"The jihadi capital of Europe", "a hub for international terrorism"... international media did not spare Molenbeek, Brussels and Belgium the latest weeks, as it turned out that the Paris terror attacks had a strong link with Belgium and more particularly the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek.
In an article with the headline "A continent like Belgium", The Economist analysis the situation, not only in Belgium, but also in Europe.
"Belgium has long been the butt of European jokes, thanks in large part to its dysfunctional politics. In 2010-11 squabbles over the rights of Flemish-speakers on the outskirts of Brussels held up the formation of a government for 589 days, a world record. But the terror threat has exposed the darker side of Belgium’s maladministration, in the form of uncoordinated security services and neglected areas like Molenbeek, a down-at-heel Muslim-majority commune in west Brussels", writes the Economist.
However, the magazine also puts things in perspective: "Some of the barbs are overdone. Belgian police and intelligence agencies have not always worked in harmony, but that is true everywhere. Recent legislative changes have improved co-operation. At the European level, Belgium has enthusiastically pushed for intelligence-sharing; it is countries with heftier secret services, such as Britain and France, that have been reluctant to share information, though that too is changing."
"We are all Belgians now"
In the last paragraph, under the subtitle "We are all Belgians now", the magazine highlights the fact that Belgium is not the only one with problems, and that we all have challenges to face in the battle against terrorism: "Yet no European country with a large Muslim minority has solved the problem of integration. Britain and France take different approaches, but each has seen scores killed in “home-grown” terrorist attacks. In Sweden, towns like Gothenburg are partially segregated; this week the government executed a screeching U-turn on its asylum policy.
Even Germany, which is embarking on its own experiment in integration after having welcomed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, has struggled to accept that it is a land of immigration rather than of Gastarbeiter (“guest-workers”). In each of these countries and others, anti-immigration parties are climbing in the polls; in some, they top them.
Twenty years ago the main terrorist threat in Europe came from regional separatists. Ten years ago it was spectacular attacks by al-Qaeda, or groups inspired by it. It is now evolving into something messier, directed against softer targets, organised across borders and linked to gangland crime and weapons-trafficking. (Olivier Roy, a French expert on extremism, speaks of “the Islamicisation of radicalism”.) This raises urgent questions for officials across Europe, not least over how far they are willing to share intelligence and data with their counterparts elsewhere, whether within the EU or in other formats. It is time to stop bashing Belgium. Much of Europe is in the same boat."