24th Oct 2016

Daylight shooting in EU capital raises alarm

  • A heavily-armed policeman on duty in Brussels city centre (Photo: digitaledinges)

A shocking killing in an expat enclave in Brussels and another mugging outside the European Parliament have reinforced a feeling among EU workers that the city is becoming more dangerous.

A 46-year-old Belgian mother of three was on Friday (5 March) killed by a shot to the head at the wheel of her Renault Clio in an attempted carjacking on Avenue Brugmann in Uccle, a wealthy district in the EU capital which is home to one of the highest concentrations of personnel from the EU institutions.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"It could have been me," Andrea, an EU Parliament official and mother of two, who lives a few blocks away from the scene of the crime, told this website.

The shooting follows the mugging of an Estonian liberal MEP, Vilja Savisaar, on Tuesday evening shortly after leaving the EU Parliament building in the Etterbeek district, which is also home to the European Commission and the EU Council. A German MEP was attacked nearby last October.

The EU Parliament has called a meeting with local police on 22 March. But the police has already indicated there are no special resources to step up security in the area.

"It's normal to have extra policing around important public institutions in other EU capitals," a spokeswoman for EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek told EUobserver, when asked if EU officials risk looking as if they consider themselves more important than ordinary Belgians.

The "international community" in Brussels numbers at least 70,000 people, if you count staff at the EU institutions, the Nato headquarters and the diplomats, lobbyists and journalists who work alongside them.

New figures published by the Belgian authorities show that the parts of Brussels favoured by high-earning expats are in fact relatively safe.

A person is twice as likely to be violently assaulted in Saint Josse, Molenbeek or Anderlecht - some of the city's poorest quartiers - as in the more privileged Uccle, Etterbeek, Ixelles, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre areas. Crime in Ixelles is falling sharply - there were 266 violent assaults in the first nine months of 2009 compared to over 500 in the same period in 2008.

Dramatic incidents such as the one in Avenue Brugmann are also rare in Brussels, which has one of the lowest homicide rates in Europe.

But some trends in the city's EU-favoured districts are worrying.

Armed robberies and burglaries are climbing steeply in Etterbeek. The area recorded 171 assaults, 97 muggings and 30 armed robberies in the first nine months of 2009. Assaults and armed robberies are on the up in Schaerbeek. Woluwe-Saint-Lambert is seeing more armed robberies and car thefts. Woluwe-Saint-Pierre is witnessing a spike in burglaries.

The figures also show that St Gilles, which is loved by younger expats, is one of the city's edgiest areas. The rate of violent assault is the same as in Saint Josse. The rate of armed robberies is more than double that of Anderlecht.

Crimes against women - handbag snatching, indecent assault and rape - are also climbing in expat haunts. Etterbeek saw 14 cases of indecent assault in the first three quarters of 2009, compared to 17 in all of 2008. There were 10 rapes in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, compared to five in 2008.

"It doesn't matter if you are in a nice area or somewhere less fancy. Brussels is a big city and you have to be careful," a Belgian police spokesman said.

"There's not really an increase [in crime]. The numbers are more or less the same. But if there's a criminal act, it tends to be more violent. We have the impression there are more guns around," a spokeswoman for Belgium's interior minister, Annemie Turtelboom, added.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity