Antwerp Airport CEO slammed for ‘xenophobic’ comments about Gare du Midi

Antwerp Airport CEO slammed for ‘xenophobic’ comments about Gare du Midi
The man hall at Gare du Midi, which was compared to Kosovo by Antwerp Airport's CEO. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Antwerp airport’s CEO must offer a public apology for his “pathetic” and “xenophobic” comparison between Brussels’ Gare du Midi and Kosovo, a representative council of the Kosovar community in Brussels said.

The National Albanian European Council announced it had filed a complaint against Marcel Beulens, the airport’s CEO, who trashed Belgium’s busiest rail station by saying it “looked more like Kosovo than Brussels capital city.”

“These pathetic statements, with racist and xenophobic overtones, show how much Buelens denigrates Brussels and the Gare du Midi,” the Council said in a written statement.

“We found his comparison shocking and hurtful,” Ramadan Gjanaj, representative of the Council, said in a phone interview with The Brussels Times, adding that in taking a jab at one of his airport’s main competitors, Buelens had denigrated Kosovo.

In the statement, the Council said it was expecting Beulens to offer public apologies to the Kosovar community in Brussels, many of whom Gjanaj said had fled the partially recognised and Serbian-claimed territory during the violent war in the 1990s.

“Must we remind Mr Buelens that the Albanian population of Kosovo was the victim of murders, rapes (…) and other violations?” the Council statement added.

The Council is seeking to obtain a public apology from Buelens through a complaint filed before anti-discriminatory body Unia, who will now work to establish whether Buelens’ comments break anti-discrimination and hate-speech laws or whether he was exercising his freedom of speech.

“Before anything, we work to facilitate a dialogue between both parties,” Lode Nolf, chief of communications at Unia, said.

A spokesperson for Antwerp Airport declined to comment on Buelens’ statements and said the airport’s CEO was not immediately available for comment since he was on his way to an event in Australia.

The Council was not able to contact Buelens’ following his comments, and is awaiting a reply from Unia regarding the complaint, adding that it would consider taking legal action if necessary.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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