C’est un honneur pour moi de participer à nouveau à cette journée de commémoration qui prend place dans une période particulière puisqu’elle s’approche du triste anniversaire des attentats de Bruxelles.
Une des victimes de ces attentats me disait encore récemment à quel point ces journées de commémoration sont importantes. Il insistait d’ailleurs, avec cette empathie qui le caractérise, sur l’importance pour la Belgique d’assurer des moments de commémoration, non seulement pour les victimes des attaques de Bruxelles mais aussi pour les victimes belges d’attaques commises à l’étranger. Ces moments de commémoration sont importants et je suis reconnaissant à la Commission européenne d’être à l’initiative de celui-ci.
Terrorists always try to justify their heinous acts by dehumanizing their victims, by presenting them as amorphous members of a collective evil that they are trying to destroy. We as a democratic society must therefore give the victims a name, a face, a voice. We must include their story in our collective memory.
Almost two years have passed since the Brussels terrorist attacks and the images and stories are part of the collective memory of the Belgian people. Too many countries in the European Union and far beyond have similar images of victims in their minds and share their suffering. Unfortunately, terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Waves of far-right, far-left or indeed religious terrorist violence have struck our continent repeatedly in the past. As Ministers or Commissioners, our duty is to fight terrorism together and find solutions at national but also at European level. Our cooperation must touch on all issues where common efforts are needed. After this introduction, some of us will walk a bit further on the same street to meet within the Justice and Home Affairs Council. We will for example discuss concrete solutions to make sure that internet providers such as Facebook or Whatsapp cooperate swiftly and efficiently with our criminal investigations. And we will discuss the challenge of preventing radicalisation in prisons. One of our first duties towards the victims of terrorism is to do all we can to avoid, as much as possible, further attacks.
But that will not of course alleviate the sufferings of the victims of the attacks that were committed in the past and have left scars for the rest of their lives. We have to admit that, when the bombs went off two years ago in Zaventem and Maelbeek, Belgium was not enough prepared to the specificities of the needs of victims of terrorism. All actors have tried to learn as fast as possible but I know that it could and therefore should have been better on many aspects.
The Parliamentary investigative committee which looked into the attacks dedicated an important part of its work and of its report to the assistance given to the victims. It formulated several recommendations. The Task Force set up after the attacks is working on their implementation. A new draft legislation will soon be submitted to the Parliament to improve the position of victims of terrorism on several aspects. And the Parliamentary committee will hold a session next Wednesday to assess the progress that was made and the challenges that remain. Much has been done, at all levels, but I do not underestimate the improvements that are still needed.
In the task that awaits us, the role of associations of victims of terrorism remains crucial. I look forward to continue working with them to provide a better support to the far too numerous existing victims and to improve our preparation for new dramatic events that I hope will never occur again.
I wish you fruitful discussions and I thank you again for this opportunity to be briefly with you today.