Belgium ‘is not a failed state’

Belgian Prime Minister Charles MichelImage copyright

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Prime Minister Charles Michel called for better cross-border intelligence co-operation

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has defended his country’s approach to fighting terror threats, and insisted Belgium was not a “failed state”.

Last month 32 people died after attacks by so-called Islamic State on a Brussels airport and metro station.

Mr Michel said everyone in authority had to take a share of the blame for failings before and after 22 March.

Now 30 concrete measures were being put place, including a ban on pre-paid mobile phone cards, he said.

“Our key message today is we return to normal life in Brussels and in Belgium,” the Associated Press quotes Mr Michel as saying during an hour-long press conference.

The BBC’s James Reynolds in Brussels says the capital’s metro and its airport are gradually reopening.

“When there is an attack like that of course that’s a failure and nobody can deny this,” Prime Minister Michel said.

“[But] I cannot accept the idea that we’re a failed state,” he said.

Belgium has faced criticism for an un-co-ordinated approach to terror threats because it has multiple institutions representing the country’s complex linguistic and political makeup.

The Brussels region alone has six police zones.

According to Belgium’s De Tijd newspaper, Mr Michel said it was “short-sighted to say a unified police force could have prevented the attacks”.

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Police are still searching for the suspect on the right

He said there had been some successes like the recent arrest of the surviving suspect of the Paris attacks last November, Salah Abdeslam, adding it had taken 10 years to track down al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks in the US.

The prime minister told our correspondent that giving more capacity to Belgian’s security services would be “crucial for the next months to succeed”.

“This means more equipment, but also more capacities for our intelligence services,” he said.

He added that his country’s geographical position meant that Belgium was a particular attraction for potential attackers.

“Belgium is a small country in the heart of Europe, it means that it is very easy to go to London, Paris, etc. It is an easy place to organise attacks in other countries of Europe.

“It means we have to work better with our partners, and we have to upgrade our capacities for security.”

The search for the 22 March attackers is not yet over as pictures taken at Zaventem airport showed that three men entered the terminal building with explosives.

Two detonated their bombs and the third is thought to have escaped.

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