quinta-feira, 31 de março de 2016
“Lamento imenso se o CCB tem de mudar de direcção sempre que muda o governo” / Uma questão de valores, mais do que de valor Comentário / Luís Raposo
“Lamento imenso se o CCB tem de mudar de direcção sempre que muda o governo”
António Lamas foi ao Parlamento explicar por que razão não se demitiu do CCB e garantir que ouviu a autarquia antes de dar por concluído o seu plano para o eixo Belém-Ajuda
Lamas deixou claro que considerava que o seu afastamento tinha motivações políticas e não técnicas
Lucinda Canelas/ 31-3-2016 / PÚBLICO
António Lamas chegou às 17h30, como estava marcado, com documentos e uma declaração inicial que resumia em pouco mais de cinco minutos o seu currículo enquanto professor universitário e gestor público. Durante as duas horas seguintes respondeu às perguntas dos deputados da Comissão parlamentar de Cultura, Comunicação, Juventude e Desporto.
Estava ali a pedido do PSD para dar a sua versão dos acontecimentos que levaram o ministro da Cultura, João Soares, a afastá-lo da presidência do Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB), na sequência de um processo muito mediatizado que começou com a extinção de uma estrutura chefiada por Lamas que criou um plano estratégico para revitalizar o eixo Belém-Ajuda, a zona monumental mais visitada do país, e acabou com o ministro a recebê-lo no seu gabinete, a 29 de Fevereiro, para lhe entregar uma cópia do despacho de exoneração, cumprindo naquela noite um ultimato que lhe fizera três dias antes, nas páginas dos jornais.
Ontem, Lamas não se referiu uma única vez ao seu sucessor, Elísio Summavielle, um homem que tem feito carreira no património e no serviço público, como o expresidente do CCB, e colaborador de longa data de João Soares. Mas deixou claro que considerava que o seu afastamento tinha motivações políticas e não técnicas, e que o argumento usado para chumbar o seu plano estratégico para Belém — o de que a Câmara Municipal de Lisboa (CML) não fora consultada enquanto se elaborava a proposta — não era verdadeiro.
No final, Lamas haveria de dizer aos jornalistas que Fernando Medina, o socialista que preside à autarquia, temera a falta de “protagonismo” da câmara, mas que a decisão de a confinar à comissão de acompanhamento da estrutura de missão encarregue de executar o plano fora do Governo de Passos Coelho e não sua.
O ex-presidente do CCB, que durante anos liderou a Parques de Sintra — Monte da Lua, a empresa que gere os monumentos daquela vila património mundial, foi à AR na sequência de um requerimento apresentado por dois deputados do PSD, Sérgio Azevedo e Pedro Pimpão. Foi precisamente o primeiro que começou por acusar o ministro da Cultura de tratar a questão da substituição do presidente do CCB de “uma forma despropositada” e de ter tomado uma decisão puramente política. Vânia Dias da Silva, do CDS-PP, alinhou nas críticas e defendeu que a extinção, por parte do Governo de António Costa, da estrutura de missão que Lamas dirigia é produto de uma “atitude birrenta” do executivo, do seu “fervor destrutivo”.
Lamas aproveitou para refutar, a cada intervenção, as acusações que a tutela lhe foi fazendo nas últimas semanas através da comunicação social. “Fui conduzido na praça pública a um empurrão para me demitir. Eu achei que não o devia fazer porque não concordei com as razões”, disse, rejeitando uma vez mais que o seu plano estratégico para Belém seja um “disparate total” (foi João Soares que assim o classificou). “É um trabalho que me orgulho de ter apresentado ao Governo.”
Aos que nos jornais atribuíram a sua recusa em se demitir não a uma posição de princípio, mas à “indemnização choruda” que lhe caberá por ter sido exonerado antes de 2017 (foi o primeiro presidente do centro a sê-lo desde que nasceu, há 23 anos), respondeu: “A minha indemnização já foi calculada pela Fundação CCB — não chega a 11 mil euros.” Gabriela Canavilhas, do PS, saiu naturalmente em defesa de João Soares, lembrando a legitimidade do ministro para escolher o presidente do CCB, um cargo de confiança política, e argumentando que este “não é o momento nem a oportunidade adequada para avaliar a proposta [de Lamas] para o eixo Belém-Ajuda”. “Não há qualquer fundamento político-partidário no seu afastamento”, nem “qualquer irregularidade” em todo o procedimento, disse Canavilhas, garantindo que João Soares esperava que Lamas se demitisse, o que na opinião dos socialistas seria “o mais correcto”, dada “a relação umbilical” que o então presidente estabelecia entre o seu plano para Belém e o cargo que exercia no CCB.
Com o pedido de audição de Lamas, o PSD quis apenas, acrescentou a deputada, fazer o “julgamento moral e político” do ministro da Cultura. “Este assunto devia estar morto”, disse. “Morreu com a extinção do [plano para o] eixo BelémAjuda.”
CML no centro do debate
As declarações de João Soares a 26 de Fevereiro, responsabilizado Lamas por uma “gestão imprudente” que levara ao esbanjamento de seis milhões de euros das reservas do CCB — o professor do Instituto Superior Técnico diz não saber sequer a que se refere o ministro, convidando-o a olhar para as contas daquele equipamento cultural —, não ocuparam muito os deputados.
No centro da discussão estiveram os contactos entre o então presidente e a autarquia liderada por Medina. Os contactos que João Soares diz que não existiram, os que Lamas fez questão de discriminar perante os deputados: várias reuniões com o vereador do Urbanismo e Planeamento Estratégico, Manuel Salgado, com a vereadora da Cultura, Catarina Vaz Pinto, e outros técnicos. Isto, sem esquecer o próprio Medina, com quem disse ter almoçado uma vez, em Dezembro de 2015, encontrando-se com ele uma segunda vez, numa reunião em que o presidente da autarquia terá sido “desagradável”.
Findos os esclarecimentos na comissão parlamentar, clarificaria aos jornalistas o calendário destes encontros com representantes camarários, explicando que os contactos com Salgado e Vaz Pinto aconteceram antes de estar criada a estrutura de missão encarregada pelo Governo de Passos de criar o plano de revitalização de Belém, embora as reuniões técnicas se tenham mantido até Setembro de 2015 (o plano estratégico fora divulgado em Agosto no portal do Governo). Quanto à reunião com Medina, aconteceu já depois de criada a estrutura, quan-
do Lamas lhe pediu que nomeasse um representante para a comissão de aconselhamento.
Segundo este gestor público, o presidente da câmara sentiu que a autarquia estava “secundarizada” e rejeitou qualquer representação. “O Governo achou que não devia incluir uma autarquia numa estrutura que dependia do Conselho de Ministros”, explicou, e Medina optou por se recusar a participar. “Foi uma recusa política”, concluiu. A de um autarca PS perante uma proposta encomendada por um governo de coligação PSD-CDS.
As explicações de Lamas aos deputados sobre estes contactos tinham posto Sérgio Azevedo a defender na comissão que “o espectáculo levado à cena pelo ministro da Cultura” se baseava numa “argumentação falsa”, já que a câmara fora ouvida várias vezes e conhecia o que se estava a preparar. “O que está aqui em causa é a substituição de uma pessoa pura e simplesmente por outra pessoa. Não há uma divergência de fundo”, afirmou o deputado social-democrata, dizendo que a única coisa que João Soares demonstrou em todo o processo é que “é o DDT [dono disto tudo] da Cultura”.
Ana Mesquita do PCP, admitiu que se pode discutir “a elegância” do afastamento de Lamas, mas o que importa neste caso é o abandono de um “plano mercantilista” que abria a porta a um aumento de preços dos museus e monumentos de Belém e se preparava para vedar a muitos portugueses o acesso a um património importantíssimo. Na despedida, Lamas pediu aos deputados que leiam o plano que criou com a sua equipa para o eixo e que se interessem pelo futuro de Belém, lembrando que deixou criadas condições para que os dois módulos que faltam para completar o CCB — em parte destinados a hotéis — sejam concessionados ainda este ano.
“Não aceitei a presidência do CCB para dar mais importância a Belém do que à sua programação”, disse. E concluiu, numa referência directa ao seu mandato interrompido: “Lamento imenso se o CCB tem de mudar de direcção sempre que muda o governo. Não foi o que aconteceu até agora.”
French struggle with homegrown terror
False starts and ideological discomfort thwart attempts to combat foreign fighters.
By NICHOLAS VINOCUR 3/31/16, 5:35 AM CET Updated 3/31/16, 9:53 AM CET
PARIS — A week after a French minister accused Belgium of being “naïve” about jihadism in the wake of the Brussels terrorist attacks, France entered its own anguished debate about the prevalence of violent ideology in tough immigrant neighborhoods and the best ways to address it.
The trigger was a remark by Youth and Sports Minister Patrick Kanner, who said that some “100 neighborhoods” in France shared the noxious traits of Brussels’ Molenbeek, the breeding ground for terrorism in the Belgian capital.
Kanner’s fellow Socialists blasted him over the comment. Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, who heads the ruling party, accused him of stigmatizing Muslims. While France had “pockets,” “buildings” or “streets” that resemble Molenbeek, he added, there were no neighborhoods like it in France.
This tit-for-tat in the ruling party is part of a wider political fallout from a spate of attacks. Hundreds of European-born Muslims have left to join Islamist extremist forces in Syria and Iraq; more volunteers for ISIL came from France than any other EU country. Many of these new European recruits are coming home and some are carrying out deadly terrorist strikes: Paris on November 13, Brussels last week.
The debate this past week also speaks to the underlying anxiety – both political and real – about a long-standing and dangerous shortcoming in French policy: Despite a robust security apparatus and a state of emergency in place since November, the country lacks a workable approach to dealing with violent Islamist indoctrination and recruitment.
While Germany, Sweden and Denmark boast well-respected “disengagement” programs to detect and dissuade would-be terrorists that draw on their experience with far-right groups, France is still experimenting and struggling to find solutions. People who work to prevent jihadist recruitment say France, like Belgium, will remain vulnerable as long as it doesn’t do better.
The best-known program, which stopped operating last year, used therapy and family engagement to break recruiters’ holds over their targets.
Programs launch then fold months later, without explanation. Some of the country’s toughest, most Molenbeek-like areas lack any program at all. And in prisons, where hundreds of hardened jihadis are now serving time after returning from stints with ISIL in Syria and Iraq, little thought is given to social reinsertion programs that might offer former fighters hope of starting a new life once they have completed their sentences. Experts fear France will end up with a new cadre of super-jihadists with nothing to lose when they leave jail.
“In terms of deradicalization, we are at absolute zero,” Rachida Dati, a center-right MEP who authored a report on radicalization adopted by the European Parliament last year, told the JDD weekly paper Sunday. “It shocks me when I hear [Prime Minister] Manuel Valls say, ‘We’re going to launch deradicalization centers, we’ve launched a deradicalization center.’ They don’t exist!”
France started to address radicalization in 2013, when departures to Syria were peaking. It launched a “#Stopjihadism” web campaign to fight online recruitment, as well as a toll-free hotline where parents, teachers, employers or friends could report suspicious behavior, such as sudden changes in clothing or eating habits, to authorities.
Hotline operators, who have received more than 8,000 tips so far, suggest a course of action to authorities, depending on the nature of the issue: “Dangerous” individuals might get signalled to intelligence agencies and monitored or pursued for criminal charges, when applicable; less risky profiles will be referred to a local prevention program approved by the interior ministry. These are highly varied and unequal, and there is no single preferred method. The best-known program, which stopped operating last year, used therapy and family engagement to break recruiters’ hold over their targets, most of whom are in their teens or twenties.
Only one permanent prevention center currently operates in France, and it’s strictly voluntary for participants, who usually join on request from family members.
France’s deradicalization predicament can be seen in miniature in the Paris suburb of Sevran, a 40-minute train ride from the Luxembourg gardens.
It’s a smaller, somewhat less blighted version of Molenbeek, with unemployment above 20 percent, high crime and a foreign-born or “immigrant” population estimated at about half of the total 50,000 inhabitants. Another shared trait: Sevran has produced at least 10 volunteers for ISIL in Syria and Iraq, seven of whom have since been confirmed killed.
Had it not been for the parents of Felix Roy, a convert to Islam killed in 2015, Sevran might have remained unremarkable among many similar towns.
They turned it into a symbol. Furious at what they called an “omerta” concerning radicalization that saw elected officials refusing to acknowledge a spreading problem, Thierry and Veronique Roy penned an open letter in early March to the mayor of Sevran, Greens party member Stephane Gatignon, accusing him of having failed to act against a local recruiter for ISIL or a makeshift mosque believed to be a jihadist boiler room.
Not only had Gatignon stood by as Salafist groups flourished in his town, the Roys alleged in their letter; he indirectly abetted the ISIL recruiter by allowing him to be employed on a municipal contract at a local school. “Your status as the town’s top official should have forced you to lodge a complaint … against these radical extremist groups that want to bring us down,” the letter read.
In a public response, Gatignon rejected all the accusations. Sevran’s town hall, he argued, had been “committed to fighting radicalization” for years thanks to the help of local associations — in this case, Muslim community outreach groups funded mainly via municipal subsidies.
He said the authorities didn’t turn a blind eye and engaged with the parents of foreign fighters. Gatignon met the Roys after their son left to Syria. The mayor added that the ISIL recruiter in question, who was jailed in 2015, was only employed by the town for a month during the summer.
Two employees at Sevran’s town hall declined to identify any programs or associations that carry out prevention or deradicalization work in the town. One said that “none [came] to mind.”
While Europe’s Radicalization Awareness Network — a European umbrella group that studies and establishes best practices for prevention and deradicalization work — lists a group named “Tarjama” as doing prevention and detection in Sevran, both town hall reps said they were unfamiliar with the name, which also was not listed in the town directory.
On March 26, Gatignon lashed out in an editorial published in Le Monde against what he called a “scandalous smearing” of his town. Sevran had become a “scapegoat” for a problem that existed across France. “Sevran is not an autonomous republic!” the letter read.
The Roys vowed to file a criminal complaint against Gatignon for “failing to assist a person in danger.”
For Ouisa Kies, a sociologist who runs a prison deradicalization program, Sevran is typical of many Molenbeek-like neighborhoods in France.
If the mayor has outsourced detection work to religious associations, as is often the case in towns like Sevran, he or she may not be aware of what is happening in his or her town, and is reassured by promises that things are “under control.”
Meanwhile, Kies said, a climate of intense suspicion of authority means that very few people will ever report suspicious behavior to a local authority figure or a government-sponsored anti-radicalization hotline. To do so would amount to “snitching,” or giving someone up to the cops.
In such neighborhoods, the few people who do use the government’s hotline, she said, never get referred to local prevention specialists, as the system is supposed to do.
“The hotline doesn’t work in places like this [Sevran],” she said. “It’s for the middle classes — people who feel comfortable dealing with the authorities.”
Two years ago, the interior ministry attempted to counteract the “don’t snitch” effect in poor areas by setting up an experimental prevention center in Aulnay-sous-Bois, another tough Paris suburb, run by a prominent female local activist. Interviews were granted; journalists were invited to inspect the spare, unmarked apartment in a housing project where Sonya Imloul and a team of religious aides held therapy sessions for suspected radicals, often with their parents.
After a year of operation, the center shut down. French media reported that the state cut its funds due to suspicion of embezzlement; Imloul said she feared for her safety and asked to stop.
Last year, another high-profile prevention program, run by anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, came to a similarly abrupt end.
Bouzar said she quit in protest over President François Hollande’s plan to strip convicted terrorists of their French nationality. But other sources in the field hinted at different reasons.
Bouzar had recently come under fire in the case of a 17-year-old girl who had undergone her “deradicalization” treatment. After the girl attended therapy sessions with Bouzar and her family over the course of several months, the teen attempted to travel to Syria and was caught at the last minute thanks to phone taps of her conversations with a recruiter in France.
“There is a business of deradicalization,” added Kies, the sociologist. “When the government says it’s going to spend, all sorts of people line up to take the money. Some of them are good and competent, some are just on the take.”
France’s predicament can be seen in miniature in the Paris suburb of Sevran.
When it comes to prevention, France is still searching for the right formula. Despite a wealth of examples from neighboring states, from Britain’s community-based approach to the German, group-therapy method, Paris has no clear preference.
Much of its ambivalence, critics say, has to do with the fact that, unlike in Germany, security services are deeply reluctant to cede any part of their duties to civil society actors, which means less funding for prevention groups. Another factor is France’s secular tradition, which makes the state uncomfortable with confiding sensitive work to religious authorities.
After several false starts, France inaugurated its first permanent prevention center late last year. The CAPRI center in Bordeaux, western France, employs a four-person team including a psychologist, a Muslim chaplain and a social worker, and takes after the Danish “Aarhus” model — a deradicalization program focused on family engagement named after a Danish town that sent several volunteer fighters to Syria. CAPRI, which stands for Center for Action and Prevention Against the Radicalization of Individuals, stands out for being the first permanent prevention program officially recognized by the French state.
CAPRI, like most prevention programs, operates on a strictly voluntary basis. Participants attend therapy or religious counseling sessions, often with members of their family, either on location or elsewhere, according to an ad hoc schedule. The cases treated are typically young people, converts to Islam in almost half of cases, who have shown a sudden change in behavior, cut themselves off from friends or been caught consuming jihadist propaganda online. CAPRI does not handle “deeply radicalized” individuals, who are usually referred to the criminal justice system.
“The state does not really have any religion as to what sort of deradicalization scheme they support,” said CAPRI spokesman Marek Fetouh. “We work with family members to try to break the mental hold these groups have on young people…. Our advantage is that we are linked to the town hall.”
Give them jobs
For the toughest cases — hardened jihadis who fought in Syria or Iraq, or deeply indoctrinated career criminals — France has no dedicated program.
In March, the government announced it would soon open its first non-voluntary “deradicalization center” near the city of Tours, southwest of Paris, that promises to deprogram radicals, instead of merely deviating them from the path of radicalization. Ten similar centers are due to open around the country over the next two years.
However, here again, the centers target not the toughest cases but people aged between 18 and 30 who have “not yet crossed the line into violence,” Pierre N’Gahane, a government official in charge of the program, announced on France Bleu radio.
For those who have, and they count for hundreds today, there is only prison where they are likely to mix with other radical inmates. France unblocked €80 million last year on a prison deradicalization program geared at such cases, but the funds are heavily weighted toward surveillance via the hiring of guards and intelligence agents. Of that amount, €1.23 million is allotted to hiring psychologists, social workers and Muslim chaplains who are to be in charge of the actual deradicalization work. When it comes to social reinsertion, or programs to help inmates rebuild their lives post-release, France has very few — and one of Europe’s highest rates of crime recidivism to prove it.
In any case, for Kies and Richard Rechtman, a psychologist whose work focuses on genocide and therapy for the authors of atrocities, the benefits of attempting to deradicalize the toughest cases are small to nil.
“The idea that these militarized, deeply indoctrinated people will simply give up their ideal because we show them it’s wrong, in return for becoming unemployed once they leave jail — that seems to me to be very naive,” said Rechtman.
Instead, he argued, the state should focus on helping jihadists who have served their time rebuild their lives post-release. Given the difficulty of finding a job in France, that effort should involve direct subsidies for housing and living. “The alternative is to have these people go back to their old neighborhoods with no job, no prospects and a completely collapsed sense of self,” he said. “Why wouldn’t they go back to the old life?”
According to a 2010 report by the RAND Corporation, deradicalization programs in the Muslim world, notably in Saudi Arabia, that put more emphasis on social reintegration have among the best track records in the world.
Politically speaking, France shows little tolerance for non-punitive measures where jihadists are concerned. Prime Minister Valls himself hinted at such a mindset when he said, after the November 13 attacks in France, that “to explain [jihadist terrorism] is already excusing it to a degree.”
“France isn’t ready,” said Rechtman. “I’m not sure it ever will be.”
Why Belgium is not Europe’s jihadi base
Belgium bashing is unfounded and only dilutes our collective sense of responsibility.
By THOMAS RENARD 3/31/16, 6:20 AM CET Updated 3/31/16, 8:47 AM CET
An attack on Belgium was not a matter of “if” but “when,” experts and officials warned. And still, the tragic events of March 22 came as a shock to us all — the counter-terrorism community included. These were the first large-scale suicide bombings coordinated in our country.
Now the question on everyone’s mind is: How could this have happened? It is still too early to give an answer, but we know that we will inevitably discover mistakes were made.
In the meantime, international experts and journalists have resorted to Belgium-bashing and finger-pointing. They call Belgium a “failed state,” our police and intelligence services “incompetent.” But such accusations are overly simplistic, and essentially misplaced.
Brussels is not the jihadi base they claim, nor is Belgium’s counter-terrorism track record unsuccessful.
* * *
Belgium can hardly be accused of ignorance or inexperience when it comes to dealing with terrorism. The country has gone through a number of terror waves since the early 1970s, which notably involved far-left terrorist organizations like the Communist Combatant Cells, and nationalist ones like Kurdish groups. According to the Global Terrorism Database, two-thirds of attacks since 1970 took place in the 1970s and 80s, with 100 attacks and a total of 30 victims. In the mid-1980s, the attention of the intelligence services began to turn toward the threat of violent Islamism when political Islam movements started to crop up across Europe. A dedicated unit was set up in the former gendarmerie.
In the 1990s, the work of Belgian police and intelligence services was initially focused on so-called “national-Islamist” groups, more specifically the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which had created support cells in Belgium in charge of fundraising, propaganda, and recruitment.
A much more globalized threat surfaced in Belgium, and in neighboring European countries, a few years later, and kickstarted a new era of counter-terrorism focused on jihadi groups. In 1998, Belgian services conducted a major joint operation with their British and Italian counterparts to dismantle the so-called Mellouk network, an international al Qaeda affiliate. During these years, Belgium engaged in a number of successful counter-terrorism operations, and shared valuable information with foreign services.
Molenbeek cannot explain it all: such pockets of extremism exist elsewhere in Europe.
The Islamic State has now replaced al Qaeda as Belgium’s main terrorist threat. Officials raised the alarm about the danger of “foreign fighters” as early as 2012 when the first young people departed for Syria. The chief of intelligence shared his concerns publicly in early 2013, as the number of radicalized young men and women leaving to join the jihad every month started to increase. A year later, these concerns turned into reality. Belgium became the first victim of an attack perpetrated by a “returnee” when French national Mehdi Nemmouche killed four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
So Belgium is not new to this. The country has long been aware of the threat of terrorist attacks, including those related to ISIL. Authorities haven’t been naive. Mistakes were made, surely, but some nuance is in order.
* * *
A lot has been said about Belgium over the past few months: Belgium’s institutional complexity apparently makes it a breeding-ground for terrorism, while Molenbeek is painted as a no-go area. Admittedly, there is some truth here. The many layers of governance — the “institutional lasagne” as it’s known here — complicate efforts to develop a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy and get in the way of successful implementation. But Belgium is not the only federal state in the world, and a number of practical solutions have been developed to facilitate coordination.
Similarly, Belgium’s recent history of terrorism is far from unique in Europe. A handful of Belgian towns and citizens have regularly appeared in the latest terror investigations — but the towns and citizens of other countries have figured prominently in previous investigations too.
The problem in Belgium is not one of competence, but of means and resources.
It now appears increasingly likely the Paris and Brussels attacks were organized by either one cell or two connected cells mostly based in Belgium. But the work of one cell does not make Belgium a base for the entire jihadist movement in Europe. Besides, the cell’s degree of autonomy vis-à-vis ISIL leadership in Syria — the real jihadi base — remains far from clear.
Molenbeek has also become the target of heavy international criticism. It is undeniably not Brussels’ most attractive neighborhood. It has a long way to go in terms of socioeconomic development, social cohesion and security. A significant “pocket of radicalization” (85 individuals to date) has taken root there, and is now at the heart of the problem.
But again, Molenbeek cannot explain it all: such pockets of extremism exist elsewhere in Europe, not least because radicalization grows through networks of kinship and old friendships, and create a sort of “snowball effect” in particular neighborhoods. Let us not blame the activities of a group of citizens on a neighborhood’s systemic problems.
So what went wrong?
Part of the answer has to do with the failure of Belgium’s prevention policies. With the highest ratio of “foreign fighters” per capita, the authorities clearly gave networks actively involved in radicalization and recruitment too much leeway. Nor was enough effort devoted to prevent young men and women from leaving for Syria. The scope of the threat is unprecedented, a major challenge for a small country like Belgium with limited intelligence and police resources.
According to officials, there are approximately 900 individuals on the intelligence services’ watch list. A number of them are still in Syria, while others have returned with unknown intentions (estimated to number 130). Close to a third are considered “radicalized” or “sympathizers,” but have not yet waged jihad. To deal with this threat, Belgium has two intelligence agencies — civilian and military — one overarching intelligence agency, and two specialized police units, in addition to its local police, whose focus is much broader.
Although ISIL is now a main priority, these forces also deal with other urgent issues such as other forms of terrorism and extremism, proliferation, organized crime, counter-espionage or cyber-security. Their capabilities are stretched. The exact size of the force is not known to the public, but we can estimate that, excluding local police and administrative staff, the number of people working on the ISIL threat is well below 1,000.
The current terrorist threat is not constrained to national borders, and blame cannot therefore rest of any one country.
The ratio between security services and potential terrorists is therefore roughly of 1:1 — at best. Needless to say, there are not nearly enough people to properly monitor every dangerous individual. Authorities are forced to prioritize and make judgement calls. The likelihood of mistakes multiplies. The current situation is the result of a chronic lack of investment in national security services over the years, despite increases in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the Madrid and London bombings.
The problem is widely acknowledged, but budgetary restrictions, which were in effect until 2015 due to difficult economic conditions, exacerbated the situation. In this context, and in order to anticipate future threats, the government urgently needs to strengthen its national security services. It’s not a magical solution, but it’s a first step — especially if followed by other measures across the entire counter-terrorism spectrum, notably in terms of prevention.
Yes, Belgium’s ability to anticipate and prevent the Brussels attacks was severely limited. But this should not completely overshadow what has been achieved so far. In the aftermath of the attacks against Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, special forces dismantled a terrorist cell in Verviers, in the eastern part of Belgium. Surveillance materials and a thorough investigation showed that its members had been planning an imminent attack. Last year, two major trials against networks related to the radicalization and recruitment of young Belgians led to the condemnation of several key figures — although too many in absentia.
The problem in Belgium is not one of competence, but of means and resources.
* * *
In its narrow focus on Belgium, recent criticism misses three essential points.
First, Belgium is far from the sole target of terrorism and, unfortunately, attacks occurred elsewhere. New York, Madrid, London, Paris, but also Ankara, Beirut or Ouagadougou are examples of the fact that when a critical number of trained radicals are determined to carry out an attack, they will most likely find a way to succeed.
Second, the current terrorist threat is not constrained to national borders, and blame cannot therefore rest on any one country. In the investigations into the Paris and Brussels attacks, connections have emerged between individuals (mentors, recruiters, other facilitators) and hideouts across Europe, from Germany to Greece and Italy. Europe’s national security is a collective responsibility. International cooperation is indispensable. When terrorists cross borders, so should our counter-terrorism efforts.
Some have floated the idea of a European CIA, but what we need are more pragmatic solutions and real police and judicial cooperation at the European level. Cooperation between France and Belgium has intensified and is in fact already quite effective. Efforts should also be increased in the context of the international coalition against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, to which Belgium already contributes modestly.
And lastly, the Brussels plot is not just an attack against Belgium. It is an attack against Europe and, more broadly, against our democratic values and societies. And as such it is also proof of our collective failures of prevention and intelligence — not only Belgium’s. Our response should be to stand firm together. Belgium-bashing only serves to create divisions and dilute the sense of responsibility. And what we — collectively — desperately need to do is take responsibility.
Thomas Renard is a senior research fellow at the Egmont Institute and an adjunct professor at Vesalius College in Brussels. He is also a counter-terrorism consultant for the Belgian public broadcaster, RTBF.
Activating the Sleepers: Islamic State Adopts a New Strategy in Europe
By Christoph Reuter in Beirut
March 29, 2016 – 03:14 PM
Last week's attacks in Brussels show that Islamic State has built up a sophisticated network of terrorists that goes well beyond al-Qaida's capabilities. It is now able to strike using sleepers who have not yet been identified by security officials.
They chose the perfect moment. Just as Europe was letting out a sigh of relief, having captured one of the Paris terrorists after months of pursuit, the bombers detonated their explosives. The signal sent by the arrest was that Islamic State (IS) is defeatable. But the Brussels attack tells us that isn't the case. Just when you think you've beaten us, we'll strike you right in the heart.
Investigators and intelligence agencies both agree that preparations for the attacks in Brussels must have begun long ago. The Belgian bombs thus heralded a new approach for Islamic State in Europe -- one that does not bode well for those trying to prevent acts of terrorism -- because the threat is no longer limited to individuals known to the police or already on wanted lists, but also comes from those in the shadows in the second or third rank. Even jihadists who have not yet been identified by officials are now capable of striking.
This approach reflects the one used in IS' main battle grounds of Syria and Iraq. For some time there, unsuspected aggressors, who have been discreetly trained, have infiltrated targeted circles and built up long-term sleeper cells. Or men from regions neighboring a target are recruited to wait and attack at the right moment.
This is a modus operandi that has been employed by terrorists against prominent and often well-defended opponents multiple times -- it's how Abu Khalid al Suri, the Syrian emissary for al-Qaida boss Aiman al-Zawahiri, was betrayed by one of his own employees and killed in early 2014 by IS despite all possible protective measures being taken at his top secret hideout.
A rebel commander who had fled after Islamic State had taken over Raqqa was abducted by his own driver in Turkey, who was working under the orders of IS. And the founder of the secret activist network Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently was massacred in his apartment in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa by an IS agent who had infiltrated the opponents months before, posing as a supporter.
The people behind this terror are proving to be surprisingly farsighted, patient planners and not rash actors -- and this applies in both Europe and Syria. This is the new and long underestimated side of IS.
The length Islamic State goes to in order to install sleeper cells is illustrated by a lesser-known case -- one in which IS attempted to infiltrate opposition forces.
Jamil Mahmoud, a young Kurdish man from Afrin who worked as a furniture painter in Beirut, was selected to be inserted into the ranks of the People's Protection Units (YPG) in the northern Syrian district where he had come from. Once his recruiters were confident enough that he would act in their interests, Mahmoud was smuggled through the harbor in Tripoli into Turkey, without ever having to show his passport.
From the sea, he was driven inland for four hours, the Kurd later told SPIEGEL. "Until we got to a large, isolated farmhouse. There were around 25 men there, Arabs and Turks. We were trained in the use of Kalashnikovs and Glock pistols."
They never left their camp. But the area of Gaziantep came up often in conversation. After two months, he was assigned to join the YPG militia in Afrin (a group close to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK) and told to await further orders. "They said simply they would always be nearby and that they would get in contact when it was time to take action." Mahmoud was driven to the border, whereupon he traveled to Afrin and joined the militia, as ordered. After a few months, however, he handed himself in to to the Kurdish authorities -- before the order to strike came through.
Sleeper Cells in Europe
IS' behavior is in many ways more like that of a secret service than of animated fanatics. Al-Qaida committed its attacks as its raison d'etre, the result being that there were no subsequent attacks far outside their usual theaters of war following their acts of violence on New York and Washington in 2001, on Casablanca, Madrid, Amman and elsewhere. Al-Qaida had acted, not reacted. But IS appears capable of doing so.
Testimony from deserters suggests the terror organization began establishing sleeper cells in multiple European countries early on, in Turkey in particular. According to the former IS fighters, they are made up of men who aren't on any watch lists. This enables IS to elude the vulnerability suffered by many based in Europe -- namely that they are known terrorists. The biographies of many terrorists are very similar: an early period of radicalization precedes a period of preparation just before an attack. By this point, however, many are already known to the authorities as dangerous and are subsequently often placed under surveillance. This included the Belgians who, in January 2015 wanted to attack police stations in Brussels immediately after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Apartments, telephones and cars were bugged -- the authorities always had a clear picture of what was going on.
Attacks could repeatedly be thwarted mostly because the aggressors had left behind traces. Just after the July 2005 attacks on London, a British investigator warned that investigations placed too little emphasis on terrorists acting below the security services' radar. At that time, most of the attention had been focused on "homegrown terrorists," young men who radicalized themselves without even coming into contact with the al-Qaida leadership or prominent hate preachers. This category applied to each of the four men who blew themselves up in London.
Terrorism has become more professional since then. IS' masterminds now build up sleeper cell networks from an early stage in order to attack without hindrance at any chosen moment. That they are doing so in Syria is well documented. And that they are doing the same in Europe is very probable.
A Polish Putin: Autocratic Power Grab Accelerates in Warsaw
By Jan Puhl
Poland's national-conservative government was quick to sideline the country's high court. Now, Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his party have their sights set on complete control of the state.
March 30, 2016 – 01:28 PM
At age 73, she is the grande dame of politics in Warsaw -- and she still talks so much and so fast that hardly anyone can get a word in edgewise. More than anything, though, Jadwiga Staniszkis is not afraid of those in power.
Even as a young assistant professor during communist times, her defiance got her into trouble and she spent some time in prison as a result. Today, 27 years after the fall of communism, Staniszkis is once again taking on the authorities. The sociology professor has become one of the most outspoken critics of the current national-conservative government under the control of Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Although Kaczynski has no formal position in the government, he is widely seen as the one pulling the strings in the background.
Staniszkis was long a fan of Kaczynski and has even campaigned for his national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in the past. She once gushed: "I think he is perhaps the most intelligent politician in Poland. I like him a lot."
Today, she says: "He wants to monopolize power with no limitations. The approach is informed by a Bolshevik understanding of politics."
Kaczynski has placed state-run media in Poland under his control and weakened the country's highest court, known as the Constitutional Tribunal. And that was just the beginning. The Warsaw-based newsmagazine Polityka has even described it as a coup d'état. There have been large protests in the country, harsh criticism from Brussels and a rule of law inquiry from the EU, but nothing has yet stopped Kaczynski.
Now, on his path to absolute power, he is preparing to put every last aspect of the state under his control. Already, he can rely on his party's majority in Polish parliament to do his bidding. But he apparently has aspirations beyond just dominating ministries, state agencies and the judiciary. Under his leadership, the state is to take on a stricter, fatherly role -- not unlike an autocracy.
In the battle over the Constitutional Tribunal, Professor Staniszkis knows the primary adversaries well. Both Andrzej Rzeplinski, who is president of the court, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who has robbed the court of its power, attended her university classes.
A Waste of Time
Rzeplinski still goes to work every morning and, in the pompous court building in the Warsaw government quarter, he regularly meets with court justices to discuss the constitutionality of laws. But it is little more than a waste of time. The PiS government simply ignores the court rulings and doesn't allow them to be published in the official court reports, believing as it does that the court was assembled illegally.
Experts like the Warsaw-based legal expert Rafal Stankiewicz are concerned that chaos may soon be the result. He says that in Poland, two "completely independent legal spheres have developed." He defines the "old" sphere as the one based on laws that have been approved by the Constitutional Tribunal, and a new one based on the laws pushed through by the national-conservative parliamentary majority. "I see an erosion of the rule of law in Poland," Stankiewicz says.
The question is: Which laws should courts obey? And what value do their rulings have when it isn't clear which legal sphere is applicable?
Jaroslaw Kaczynski is likely the only one who is satisfied with the current state of affairs. In a recent interview, he made it clear that he wouldn't agree to any compromise in the constitutional clash. He is simply waiting patiently for Rzeplinski's term to expire in December as scheduled and will then fill the post with one of his own.
The parliamentary majority enjoyed by PiS is a comfortable one. But it is nonetheless not large enough to push through constitutional amendments. Still, with the high court paralyzed, Kaczynski can change Poland's constitution without resorting to the legislature.
"Without a constitutional court, citizens are defenseless in the face of state power," says Adam Bodnar, who was appointed human rights commissioner by the last government. It is likely that he too will soon lose his job. During the election campaign, PiS promised "dobra zmiana," meaning "good change."
With the new media law, PiS has provided a taste of what might still be coming. The reform sidelined the National Broadcasting Council and allows the party to appoint its people to the most important state-run media posts. The public television broadcaster TVP is now little more than a PiS party station. Indeed, the station has a new nickname among the populace: TVPiS.
Kaczynski's party has been just as assiduous when it comes to installing loyalists in the civil service and at state-owned companies. A PiS man, for example, now heads up the state-owned Arabian stud farm Janow Podlaski -- even though he is a banker and knows nothing about horses.
Kaczyinski has long had it out for political and business elites in Poland. A core element of his political thinking is his conviction that the 1989 revolution was incomplete and that many communist functionaries who only superficially embraced the new regime remained in important positions in administration and state-owned companies. He believes they have continued to slow Poland's development to the present day and must now be filtered out down to the very lowest levels.
When Kaczynski was in power the first time 10 years ago, he tried to get rid of all ex-communist functionaries. But he was ultimately blocked by the Constitutional Tribunal, which ruled that his approach was too tough, too extensive and not respectful enough of civil rights. Now, though, the path is open for a new attempt.
Opposition politicians also expect the PiS to curtail the rights of local parliaments, municipalities and provinces. Many large cities, such as Poznan, Gdansk and Wroclaw, are governed by popular mayors who do not belong to PiS. But they are dependent on money from the federal government. Kaczynski can use this dependency to exact obedience.
Plus, he has also appointed Zbigniew Ziobro, a tough, law-and-order type, to head up the Justice Ministry. Ziobro is in favor of harsher sentences and stricter rules governing trial procedure. He has allowed investigators to conduct surveillance on email accounts and computers even absent a court order while other legal reforms have made significant changes to property rights. The aim of the latter is to prevent Polish property from being purchased by foreign investors.
Reminiscent of Putin
Absent the inconvenient objections from a constitutional court, PiS is even able to manipulate voting and election law, including the gerrymandering of electoral districts such that the national-conservative candidate has the advantage. That, at any rate, is one of the methods applied by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán -- a Kaczynski soul-mate -- to safeguard his power.
The newsmagazine Polityka recently described a worst-case scenario in which PiS could write a new anti-terror law such that allows for the persecution of the opposition. Already, Kazynski has accused demonstrators associated with the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD) of being Russian agents. "They are people who go to the Russian Embassy to complain there about PiS," he said. For several months, KOD has been organizing regular protests, bringing tens of thousands of people onto the streets almost every week to voice their opposition to the government's high-handedness.
Public opinion researchers have found that a majority of Poles are not supportive of PiS in its fight against the constitutional court. At the same time, though, 38 percent of voters still support Kaczynski's party, more than for any other party. Supporters of PiS tend to be younger, whereas KOD mostly attracts older supporters. The older ones lived through communism and know how valuable civil rights are.
For those under 30, by contrast, EU membership is seen as a given -- and they are very aware that their peers in Western Europe are much better off materially. "How should you tell a 25-year-old university graduate that he earns less than someone his age in Brussels who sells kebabs?" the liberal paper Gazeta Wyborcza wrote recently.
With a varied menu of socially minded promises, PiS capitalizes on this feeling of disadvantage. One plank in the party's platform, for example, pledges that Polish wages will catch up to those in the rest of Europe within 15 years.
Professor Staniszkis, who has known Jaroslaw Kaczynski for several decades, has not been allowed to see him for months. The two don't have that much to say to each other anyway. "He doesn't understand the Western concept of sovereignty, which uses a system of checks and balances to prevent a dictatorship of the majority," says Staniszkis. Her former student, she adds, wants absolute power. "It is archaic and reminiscent of Putin's approach to power."
The Dutch rooting for a No in the Ukraine referendum
By PETER TEFFER
BRUSSELS/AMSTERDAM, 30. MAR, 10:31
What's in a name? Last Monday, a provincial department of the Dutch Socialist Party (SP) announced that Crimea would vote No in next week's Dutch referendum on an EU Association Agreement with Ukraine.
Of course, the party was not referring to actual Crimea.
Rather, it had polled inhabitants of De Krim, an eastern Dutch village that shares its name with the Ukrainian peninsula that was annexed by Russia two years ago.
The SP said it had interviewed 168 people – around 10 percent of the village's electorate. Of those who had already made up their mind, 76 percent would vote No.
However, a week before the Dutch electorate could voice its opinion in its first-ever citizens-enforced referendum, a government-commissioned national poll suggested that only half of voters had made up their mind, and they were split equally between Yes and No.
But while the Yes side is relatively uniform in its motivations and arguments (the EU-Ukraine is said to be good for trade for both sides and good for human rights), the No side consists of a more motley crew. Who are they?
Three non-governmental groups are largely responsible for the 6 April referendum.
The first one is GeenStijl, a popular blog, which used its online presence to help gather the 300,000 signatures required to trigger the non-binding referendum.
It has used its clout to hijack online polls in the past and is known for its boorish writing style - the name means “no style”, or “no class”. The website is often critical of figures in authority, especially the EU.
During the campaign to collect the signatures, it advertised the gains as winning “a real national EU referendum”, rather than wanting to have a say on the specific deal with Ukraine. In an interview with Dutch news website Nu.nl, one of the website's writers said they wanted the referendum "to for once be consulted about European decisions".
GeenStijl had teamed up with two foundations, Burgercomite EU (Citizens' committee EU) and Forum voor Democratie (Forum for Democracy). These had previously tried to persuade MPs to hold an in/out referendum on Dutch EU membership, and are critical of traditional democracy in which voters show up only once every four years to elect representatives.
While the three groups use Ukraine-specific arguments in their campaigns, it's clear they are really using the Ukraine deal as a means to vote about the EU.
The same goes for eurosceptic Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom, which currently holds 12 seats in the 150-seat Lower House of parliament. His party realises that for many voters an association agreement between the EU and Ukraine is a very abstract issue.
When this website asked Wilders earlier this month whether he would use his anti-EU stance to convince voters to reject the Ukraine treaty, he noted that any additional association agreement “means more Europe”.
“It is the same. It is a treaty of the European Union, which leads to more European Union. It is the European Union,” Wilders told EUobserver.
Two MPs who split from Wilders' group are also against the treaty, and against European integration beyond economic cooperation.
Their new right-wing group Voor Nederland (For the Netherlands) will host British MEP Nigel Farage next week to talk about the referendum. Farage has said a Dutch No “will help in Britain too”.
However, there are also political parties that are campaigning specifically against the Ukraine treaty, like the aforementioned Socialist Party, which is the largest opposition party (15 seats) in the Dutch Lower House, and is also represented in the European Parliament.
MEP Dennis de Jong recently told EUobserver it would be mostly multinational firms who would profit from the treaty, and not regular Ukrainians.
“I expect great unemployment,” he said.
The left-wing MEP also thinks that the agreement will “pull that country apart”, and criticised the EU and Nato for “surrounding” Russia.
“That is not because we like the Russians so much, or because we like Putin,” he said, referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
“If you look at the map, you see the increased pressure towards the east. That is not wise.”
The SP and others in the No camp have denied rumours that Russian money is funding their campaign. De Jong stressed that his party was critical of Russia's annexation of Crimea, and of human rights violations in Russia.
“Putin does a lot of things wrong, geopolitically, but don't give him extra arguments by making your own policy appear this aggressive,” he said.
De Jong said he had seen two different factions emerging from the No camp: a shouty populist right camp and a “social No”.
“With us, you have to use your brain,” he said.
The animal friends
There is another party on the left that is opposed to the agreement, which is the idiosyncratic Dutch animal rights party.
The Party for the Animals (two seats) is against the EU-Ukraine deal because farm animals “are treated even worse than here”, and because in Ukraine “very young children” work in the agriculture sector.
“Ukrainian eggs come from huge battery cages, that have been forbidden in the EU for years,” the party's leader Marianne Thieme and its MEP Anja Hazekamp recently wrote in an opinion piece.
They expect that animal welfare, human rights, and environmental standards will be watered down o accomodate Ukraine, and draw a link with other heavily criticised trade agreements like the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
quarta-feira, 30 de março de 2016
O fecho iminente da drogaria Pereira Leão, na Rua da Prata, marcado para o último dia do mês, tem levado ali muita gente. As montras anunciam promoções. No interior, até há uma antiga colecção de frascos de fragrâncias. Mas, na verdade, o ar que ali se respira é mais o de uma elegia por uma certa Lisboa que se apaga. O prédio vai para obras, tendo como destino a conversão em mais um hotel. Nos últimos dias, muitos têm sido os que ali vão numa espécie de turismo de mais uma “vítima do turismo”. “É como ir a um velório”, confessa uma das clientes.
Texto: Samuel Alemão / O CORVO / http://ocorvo.pt/2016/03/30/encerramento-de-drogaria-historica-da-baixa-leva-a-romaria-nos-ultimos-dias/
“Isto tem 40% de desconto?”, pergunta uma mulher, segurando um pincel de barbear que aproxima do rosto para observar com maior detalhe. “Sim, nessa prateleira, os produtos expostos são todos a 40%”, informa a funcionária, com uma paciência perene. À volta, gente entrava e saía, contemplava, mexia, perguntava sobre os despojos do inventário da centenária drogaria S. Pereira Leão, que deverá encerrar a actividade nesta quinta-feira (31 de março). O prédio onde está instalada, no 223 da Rua da Prata, vai para obras, que o transformarão em mais uma unidade hoteleira no coração de Lisboa. Ontem, o tom geral dentro desta loja fundada há pouco mais de um século era de uma melancolia conformada.
Mesmo admitindo não serem clientes habituais, os que franqueavam a porta confessavam tristeza pelo iminente encerramento. Estavam ali como que num acto de solidariedade. Mas também a testemunhar o fim de uma era que se esvai a ritmo acelerado. “É raro vir para aqui para esta zona, mas, como li no Diário de Notícias que a loja ia fechar na quinta-feira, pensei ‘já agora, vou lá ver’”, diz ao Corvo José Oliveira, 60 anos, homem de pose discreta e mala com documentos numa das mãos. Frente aos produtos em promoção expostos em cima do balcão, denota alguma indecisão. “Gostava de levar qualquer coisa, mas não um produto que se gaste, queria algo que durasse”, diz.
Para este potencial cliente de última hora, é pena que se tenha chegado a tal situação. Utilizador confesso do comércio tradicional, considera que não havia necessidade de se chegar a esta situação. “O prédio podia ir para obras, na mesma, faziam o hotel no andar de cima e mantinham o estabelecimento no rés-do-chão, como está”, sugere, criticando o que vê como uma alteração dramática do perfil comercial da Baixa, apontado agora à captação de receitas do crescente número de turistas que chegam a Lisboa. “É uma coisa que podia ser evitada”, considera
O mesmo pensa Filipa Pereira, 28 anos, que ali estava com uns amigos. Quiseram vir após terem lido a notícia do encerramento. “Parece mal o que lhe vou dizer, mas sinto-me como se tivesse vindo a um velório. Isto é uma coisa que sufoca”, desabafa. Habitante na zona da Graça, Filipa Pereira diz-se cliente habitual do pequeno comércio – “é onde faço as minhas compras, sempre que posso” – e confessa-se preocupada com a vaga de encerramentos de estabelecimentos tradicionais que sucede um pouco por toda a capital, sobretudo nos bairros históricos como a Baixa.
“Isto está a descaracterizar imenso a cidade”, considera, antes de revelar que poderá sair dali com um dos belíssimos frascos de essência relevados, nos últimos dias, pelos donos da drogaria. Expostos em cima de um balcão de madeira situado atrás do balcão principal, eram eles que atraiam mais atenções de quem entrava. “Uma descoberta arqueológica”, graceja Jonas Leão, 27, filho da proprietária, que antes havia dito a uns eventuais clientes: “É aproveitar agora, antes que venha a ASAE”. Ao Corvo, Jonas explica que tais vasilhas de vidro têm mesmo de ser vendidas, “para pagar aos funcionários e aos fornecedores”.
Entre eles está Dina, 62 anos. Funcionária da casa há 47 anos, tenta conter o peso das emoções, atrás da sua impecável maquilhagem. “Vim para aqui fazer os 14. Como calcula, isto para mim não é só um emprego. É muito amor, muito trabalho, muita entrega. É uma vida”, resume, antes de dar atenção a um cliente. Sobre este interesse súbito das pessoas em entrar na loja, Dina não faz por o romantizar. “Sabe, é óptimo ver aqui as pessoas neste dias. Mas há aqui muita fumaça. Muita gente entra, vê, mas não compra. Nós sempre tivemos uma clientela muito fixa”, diz. Sobre o seu futuro não guarda ilusões. “Não vou arranjar trabalho. Então, se a juventude não arranja…”.
Conformada também estava Maria Fernanda Silva, 69 anos, a gerente do estabelecimento. Ontem, dividia o seu tempo entre as solicitações da clientela, o telefone a tocar incessante e a necessidade de atenção por parte dos jornalistas que ali acorreram a traçar o epitáfio desta drogaria que conserva o mobiliário em madeira – o qual lhe confere o travo vintage tão ao gosto dos tempos correntes, mas cujo destino é ainda incerto. “É uma tristeza enorme, claro. Para mim, isto foi mais que uma casa”, assente. A necessidade de remodelação do edifício associada aos planos imobiliários desenhados pelo senhorio tornaram o fim numa inevitabilidade, admite.
Europe’s Muslims hate the West
Young men like the perpetrators of the Brussels attacks refuse to embrace the social codes of Belgian life.
By LEON DE WINTER 3/29/16, 2:36 PM CET
The first reaction to the Brussels massacres among postmodern European intellectuals was predictable: What did we, Europeans, do to them, our Muslims? How could followers of a religion that is proudly called “the religion of peace” commit these kinds of atrocities?
People like Peter Vandermeersch, the Belgian editor-in-chief of Dutch newspaper NRC-Handelsblad, and Belgian writer David van Reybrouck, both accomplished intellectuals, argued that Belgium must have done something terrible to deserve this. Their line of reasoning: The terrorists’ fury must be a reaction to their inhumane treatment at the hands of the West.
So, we blame ourselves in order to remain blameless. Safer to blame our own societies and socioeconomic conditions than to blame the religious and cultural concepts with which terrorists poison their own minds.
There is poverty in Molenbeek, but that poverty is relative. There is no starvation, no homelessness, no lack of medical infrastructure, no lack of schools.
According to reports, the unemployment figure in Brussels’ infamous Molenbeek neighborhood — now referred to as the jihadi hothouse of Europe — is 30 percent. This is a relatively high figure in Western Europe, but not unusual in southern European countries or the Arab world. There is poverty in Molenbeek, but that poverty is relative. There is no starvation, no homelessness, no lack of medical infrastructure, no lack of schools.
Compared to average living standards in Morocco or Egypt, the average living standard in Molenbeek is comfortably middle-class. Like in any other Western European country, many Belgian institutions and organizations offer support when families need housing, food, education, and health care. Opportunities for success, and to study and become a respected member in society, are countless compared to those that exist in many immigrants’ countries of origin. Still, there is deep resentment among the younger generations of immigrant Moroccan families.
Immigration into the Netherlands from Morocco and Turkey is an expensive phenomenon for the taxpayer: In the modern welfare state immigrants are more dependent on the welfare state than the average citizen. Because of a lack of higher education and the lack of non-skilled jobs, immigrants absorb a higher part of unemployment and social security payments than the average citizen. As a group, they receive more money than they pay in taxes. They also show up much higher in crime statistics than their numbers would justify. There are many success stories, but there are also disappointing trends. Like radicalization. And the situation in Belgium is even worse.
* * *
There is no question that unemployment is much higher among Muslim immigrant communities than among the general public. There are two possible explanations.
The first goes something like this: The Belgian people are terribly xenophobic and anti-Moroccan, and deny their Moroccan neighbors opportunities to succeed in life. But if this were the case, the theory can be applied to every Western European country, as unemployment figures for Moroccan and other Muslim migrants across Europe are remarkably higher than average. This would indicate that European xenophobia has reached unbearable levels. Why would Muslims choose to stay in societies that showed such deep disrespect for their migrant population? Because they realize that an unemployed citizen in a European welfare state run by infidels has a better material life than an employed citizen in pious Morocco?
Life in Belgium is exceptionally good and safe for migrants — if they are willing to integrate into their new cultural environment.
The notion that Moroccan-Belgians suffer from widespread exclusion, discrimination, and suppression is ridiculous — and yet completely acceptable among the politically-correct crowd. Life in Belgium is exceptionally good and safe for migrants — if they are willing to integrate into their new cultural environment, if they are willing to act as individuals, study with passion and openness, and accept the secular system of the West.
There is no difference at all in socioeconomic status between youngsters from a low-education, blue-collar Belgian background and youngsters from a Muslim migrant background. Both have to struggle, both have to overcome weak socioeconomic family situations. In Spain, youth unemployment has reached 50 percent and the welfare state is less developed than in Belgium, yet Spanish citizens aren’t blowing themselves up in metro stations.
The other explanation for the high unemployment figures among Muslims in Europe has nothing to do with exclusion and discrimination. A large segment of the migrant population is doing just fine, but a significant number — some say as many as 50 percent — have not rid themselves of the mental and cultural conditions that have kept their home country in its “developing country” status. The denial of equal rights to women, the lack of separation of state and church, bad education, excessive religiosity, patriarchal machismo — these are all on display in areas with a high percentage of migrants, including Molenbeek.
Many Muslims take advantage of the West’s unique welfare state, while at the same time despising its ethics of radical equality.
In December 2013, Professor Ruud Koopmans of the Berlin Social Science Center published a study on “Fundamentalism and out-group hostility,” in which he compared hostility among Muslim immigrants with hostility among Christian natives in Western Europe. He writes: “Almost 60 percent agree that Muslims should return to the roots of Islam, 75 percent think there is only one interpretation of the Quran possible to which every Muslim should stick and 65 percent say that religious rules are more important to them than the laws of the country in which they live.” In regards to Christian citizens he concludes: “Less than 4 percent can be characterized as consistent fundamentalists.”
On hatred of Jews and homosexuals among Europe’s Muslim population, Koopmans finds: “Almost 60 percent reject homosexuals as friends and 45 percent think that Jews cannot be trusted. While about one in five natives can be considered as Islamophobic, the level of phobia against the West among Muslims — for which oddly enough there is no word; one might call it ‘Occidentophobia’ — is much higher still, with 54 percent believing that the West is out to destroy Islam.” Recorded rates of Christian hate toward Muslims hover around 10 percent.
What did “we” do to “them”? We opened up our cities, our houses, our wallets.
“Occidentophobia” is an interesting term. It expresses a refusal to accept the essential concepts of life in the West. Young men like the perpetrators of the Brussels attacks have refused to embrace the social codes of Belgian life. They were raised on the idea that their religious ethics trump the ethics of the infidels (close to non-existent, in their eyes, in any case). Their second-rate socioeconomic status was therefore a humiliating affront, an indignity to be destroyed.
Muslim integration into Europe societies is successful when Muslims are willing to give up the mental confinement of their home countries — countries, let’s not forget, which they left in search of a better life. For as long as they refuse to adapt to a European state of mind, they will perpetuate resentment and a culture of violence.
What did “we” do to “them”? We opened up our cities, our houses, our wallets. And in our secular temples of progress — our metro stations and airports and theaters — their sons are killing themselves, and taking our sons and daughters with them. There is nothing for which we need to apologize. “Occidentophobia” originated in the Muslim community. We need to demand they abandon it.
Leon de Winter is a Dutch novelist and political commentator.