“Radicalisation no worse here than in French banlieus”

In an interview with the French daily ‘Le Monde’ the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel (Francophone liberal) has said that the issue of radical Islam is not more serious her than it is the suburbs of French cities. Mr Michel also told the paper that “there is no indication” that the fugitive terror suspect Salah Abdeslam is still in Belgium. The interview was published ahead of today’s consultative talks between members of the Belgian and French government and the two countries’ security services in Brussels.

When it became apparent that many of those involved in the Paris terror attacks had links to Belgium, the country became the target of criticism in the foreign media. The French media especially had a few choice words to say about us.

The interview is part of a strategy to redress the balance and to improve Belgium’s image abroad. "I would like to bring to an end the series of exaggerations, the caricatures, the incomplete reporting and the excesses that we have suffered over the past few months”, Mr Michel said.

"But let me make this clear: are there problems in Brussels and in Belgium that are linked to the rise of fanaticism? Yes. But this is no more the case than in the French banlieus or in other countries.”

Mr Michel is keen to stress that Belgium has already taken a string of measures to combat terrorism. He points to the prolonging of the period a terror suspect can be held in custody before being charged and allowing house searches at night.

The Prime Minister added that there is good cooperation between the French and Belgian police and security services.

"The exchange of information is as systematic as it can be and there are joint investigation teams currently at work.”

When asked how those behind the Paris attacks were able to remain under the radar, Mr Michel repeated his call for structural cooperation between the European Security services.

Trump is "ridiculous"

Speaking about the comments made by the American Republican politician Donald Trump last week, Mr Michel said that “It is so insulting and exaggerated that it make the person that said such a thing look ridiculous.”

When asked if he agrees with the Interior Minister Jan Jambon’s (Flemish nationalist) assertion that Salah Abdeslam receives support from within the Muslim community, Mr Michel says that “We have always tried to avoid mixing up issues”.

However, the Prime Minister adds that "We can’t deny that some didn’t condemn what happened. If the Minister of the Interior wants to underline that there was not a universal condemnation of the attacks then he is not mistaken.”

“We don’t want temporary camps here”

Speaking about the “Jungle” camp that houses illegal immigrants hoping to cross to the UK, Mr Michel is clear.

"We don’t want temporary camps or no-go areas in our country. This is why a couple of days ago we took measures to prevent this happening. We want to know what the French Government’s intentions are. I don’t want to point the finger, but this problem has existed for years. In Brussels we were able, without using violence, to prevent an asylum-seekers park developing in a park”.

"No indication that Abdeslam is still in Belgium"

In an interview with the French radio station Europe 1, Mr Michel said that there is “no indication” that Europe’s most wanted man Salah Abdeslam is still in Belgium."