Bart De Wever attacked on "unofficial presence" at crisis meeting

The Flemish and Francophone greens (Groen and Ecolo) have highlighted the presence of N-VA president Bart De Wever at a political meeting where he actually shouldn't have been. De Wever, probably the most powerful politician in the country, attended a crisis meeting after the 22 March attacks on an informal basis. The Francophone opposition parties jumped on the bandwagon and also targeted De Wever later today.

The meeting took place on 23 March, the day after the attacks at Zaventem and the Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels, at the offices of Interior Minister Jan Jambon. It was held in the presence of senior police officials, and was about possible miscommunication between Turkey and Belgium about the release of Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of those blowing himself up to carry out the attacks. Did Belgium ignore the information Turkey supplied about El Bakraoui?

De Wever, at the helm of the Flemish nationalist party N-VA, holds the functions of Antwerp Burgomaster and N-VA president, among other things, but not an official government function. Still, he attended this crisis meeting of government members and the police.

"De Wever seems to have an awful lot of functions"

Jambon explained that he felt he would be criticised, and that he was considering throwing in the towel. For that reason, he asked De Wever to join for moral support. De Wever was in the area anyway, the N-VA explains, and the meeting was not an official one, but an informal one, which made his presence possible.

However, Groen floor speaker Kristof Calvo is not amused: "De Wever holds so many functions apparently: party leader, mayor, he wants to be an examining judge and apprehend possible terror suspects as a precaution, and now he takes part in a very important police meeting. Bizarre, as far as we are concerned. We expect an explanation from Mr Jambon next Monday." This will be in the Select Committee examining what happened during and after the attacks.

Francophone socialists: "De Wever violated the rules"

Other opposition parties such as the Francophone Christian democrats (CDH) and socialists (PS) also attacked De Wever on the issue later today. "If this is correct, then De Wever committed a heavy criminal offence, which is the violation of a secret investigation" PS floor speaker Laurette Onkelinx told the Francophone broadcaster RTBF.

PS president Paul Magnette joined Onkelinx in his criticism: "We feel that the N-VA president was either there to protect his minister and to make sure certain mistakes were kept in the dark, or to commit a political coup. That's just not on. In both cases this has to be rejected in the clearest terms."