Wednesday

22nd Sep 2021

Leaked EU reports damn Belgian airport security

  • The bomb on 22 March exploded in the land-side of Brussels airport (Photo: Reuters)

Belgian opposition parties have leaked classified EU reports which indicate that authorities “seriously” neglected airport security during the past five years.

The reports, published by the Ecolo and Green parties on Wednesday (13 April), cover the airside of Belgium’s five airports - the secure zones accessible to airport staff and to passengers after they check in.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Galant (r) said she never saw the reports (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The bomb at Brussels airport on 22 March exploded in the landside area that is accessible to the general public.

But the revelations have prompted calls for Belgium’s transport minister, Jacqueline Galant, to resign prior to a parliament hearing on the issue on Thursday.

The first European Commission study was carried out in June 2011 by two EU officials who interviewed Belgian aviation safety staff in Brussels and visited Liege airport.

The second study was carried out in March 2015 by two EU experts who also conducted interviews and visited Antwerp airport.

The 2011 report found Belgium “non-compliant with serious deficiencies” in five areas, such as monitoring of foreign airlines and of cargo screening procedures .

It found Belgium “non-compliant” in three other areas, such as security training of staff, and urged authorities to “swiftly take appropriate corrective actions.”

The 2015 report said Belgium was still “non-compliant with serious deficiencies” in five areas and “non-compliant” in three areas.

One of the serious problems was related to “explosive detection systems” that “were not regularly monitored at several airports.”

Written one year before the 22 March terrorist attack, the report said Brussels airport had deficiencies on “surveillance, patrols and other physical controls, protection of passengers.”

Galantgate

In what Belgian media have called Galantgate, the minister on Wednesday defended herself by saying she had no knowledge of the EU reports and had not received a “formal request” to take action.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel on Thursday also told MPs that the commission's reports were sent to two civil servants at the aviation authority only.

"These reports were … not communicated to the government, which discovered them in the press," he said, adding that he wanted full "clarity" on how they were overlooked.

The Green and Ecolo parties published another document later the same day that cast doubt on Galant’s statement, however.

The document, an internal email from her top civil servant, Laurent Ledoux, to the minister dated December 2014 said: “There are serious deficiencies in Belgium concerning aviation security.”

It urged her to recruit more security staff or to hire outside consultants.

“Minister Galant visibly has a problem with the truth, and it’s not the first time,” Green party MP Kristof Calvo said.

The commission reports also cast doubt on Michel’s statement.

They said that when EU experts did the inspections in 2011 and 2015 they were accompanied by between six and 10 Belgian officials, whose names they listed, on each occasion.

Monitoring

The EU commission said on Thursday that it carries out on average 35 airport security reviews a year in the bloc’s 28 states.

“We’re doing this to make sure weapons and explosives can’t get on board an aircraft,” a commission spokesman said.

“If an airport shows shortcomings these have to be addressed by the national authorities and the commission also monitors whether this is being implemented.”

He declined to comment on the content of the EU reports for “security reasons.”

The leaked reports go against a previous commission statement.

Brussels airport "was not provoking any particular headache" in terms of security, a commission official told press on 23 March, the day after the Brussels attacks.

Not a failed state

Galant has held her post since October 2014.

Ledoux, her top official, resigned from his job on Wednesday and accused her of treating her staff in the style of the “Gestapo” - Nazi Germany’s secret police.

Galant and Michel’s liberal MR party is in a ruling coalition with the centre-right CD&V, the liberal Open VLD, and the Flemish nationalist N-VA parties.

The 22 March attacks had earlier prompted Belgium’s interior minister (N-VA) and justice minister (CD&V) to offer to resign. But Michel said he needed them to help manage the security crisis.

The PM last week also defended Belgium’s reputation.

"It took us a few months to arrest Abdelslam, it took more than 10 years to get Bin Laden," Michel told foreign correspondents in Brussels, referring to Salah Abdelslam, a terrorist fugitive who had been hiding in the Belgian capital, and Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11 whom US forces shot dead in Pakistan.

Belgium is no failed state, says PM

In a press conference designed to restore his country's image two weeks after the attacks, Charles Michel said that security is efficient and that Brussels is a welcoming place.

Security failures rock Belgian government

Prime minister Michel rejected the resignation of the interior and justice ministers after revelations that one of Tuesday's suicide bombers was freed last year.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. French MEPs lead bogus EU monitoring of Russia vote
  2. Europeans think new 'Cold War' is here - but not for them
  3. Spain wants energy price discussion at next EU summit
  4. Trust in Dutch government drops, but not for Rutte
  5. Long ago, there was another Angela Merkel
  6. The first anniversary of the Abraham Accords
  7. First refugee deaths confirmed on Belarus-EU border
  8. EU kept in dark on ex-commissioner's new lobby job

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us