The federal parliament discussed yesterday the report of the commission of inquiry into the attacks on March 22, 2016. One of the key words in the 939 pages long report is the cooperation between the authorities concerned. While no-one claimed that the attacks could have been avoided, some members of the commission acknowledged that opportunities had been missed. This observation applies in particular to the second part of the commission’s mandate, namely how the Belgian security apparatus had coped with the terrorist threat.
“The services worked all hard but separately, day and night, to the limit of human capacity. But everyone was too often active only within his own remit, so opportunities have been missed,” said President Patrick Dewael (Open Vld).
The commission considered three cases: the brothers Abdeslam, the brothers El Bakraoui, and Osama Atar. The findings are severe as regards two intelligence services.
“The hearings highlighted the weakness of the information known to the state security body and the military intelligence service. I say weak but it’s an understatement. In fact, they knew nothing or almost nothing about the vast majority of the perpetrators,” said Laurette Onkelinx (PS).
The committee also examined the development of radicalism in Belgium. “Radicalism is a failure of our integration policy,” said Philippe Pivin (MR), denouncing in particular the Francophone negligence with regard to integration courses. According to Georges Dallemagne (cdH), the phenomenon can be considered as “the failure of a generation”.
The report discusses several themes, including mosques and the internet. The need of an effective prevention policy is not forgotten but is complicated because of certain institutional barriers in Belgium.
The recommendations are directed to the government and were agreed upon by all parties. “The many recommendations go beyond the term of this legislature and will require cooperation agreements between all authorities concerned,” said Gilles Vanden Burre (Green). “We have all been keen to reach a consensus in face of the tragedy – it’s a very clear signal,” he said.