"What the socialists are saying is almost criminal"

The Flemish nationalists of N-VA and the socialists of SP.A are at loggerheads. They are staging an open war in the media. Things started with Interior Minister Jan Jambon ordering an investigation into what happened with the Brussels police force during the big demonstration last week. Bart De Wever, both the N-VA party head and the Antwerp Burgomaster, has lashed out against the socialists.

Let's first go back to last Thursday. Riots break out at the end of a big demonstration against the government's latest cuts. The demonstration shows the big gap between trades unions (the socialist union in particular) and the ruling coalition (the N-VA in particular).

To make matters worse, dozens of police officers sustain injuries as the protests run out of hand. Police officers complain off the record that they were let down by the Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur (Francophone socialist). He allegedly did not allow sufficient back-up to help out the policemen in trouble, although he denies this.

Yvan Mayeur bitterly disappointed

This morning, Interior Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) ordered an investigation into the matter, to find out whether Mr Mayeur made any mistakes. This sparked anger with Yvan Mayeur. He says he has nothing to hide as he acted correctly.

Mayeur is bitterly disappointed by Jambon's move: "He could at least have phoned me, to ask for more information. But he didn't. He shouldn't be afraid of me. Even the previous Interior Minister Joëlle Milquet would have contacted me first." Mr Mayeur adds: "If Mr Jambon wants to spark controversy, then that is what he should do. I hope he knows the difference between his political role, which is targeting the socialists in the opposition, and his role as Interior Minister. It would be a real shame if he didn't."

Bart De Wever reacts

Yvan Mayeur's quotes triggered a quick reaction with N-VA party head Bart De Wever. He lashed out against the socialists at various levels: the opposition in parliament, trades unions and the Brussels Burgomaster.

"The socialists have made me their number 1 enemy. They depict me as the friend of the wealthy people and the enemy of the workers. That is complete nonsense. This government is introducing austerity measures because this is what we have to do. But to react in such big words... their quotes are almost criminal."

He also claims that the socialist trades union ABVV has a political agenda, and that they deliberately provoked the riots. Mr De Wever next targets Yvan Mayeur. "The organisation of the demonstration in Brussels leaves me with a lot of questions. It's good that the Interior Minister started an investigation." 

There are fears that a demonstration in Antwerp, which will be staged on Monday 24 November, could be disturbed by new riots, especially among port workers. "I can assure you that we will handle this better than Brussels. (...) The city supports its police force, not as it may have been the case elsewhere."