EU free-movement rules and “lax border controls” are “a threat to our security.” UKIP campaigns for Britain to leave the EU, so-called Brexit.
Cameron, who on Monday had moved to heal rifts within his Conservative Party, shot back in televised comments that “it’s not appropriate at this time to make any of those sorts of remarks.” Yet even members of his own party used the attacks to argue for a Brexit.
“Being in the EU means we don’t have control of our own systems, we don’t have control over our own borders,” said Andrew Rosindell, a Conservative member of parliament. “We are effectively tied to countries which I think are not as good at protecting their people as we have been.”
Security forces will focus on uncovering the network that bred the attacks, but failure to do so “would raise the risk of further such attacks in continental Western Europe in the coming weeks and months,” IHS Country Risk analyst Lora Chakarova and head of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre Matthew Henman said in an e-mail. They said among Islamic State objectives are “creating a divide between European states and their Muslim minorities.”
In Germany, Merkel’s personal and party approval ratings have stabilized in recent weeks after declining on the back of her policy of welcoming Syrian refugees. And while the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party scored record gains in regional elections this month, a poll on Tuesday suggested support for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union had risen after an EU accord with Turkey aimed at controling the flow of migrants.
“Brussels reminds us: The perpetrators are the enemies of all of the values that Europe stands for today and which we uphold together as members of the European Union,” the chancellor said in Berlin, hours after President Barack Obama and other leaders had responded to the attacks. “Our unity is our strength, and that is how our free societies will prove stronger than terrorism.”
The idea of European openness was undermined by Beatrix Storch, a European Parliament member for Alternative for Germany, who wrote on her Facebook page that “we have a problem in Europe, an imported problem.”
“The goal is to strike at and destroy our way of life, our culture,” Storch said. “Let’s remember that we have our own culture, one that bonds Germans with Germans and Europeans with Europeans. It’s been submerged by all the babble about multiculturalism.”
Elmar Brok, a member of Merkel’s CDU who chairs the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament, rejected the idea that abolishing Schengen would stop such attacks.
“This is a global war on Islamic State and its bases in Syria and Iraq, and not about closing the border between Germany and Austria,” he said on N24 Wednesday.
Political use of the attacks wasn’t limited to Britain and Germany. In France, National Front leader Marine Le Pen called in a statement for a “vast police operation to occupy neighborhoods on the fringes of the Republic to seize all the weapons and explosives that are there.” While no polls have her winning the top office, surveys show Le Pen as the candidate who could take the most votes in the first round of next year’s French presidential elections. “Laxity has lasted too long,” she said.
The upshot for investors is that “EU geopolitical risk is growing,” said Lena Komileva, founder and chief economist of London-based research company G Plus Economics Ltd. The “tragedy for European civilization that the Brussels attacks should be seen as collateral for Brexiters and those wanting an EU breakup and the return of illiberal nationalism, from France to Germany to the U.K.”
(BBG) The terrorists who attacked Brussels on Tuesday have no concern for human life. But no level of barbarity can ever overcome the global resolve to defeat them—or to defend freedom and human rights not only in Europe but around the world.
On Friday, Belgian officials captured Salah Abdeslam, the most wanted suspect in November’s attacks in Paris. Abdeslam had evaded police for four months and was discovered with a cache of weapons that suggested further planned attacks and a wider network of collaborators than previously believed. Authorities suspect that some 5,000 people have returned to Europe after being trained by Islamic State.
Any security system is only as strong as its weakest link. France probably has the continent’s strongest anti-terrorism laws and most aggressive law enforcement—which explains why the Paris attacks were plotted and carried out from Belgium. Europe will never be a tight confederation along the lines of the US, but there is still far more that can be done to strengthen existing counterterrorism and policing institutions.
Consider Europol, the closest the EU has to a shared police force. It has a paltry budget of €100 million, and some 700 employees. It has no real law-enforcement powers—its agents cannot make arrests—and can only get involved in an investigation if a member state requests its help. After the Paris attacks, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to give Europol the power to create new units to track terrorists and crack down on jihadist groups’ Internet propaganda. Yet due to EU bureaucracy, those changes will not take effect until April 2017.
Meanwhile, a proposal to create a shared flight-passenger database awaits a vote in the EU parliament. Dismantling the Schengen system allowing free travel between member states remains problematic, but individual countries can do more to monitor cross-border flows for suspicious passengers and activities. Things remain so slipshod that the various intelligence services cannot even agree on consistent rules for translating names of suspected terrorists from Arabic or Cyrillic.
While national and international action is vital, it’s only part of the answer. New York, London, Madrid, Mumbai, Paris—all are reminders that cities are on the front lines in the fight against terrorism. For local authorities to provide effective protection against attacks, national and international support is crucial.
The citizens of Brussels have the support and sympathy of the civilized world. The terrorists who did this should receive no quarter. But better local law enforcement, and greater cooperation among European governments, can make these kinds of attacks less likely.
(Bloomberg) — The horrific events in Brussels are still resonating across Europe today. And despite what many analysts are saying, the real impact is likely to be more widespread than the very intense emotional anguish.
* Mohamed El-Erian — a regular Bloomberg columnist — has
been one of the most high-profile commentators to express
the view that the “macroeconomic effects tend to be
limited, and they fade,” in reference to acts of terrorism.
Sadly, that may not be the case this time
* While most global markets seemed to be quick to neutralize
the price impact yesterday, the whole European Union project
is under threat. This attack will have three geopolitical
aftershocks beyond the human tragedy
* It further undermines an already fragile Schengen agreement.
Not only does the step-up in border controls have
significant financial, bureaucratic, time and efficiency
costs, but it erodes one of the fundamental pillars of the
* Pro-integration establishment politicians will suffer in the
polls across Europe. Angela Merkel, who has been so crucial
in keeping the EU together over the last decade, may be
compromised more than most, as criticism of her open-arms
approach to refugees has jumped to the forefront of domestic
* Finally, this terrible incident marginally increases the
probability of Brexit, which in itself would be a major blow
to the EU and set a dangerous precedent that greater
integration isn’t inevitable
* The Brexit-related reaction has three parts in itself: there
will be an increase in anti-immigration sentiment; it feeds
the perception that the U.K. is not necessarily safer within
the EU; and it does nothing to counter the circular argument
that because the EU is a weakening construct, it’s better to
jump early and avoid the rush
* The personal and individual scars of previous terrorist
attacks remain long after the fading of market and economic
impacts. This time, I fear that the geopolitical effects
will also persist
* NOTE: Mark Cudmore is a former FX trader who writes for
Bloomberg. The observations he makes are his own and are not
intended as investment advice
(FT) Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui suspected of having links to Paris terrorists.
Two brothers with suspected links to the plotters of the November terrorist attacks in Paris were named by Belgian state media on Wednesday as the suicide bombers in Tuesday’s double bombing at Brussels airport.
Citing police intelligence, Belgian broadcaster RTBF identified the two men as Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui. Khalid was reported to have rented a safe house in the Brussels district of Forest, which became the scene of a gun battle with police last week.
Khalid is also believed to be the man who rented a flat in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi used by the Paris conspirators in the weeks leading up to the November attacks, Belgian media reported. Fingerprints of Paris ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud were found in the Charleroi flat three months ago.
Several Belgian media outlets also reported that police had captured a third man who was caught on CCTV at Zaventem airport alongside the brothers dressed in a white jacket and a hat. They identified him as Najim Laachraoui, and described him as an Isis explosives expert. The Financial Times could not immediately verify this.
The revelations, if confirmed, raise new questions about how much Belgian authorities knew about the Isis cell that is suspected of carrying out the co-ordinated attacks in the Belgian capital, which left at least 30 dead and wounded hundreds.
Salah Abdeslam, believed to be the lone surviving attacker in Paris, was arrested by Belgian police on Friday and had been reportedly co-operating with police, leading several senior government ministers to warn that Isis operatives could strike in retaliation.
Analysts have also speculated that the Brussels cell moved up a planned attack out of concern Mr Abdeslam would provide investigators with details on their whereabouts.
The Brussels daily Dernière Heure reported that Belgian authorities have been aided in their investigation by the taxi driver who unwittingly drove the attackers to the airport on Tuesday morning. After recognising them, the driver took police to the building where he had picked them up in the capital’s Schaerbeek neighbourhood. After searching the house, they discovered an explosive device, chemicals and an Isis flag.
Belgium was on Wednesday starting three days of mourning for the victims of the attacks, including a minute’s silence to be held at 11:00 GMT.
Local press reported that Belgian prime minister Charles Michel would meet his French counterpart Manuel Valls on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Valls told French radio that it was now imperative to tighten controls on the European Union’s borders after the bombings in Brussels.
“There is an urgent need to strengthen the external borders of the European Union,” Mr Valls said, adding that heightened vigilance was required to stop people crossing into Europe with false passports, as the group known as Islamic State had “stolen a large number of passports in Syria”.
According to Dernière Heure, a Brussels legal tabloid that broken several key angles in the investigation, police were led to the Schaerbeek flat by the taxi driver who unwittingly drove the three attackers to the airport yesterday morning. The paper also says it was the same driver who led investigators to a third, unexploded bomb in a suitcase at the airport; he told police that the three men had carried a lot more bags than just the two that had blown up.
Less is known about the bombing of a metro at the Maalbeek station in the Belgian capital’s EU quarter. Thus far, authorities have released little information other than that at least 20 were killed in that attack, which occurred about an hour after the initial bombs went off at the airport. Eyewitnesses said the explosives went off just as the train was pulling into Maalbeek and survivors had to pry open the doors to get out of the carriage.
Questions are already being raised about whether the attack, which Islamic Stateclaimed responsibility for, were linked to Friday’s arrest of alleged Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam, with some analysts speculating yesterday’s plotters moved up their attack out of concern Abdeslam was giving up information on local Isis cells to police.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s political comeback was dealt another setback yesterday after a topFrench court ruled against his effort to have taped conversations between him and his lawyer ruled inadmissible. Le Monde has a helpful Q&A explaining why the ruling is important; one of the conversations appear to show the former French president and the lawyer conspiring to corrupt a judge. According to Le Figaro, prosecutors now have three months to decide whether to bring charges against Mr Sarkozy in the case.
The UN’s refugee agency announced yesterday that it was so concerned about how the EU’s new migrant return deal with Turkey was being implemented that it wassuspending involvement with European authorities in some refugee camps in Greece. In a statement, the UN agency said that so-called “hotspots”, which were originally set up by the EU as reception and registration centers, had been turned into “detention facilities” – which is in violation of the UN’s regulations. “In line with our policy on opposing mandatory detention, we have suspended some of our activities at all closed centres on the islands,” the UN said.
George Osborne, the British finance minister widely seen as Prime Minister David Cameron’s political heir, appeared before parliament yesterday for the first time since his onetime fellow minister Iain Duncan Smith resigned accusing Mr Osborne of cutting benefits to the handicapped to fund tax cuts for the rich. The government this week reversed the decision, and The Daily Telegraph reports Mr Osborne admitted the benefits cuts were a “mistake” and rejected claims he does not care about the less well-off. The less Tory-friendly Guardian reported that opposition Labour’s finance spokesman John McDonnell argued the controversy, one of the most severe of Mr Cameron’s tenure, raised questions about whether Mr Osborne was still fit to retain his job.
When far-right German politician Stefan Jagsch, a member of the neo-Nazi NDP party, drove his car off the road and into a tree, the first people to come to his aid was a minibus full of Syrian refugees, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. The German newswire DPA reports that two of the asylum seekers pulled Mr Jagsch out of the vehicle and performed first aid until an ambulance arrived. Die Welt’s account of the incident also notes that an NDP party leader went so far as to praise the Syrians, saying they “likely performed a very good, humane deed”.
(Obervador) “Bruxelas” representa uma Europa integrada, tolerante, aberta e pluralista. As bombas de hoje foram também um ataque a essa Europa. Se a perdermos, a nossa vida será bem mais pobre.
Estou num quarto de hotel em Bruxelas. Vejo televisão e o mesmo tipo de imagens que periodicamente nos mostram sobre os cada vez mais frequentes ataques em cidades europeias, africanas e asiáticas. Civis inocentes que iam trabalhar, seguindo a rotina de todos os dias, morreram sem saber por que razão. E sem nada terem feito para morrer. Num minuto estão a cumprir a rotina diária e no minuto seguinte estão mortos. Terror no seu estado mais puro.
Não posso falar ao telefone (graças a Deus, há Internet) e não consigo sair de Bruxelas. Não há comboios e nem aviões (e soube agora que já não há carros para alugar). Deveria ir para Londres hoje mas não vou. Nem sei se irei amanhã. E tenho muita sorte, porque estou bem e vivo. Mas a minha “prisão” num hotel de Bruxelas mostra os novos tempos em que vivemos. A nossa segurança está ameaçada e nada podemos fazer acerca disso, a não ser desistir da vida e ficarmos em casa. Não sei se é uma guerra, nem tenho um bom nome para lhe dar. Mas sei que a nossa vida mudou. Rotinas simples, como apanhar o metro para ir trabalhar, podem significar o fim, a morte. Obviamente, não vamos mudar a nossa vida. Seria conceder uma vitória aos terroristas. Não podemos fazê-lo. A vida é mais insegura, as nossas famílias e amigos (e todos nós) viverão mais preocupados. Mas não podemos alterar os nossos hábitos.
Sobre os ataques terroristas, não há nada a acrescentar ao que se disse depois de Nova Iorque, Londres, Madrid, Paris, Istambul, Moscovo, Jacarta, Lagos, Bombaim e muitas outras cidades por esse mundo fora. Não há nada de novo. Sabemos quem os fez, quais as motivações e quem são as vítimas. Estamos a assistir à banalização (no sentido em que Arendt usou o termo) dos ataques terroristas. Não sabíamos, mas todas as idades estão condenadas à sua versão da “banalização do mal”; mesmo no mundo pós-Holocausto. Inevitavelmente, isto fará de nós menos tolerantes. As nossas sociedades serão mais nacionalistas e mais fechadas. Por isso, este ataque em Bruxelas tem um simbolismo forte. “Bruxelas” representa uma Europa integrada, tolerante, aberta e pluralista. As bombas de hoje foram também um ataque a essa Europa. Se a perdermos, a nossa vida será bem mais pobre. Mas não sei se ainda teremos poder e vontade para a salvar.
Por fim, uma confissão. Com os ataques de hoje, percebi uma coisa que não sabia: afinal, gosto de Bruxelas. A capital belga (e europeia) é uma daquelas cidades que muitos de nós que lá vivemos gostamos de criticar. O tempo não presta, os belgas são uns chatos, o “mundo da União Europeia” vive numa bolha, muitas vezes indiferente ao que se passa na “Europa real.” Mas, no meu caso, mais de sete anos a viver em Bruxelas, deixaram, afinal de contas, marcas sentimentais. As imagens do aeroporto e das estações de metro que usei centenas de vezes. O Starbucks do aeroporto onde bebi tantos cafés. Nada disto pode ser indiferente. Além disso, deixei em Bruxelas muitos e bons amigos que um dia vão usar o aeroporto e o metro. Bruxelas foi atacada hoje. A minha segurança nunca foi ameaçada. Mas fiquei triste, muito triste. E fiquei ainda mais triste porque foi necessário um ataque terrorista para perceber como gosto de Bruxelas.
(NYT) Since the November attacks in Paris, the Belgian authorities have conducted dozens of raids, combed whole neighborhoods for well-known militants and even locked down the capital for days, all part of promises to step up efforts to root out jihadists.
Yet none of that evidently disrupted plans for the attacks on Tuesday at Brussels’s main international airport and a subway station in the heart of the capital of the European Union.
The new attacks again underscored not only the weaknesses of Belgium’s security services, but also the persistence and increasingly dangerous prospect of what several intelligence experts described as a sympathetic milieu for terrorist cells to form, hide and operate in the center of Europe.
The attacks have set off a new round of soul-searching about whether Europe’s security services must redouble their efforts, even at the risk of further impinging on civil liberties, or whether such attacks have become an unavoidable part of life in an open European society.
At the very least, they have exposed the enduring vulnerability of Europe to terrorism in an age of easy travel and communications and rising militancy.
Even before the Belgian authorities captured Salah Abdeslam on Friday for his suspected role in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, which killed 130 people, they had detained or arrested scores of suspects directly or peripherally connected to what they described as a terrorist network linked to the Islamic State.
But despite the success in arresting Mr. Abdeslam, Belgium continues to present a special security problem for Europe.
The country of just 11.2 million people faces widening derision as being the world’s wealthiest failed state — a worrying mix of deeply rooted terrorist networks; a government weakened by divisions among French, Dutch and German speakers; and an overwhelmed intelligence service in seemingly chronic disarray.
It is also home to what Bernard Squarcini, a former head of France’s internal intelligence, described as “a favorable ecosystem: an Islamist milieu, and a family milieu,” which played an important role in sheltering Mr. Abdeslam and also perhaps in Tuesday’s attacks.
“It shows that they were in a neighborhood that can shelter cells for months, because it is a neighborhood that is favorable to them,” he said, referring to Molenbeek, a Brussels district. It is where the Paris attackers lived and where Mr. Abdeslam was able to hide among family and friends.
The cultural code of silence in the heavily immigrant district, as well as widespread distrust of already weak government authorities, has provided what amounts to a fifth column or forward base for the Islamic State.
For weeks, intelligence operatives had warned that the next major terrorist attack on European soil was simply a matter of time. Even before Tuesday, Mr. Squarcini predicted that “there will be an even more serious attack” because, he said, “there are already the people in place.”
Indeed, the presumed orchestrator of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who lived in Molenbeek, boasted to his cousin before he was killed that “90” operatives were dormant, ready for another attack.
Some security and intelligence experts saw Tuesday’s blasts as proof that Europe’s open societies, even under states of emergency, will never be risk-free.
But the risks are fatally compounded, some said, by European-wide failures in intelligence sharing and the weakness of a Belgian intelligence service that Mr. Squarcini said lacked the capacity to pick up the “weak signals” of emerging plots.
“The Belgians are too limited to be able to treat several objectives at once,” Mr. Squarcini said in an interview weeks ago.
“After a weekend of mutual congratulations” over the arrest of Mr. Abdeslam, he said Tuesday, “manifestly we didn’t see the second wave.”
But political and social failures have allowed militant cells to become deeply rooted, experts warned, and they were equally or even more worrying. Belgian officials spent weeks looking for Mr. Abdeslam, yet failed to turn up Tuesday’s bombers.
“The mode of action was structured and agreed,” said Ralf Jäger, the interior minister in North Rhine-Westphalia, a German state next to Belgium. “That presumes the formation of a cell. And that is what is frightening: that such a cell could not be discovered.”
Those who are in place in Europe may now possess improved bomb-making skills and tactics, which can be adapted easily to additional security measures put in place by the police and government authorities.
For instance, striking the check-in counter at the Brussels airport inflicted serious casualties and disrupted air travel while circumventing the millions spent on added security screening before passengers board planes.
Mr. Squarcini said airport security may now have to be revised Continent-wide, to take in even the approach to check-in counters — as is already the case in some parts of the world.
Others emphasized that progressive layers of new security measures can go only so far. Absent a military-style occupation, the threat from a well-established network with some degree of local complicity can never be completely forestalled, experts said.
“This shows the limits of the actions you can undertake in a state of emergency,” like the one Belgium had in place for weeks, said Philippe Hayez, a former official with the D.G.S.E., the French external intelligence service.
“These are time-specific, superficial,” added Mr. Hayez, who has written extensively on Europe’s intelligence challenges. “But unless you occupy it militarily, you don’t hold a town just by circulating police cars. We’re talking about guerrilla terrorism. And there’s a population that’s complicit.”
That complicity may be most worrying, he and others said. “We are paying for our naïveté,” said Jacques Myard, a French parliamentarian who sits on his country’s intelligence oversight committee. “It’s not a weakness in intelligence. It’s a weakness in society.”
“The sleeper cells have been there, and they are well implanted,” said Mr. Myard, a member of the conservative Republican party. For two years, the intelligence services “have been telling us: We’ve never seen such an influx” of terrorist operatives.
It was unclear whether Tuesday’s bombings were a response to Mr. Abdeslam’s arrest, or long in the works. In either case, said Alain Juillet, who helped reorganize the French external intelligence service as a top official there, “it’s not surprising.”
“That’s the only thing one can say,” he said. “We can easily see that Belgium has become a hub.”
“So that when you arrest someone, there will be a reaction,” Mr. Juillet said, referring to Mr. Abdeslam.
“All of this is to say that the implantation of the network is more firm than we thought,” Mr. Juillet added. “The police were efficient — and yet this happened. So, there is a very strong implantation in Belgium.”
But the fatal paradox for Europe is that on a border-free Continent, such problems play out transnationally. One country’s failures are necessarily amplified.
Now the problems in Belgium are threatening not only lives across Europe, but also the Continent’s experiment at integration. Whether the European Union, with its commitment to open borders, is strong enough to withstand the strains on top of years of economic crisis already is an ever more open question.
“It seems that the clear targets of the attacks — an international airport, a metro station close to E.U. institutions — indicate that this terrorist attack is not aimed solely against Belgium,” Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, said at a news conference in Berlin. “But against our freedom, freedom of movement, mobility and everyone in the E.U.”
(BBG) Airports that don’t require people to undergo security checks until they move beyond the departure hall may be forced to consider a shift to screening at every entrance following Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels.
With two devices apparently detonated in an open-access or “landside” area of the Belgian capital’s Zaventem airport, the safety of remaining public spaces at hubs with otherwise stringent security arrangements faces renewed scrutiny.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. attacks security provisions within the aviation industry have focused on stopping terrorists boarding planes, with measures such as full-body scans, shoe checks and bans on everything from liquids to nail clippers applied only once the passenger is past the check-in desk.
At most terminals it’s therefore a comparatively easy task for a would-be attacker to walk in off the street unchallenged and mix with legitimate travelers in some of the most densely packed parts of the airport.
“This will be a wake-up call for airlines and airports to tighten their security and introduce new procedures,” said Mark Martin, a Dubai-based consultant to the airline industry. “They will have airport lock-downs and increase security in luggage, cargo, crew — every element will be under the scanner now.”
Drawing the Line
Much may depend on where governments choose to draw the line. Attacks on airports are already rare, with only one comparable incident having occurred in the past decade, when 37 people were killed by a suicide bomber in the arrivals hall of Moscow’sDomodedovo hub in 2011.
The aviation industry has shown that it can adapt quickly to new threats in the past, with an immediate ban on carrying liquids through the security barrier — later set at 100 milliliters — imposed within months of a foiled attack on trans-Atlantic flights in 2006, changing travel habits at a stroke.
Still, while it may be possible to make airports virtually impregnable, doing so could shift the threat to other public areas, such as railway stations. There’s evidence that’s already happening, with November’s attacks in Paris targeting restaurants, bars, a music venue and the Stade de France sports arena, yet proving just as shocking as previous outrages involving downed airliners.
Airports Council International said Tuesday in a statement that checks on people entering landside zones “could be disruptive and actually create new security vulnerabilities.” Such spaces are currently no more regulated than theaters, department stores and museums, the industry body said.
Tighter restrictions could also undermine the ambitions of major airports to establish themselves as retail destinations for non-flyers. Singapore Changi, Asia’s second-busiest international hub, has become a hangout for students lured by its McDonald’s and Burger King outlets and local families attracted by its air-conditioned open spaces, all accessed without security checks.
U.S. airports already monitor areas before security checkpoints with artificial intelligence programs that scan for people lingering unexpectedly.
Another red flag is the wearing of excessive clothing that could disguise weaponry or explosives, said Richard Bloom, chief academic officer at the Prescott, Arizona, campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Profiling techniques based on ethnicity or prior travel patterns have a mixed track record, and random screening may be just as effective, he said.
Stricter airport security regimes could see the wider introduction of measures that greet travelers almost at the curbside in a minority of countries.
In India, passengers must present their ticket and proof of identity on arrival and have their bags screened and sealed. The documents are still examined at the check-in counter, followed by security scans and the removal of jackets, shoes, phones, watches, belts and wallets familiar to travelers worldwide.
In disputed Kashmir and in the northeast further security checks apply before passengers board, requiring them to arrive hours before flying. People seeing off friends and family must also buy passes that aren’t available at times of heightened security, while travelers can’t leave the terminal once they enter.
Embry-Riddle’s Bloom said that deploying metal detectors across the airport may be warranted, though many potential weapons no longer feature metal, and would-be terrorists are adept at keeping ahead of security measures.
At Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, where controls were already at the highest level after the November attacks, extra border police began patrolling public areas, joined by riot police, according to an airport employee.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it’s monitoring the situation in Brussels after the attacks, which killed at least 31 at the airport and a subway station, and “will not hesitate” to introduce additional measures if needed.
Significantly upgraded security is likely to come at some expense and hurt travel times. “The long-run issue is about security costs and how that slows down flying,” said Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Rob Byde. “More security checks could mean a slower turnaround of aircraft. That could be damaging.”
(BBG – click to see) Avi Navama, co-founder of SQR Group, discusses how to improve security measures in Europe after the attacks in Brussels. He
speaks with Anna Edwards and Manus Cranny on Bloomberg