Tourists shelter from the rain under an arch of the the European Parliament building on August 24, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. Soon, they might need to shelter for bullets. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


MEPs express deep concern over rising violent crime in Brussels


In an open letter to Belgian interior minister Annelies Verlinden and Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort, MEPs have expressed their “deepest concerns on the deteriorating security situation in Brussels”.

In the document, they demand “swift action” so people “in the capital of the EU feel safe and secure”.

The letter of February 14, written by Romanian MEP Alin Mituta and co-signed by other MEPs, noted the sharp rise in violent crime in Brussels.

In the past few days there have been four separate shootings, leading to one death on February 14. Those were followed by further gun crime over the weekend of February 17.

On February 16, a shooting took place in Anderlecht and another in Schaerbeek the next day. In the latter, one person hospitalised with a leg injury.

The open letter stated that the violence has seen an uptick since “the terror attack from October 2023, which resulted in two deaths, the shooting from December 2023, in which a European Parliament employee was injured and the four most recent shootings and stabbings from this week – February 2024″.

“Furthermore, we are concerned about the precarious situation especially at the Midi Station, one of the main gateways to the EU capital, where around 3,500 offences take place every year.

“The situation has further decayed owing to the petty thefts that range from phones and up to cars, as well as the increasing issue of drug-related offences. In a recent study, Brussels emerged in 15th place, being one of the cities with the highest crime index out of the 132 EU cities surveyed,” the letter continued.

It ends by urging Verlinden, who leads the police, and Vervoort “to take decisive action in order to ensure the security and safety in Brussels, the capital of the European Union”.

Ortwin Depoortere, Parliamentary president of the committee on internal affairs and member of the Vlaams Belang party, told Brussels Signal “change is needed in Brussels”.

“To begin with, there must be an ample presence of both local and federal police on the streets to promptly address criminals,” he said.

“However, it should not end there. Apprehended criminals must be genuinely punished.

“Above all, the connection between mass migration and insecurity should be acknowledged. Foreigners engaging in criminal activities do not belong here,” he added.

On February 16, Belgian newspaper De Tijd claimed that the Brussels police was “under-financed” given the number of people living in the city, exacerbated as the population grows more quickly than the rest of the country.

Verlinden said she was aware of the problems and was working on a “blueprint” for a new funding system.

She also said the current Government had invested €500 million extra in the police and major efforts are made to attract new recruits.

The current relationship between the Belgian Government and the police appears strained.

On February 14, the VSOA, the union representing the police, said the Government had cut police budgets, in particular for the units dealing with potential terrorist threats.