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Research Report

The Blurring of Belgium’s Security:: Deliberate or Unintended?

Wally Struys
Copyright Date: Jun. 1, 2017
Published by: Egmont Institute
Pages: 26
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 2-2)
    J. S. Mill

    Security, as a concept, is usually approached and analysed by researchers in the areas of policing, justice, politics and defence. It is less common to see defence economists intervening in this debate, although for a long time they did indeed examine the economic aspects of war and peace, under the heading ‘Economics of Security’.

    Since 9/11, however, more and more emphasis has been placed on terrorism and on organised crime, together with the associated policy.

    It is clear today that security cannot be understood without a certain degree of ambiguity. This paper addresses security’s equivocal nature from the point of...

  2. (pp. 3-4)
    Gavin Newsom

    Belgium has not been spared from terrorist threats and attacks. The deadliest were the suicide attacks organised by Daesh on 22 March 2016 in Brussels Airport and at the Maelbeek subway station, which resulted in 32 deaths.

    But already on the night of 20 November 2015, following information that several dangerous terrorists were lurking in Brussels a week after the murderous attacks in Paris, the alert level rose to its maximum in Brussels. Potential targets included major events, shopping malls, public transportation and shopping streets. There was even a lockdown for a week: schools, nurseries, sports and cultural centres, cinemas,...

  3. (pp. 5-7)
    Jodi Rell

    While the police traditionally embody security, the current military presence in the streets of most big cities has led analysts to scrutinise an increasingly hazy interpretation of the concept. Several aspects may be involved in the political, diplomatic, economic, financial, social, health and environmental spheres.

    The Federal Police are customarily viewed as the natural guardians of security. In the present government of Prime Minister Charles Michel, a ‘Security and Home Affairs Minister’ has even been appointed. This designation is, of course, a reference to internal security, related to public order, civil security and domestic threats.

    On the other hand, the...

  4. (pp. 8-9)
    Mark Udall

    The Constitution does not exhaustively describe and therefore imposes no limits on the MoD’s role in maintaining security. It follows that domestic operations are not contrary to the Constitution. But given that the primary task of the armed forces is still maintaining national independence and territorial integrity (Article 91), other tasks are justified only insofar as they do not endanger the primary task.8

    Therefore, the protection of national interests is enhanced by the implementation of Belgium’s national security strategy in an international context, namely commitments arising from the United Nations Charter and the Treaties of Lisbon and Washington.

    In his...

  5. (pp. 10-12)
    Arlen Specter

    Economics, as a science of scarcity, finds justification in its fundamental paradigm: the needs of an individual and of groups of individuals are unlimited, while the means capable of satisfying them are rare. All economic activity therefore involves definitions of priorities, classifications, decision and choices.

    Those in charge of all aspects of the Economics of Security claim that they are victims of the consolidation of public finances and of European constraints imposed via the Stability and Growth Pact. In times of financial crisis, all government branches must show solidarity and participate in the reduction of their expenses. Cutting defence, policing...

  6. (pp. 13-14)

    Contrary to what some argued at the beginning of the operation, the presence of soldiers in the streets is certainly not indicative of a coming coup d’état in Belgium.

    Nevertheless, the Belgian population traditionally demonstrates very little empathy towards the armed forces, and even exhibits a significant dose of anti-militarism. Before the operation in Verviers, the armed forces could only count on about 20% favourable reviews. Since the attacks, this percentage has risen to 72%. Moreover, people have become accustomed to the presence of soldiers in the streets; 65% of the population were in favour of keeping the military on...

  7. (pp. 15-17)
    Craig L. Thomas

    Defence personnel numbers are constantly decreasing and will be reduced to 25,000 according to the strategic vision of the MoD, even though the government demands greater numbers.

    The Land Component is on the brink of rupture: it has barely 6,000 combatants, of whom only 350 – a thousand with rotations – are on mission abroad. Even instructors and logistic personnel have been deployed in the streets.

    In 2016, 12,000 military personnel were deployed at least once in OVG; towards the end of 2016, the 1,828 soldiers on the street came from a cadre of 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers belonging to...

  8. (pp. 18-20)

    The police are also operating in overdrive. A significant shortfall in police numbers affects the 42,000 police currently serving, who must redouble their efforts relentlessly. Local police are increasingly called upon to help their federal colleagues, to the detriment of local security. In 2016, even the traffic police force was stripped in favour of OVG.

    Because of the decline in investment in the police over the last ten years, and the endemic lack of recruitment, the Central Directorate of the Fight Against Serious and Organised Crime16 was compelled to engage all its capacities, though its other responsibilities did not diminish,...

  9. (pp. 21-22)

    The government will probably keep the military on the streets throughout the legislature, until 2019.

    Given the enduring nature of the terrorist threat, does this mean that the presence of soldiers in the streets represents a new ‘normal’? Are the tasks of the military becoming more and more comparable to those of the police? Are we therefore witnessing a permanent blurring of the distinction between police and defence missions?

    The situation on the ground underlines both the duality and the complementarity of the two security concepts. But even if the Federal Police and the armed forces are complementary because they...