No more soldiers on Brussels streets this year, says army chief
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    No more soldiers on Brussels streets this year, says army chief

    At the height of the terror threat, 1,800 soldiers were deployed in the Belgian streets. Credit: BE Deence/Orban Daniel

    The Chief of Staff of the Belgian army, Marc Compernol, wants to take the military personnel off the streets of Brussels and Antwerp so they can focus on their main mission again, mainly abroad.

    Compernol has urged politicians to find a structural solution for the army’s security assignments in the Belgian cities.

    “It is imperative to use the scarce resources of the Defence department wisely,” he said, reports De Standaard. “In this context, it is essential to find a structural solution for supporting the police, so that Defence can refocus on its main mission. Belgium’s security begins abroad, and that is where our vocation lies,” he added.

    After the attack on the editorial staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the dismantling of a terrorist cell in the Walloon city of Verviers, the military appeared in the streets of Brussels for the beginning in early 2015.

    At the height of the terror threat, 1,800 soldiers were deployed in the Belgian streets, but that number has decreased over the years. However, despite a drop in the threat level, about 400 are still present close to various strategic locations, and will remain there until at least 2 February.

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    The decision to renew their deployment is renewed every month by the Belgians ministers. The total cost of the military presence on the streets amounted to about €200 million over the past five years.

    The Minister for Defence, Philippe Goffin, said in December that he was planning to reduce the number of soldiers on the street, but the Minister for Domestic Affairs, Pieter De Crem, reacted surprised by saying that nothing had been decided yet, reports Bruzz.

    The Chief of Staff also asked to raise the budget for the army to 1.28% of the GDP, which would free an extra €2 billion to go to new infrastructure following the recent purchase of new weaponry, and new personnel, which should solve the impending shortage of personnel due to the ageing of the army.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times