According to a message sent today (November 23) to all staff, the Security Directorate at the European Commission has received information from the Belgian authorities that there is no indication for a specific threat against EU institutions. The threat level for the European institutions remains at level 3.
However, for precautionary reasons and with a view to overall security environment, Vice-President Geogieva has decided, in agreement with the President, to further increase security measures.
Among others, bigger events organized by the Commission at external premises (not in Commission buildings) will be cancelled until further notice. On top of systematic checks of cars and luggage of non-statutory staff and visitors, there will be random checks also for statutory staff.
No gathering of a large number of persons is allowed outside the EU buildings. Buildings with higher visitor flows will be closed, either entirely or partly (e.g. Visitors’ Centre or Infopoints)
Travelling from and to Brussels is currently not affected. Staff is reminded, however, that they will be confronted with limited transport means when moving inside the city. For meetings, the Commission strongly encourages staff to make best possible use of alternative communication channels, such as tele-conferencing.
The Brussels Times asked Anna, working at the European Parliament, how the situation has affected her: “We are OK but it’s a strange feeling with an almost closed city and very few people outside. During the weekend we stayed in our neighborhood. Bigger shops were closed but we managed to buy food in some smaller shops.”
She continued: “People in the streets are nervous and more observant than usual. Schools today were closed so my husband stayed at home with our children. The metro was closed so I had to take the tram and then walk to my office. There are many armored vehicles and soldiers in the streets. At the office, all staff had to pass controls as in an airport. I really hope that it soon will calm down.”
Another official, Peter at the European Commission, told us that things are very quiet and a bit surreal in Brussels. “Most people have stayed at home especially those with children because schools are also closed. People feel scared but in an abstract way, there is an increased risk but what does that mean in practice?”
He added that people perhaps become more vigilant leading to more false alarms. “Last week when we were doing our one minute of silence to commemorate the Paris victims an electronic robot was used to open a suspect car with French license plates that was parked outside our office building. The street was blocked by heavily armed police. Luckily, it was a false alarm.”