Speaking in an interview published in the dailies ‘De Standaard’, ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ and ‘Gazet van Antwerpen’, Mr Vervoort said “We must and we will make the local police services collaborate more closely”.
Referring to the calls for a merger of the capital’s six local police services that has come in the wake of the 22 March attacks Mr Vervoort said "When I hear Charles Michel say that there are no more taboos, I realise where we are at.”
"The Flemish parties are using this as a stick to beat us with. However, this is a just window-dressing. It is not the case that you can’t prevent attacks just by merging the policing zones."
"The attacks didn’t come about as a result of mistakes by the local police services. In my opinion the problem is more an issue of resources at the security services”, Mr Vervoort said.
“Furthermore, the criteria for the allocation of police offices is completely outdated. Our policing zones are 600 officers short”.
Mr Vervoort realises that he can no longer dismiss the issue.
"As far as I am concerned it was that one sentence spoken by the Prime Minister Charles Michel (Francophone liberal) during the international press conference on Wednesday. The sentence where he said that he had no taboos. I asked myself then whether a scenario wasn’t already been drafted now.”
"I have come to the conclusion that our position of as we are not asking for anything we won’t discuss the issue has become untenable. We should take part in the debate, without any taboos, just like Mr Michel”, Mr Vervoort said.
However, Mr Vervoort added "But then everything should be brought to the negotiating table including the underfunding and understaffing of the policing zones. We can contribute to the debate and show that we have firm answers to the criticism that has been made”.
A realistic alternative
Mr Vervoort wants to show that a realistic alternative is available and points to the last round of state reforms that gave extra powers to the Prime Minister of the Brussels-Capital Region. These powers include the coordination of crime prevention and security across the Brussel-Capital Region.
"I want to go as far as the state reforms allow me to make the local police services collaborate more closely. We can certainly achieve advantages of scale from greater cooperation. The Prevention and Security Department is almost ready to launch and will be operational by July.”
Mr Vervoort also proposes the setting up of a regional crisis centre "Where all our services will work together, from social services to public transport.”
"An integrated approach to deal with radicalisation”
Finally, Mr Vervoort would also like to coordinate measures to counter radicalisation (currently the responsibility of the 19 Brussels municipalities).
“Indeed it is no longer acceptable that the municipalities operate individually on this issue. I would like and integrated approach together with the language communities that are responsible for important policy areas such as education and culture. I am no longer going to sit with my arms folded and just let them get on with it. We are now past that stage.”