Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are all gathered today to commemorate sad and traumatic moments in our collective history. Moments of pure hate, during which individuals and groups sought to destroy the core values of our democratic states, by perpetrating vile and cowardly acts against innocents.
The ones responsible left behind an immeasurable human suffering. Acts of terror have cost lives and have caused physical and psychological harm to people of many countries, ages, gender, religions.
It is of the greatest importance that we commemorate those affected by these acts. Victims may never be forgotten. We have to give them tribute, and must continue to help them in any way that we can. The commemoration is an opportunity to stand strong together, united by our solidarity and compassion, forming a wall against extremism, intolerance and hatred.
The governments and international representatives have important tasks in the fight against terrorist violence. On the one hand, we must combine our forces and pursue our efforts to prevent these attacks in the future and to prosecute the ones responsible. Our security and intelligence services, our police, our magistrates have been working relentlessly to keep us all safe.
On the other hand, we have to take care of those who have fallen victim to terrorism. Not only are these people confronted with physical suffering, grief and emotional stress, they also have to pay healthcare bills, must make funeral arrangements, they have to complete administrative and sometimes judicial procedures to obtain damages, and so on. In this respect, secondary victimization is a real risk, and the prevention thereof poses a difficult challenge for the authorities of different levels.
The reforms are always too slow and I know there is frustration on the time it has taken in Belgium to implement them.
I am glad that the Belgian parliament recently adopted a set of laws that improve the procedures. Victims can now obtain a financial aid more quickly, and the competent national body can grant much higher amounts of aid for urgent needs in general, and for legal support, transport and accommodation costs in particular.
Of course, I understand that financial aid is far from the only aspect of a humane victim support system. Our focus needs to be on other issues as well.
In particular, we keep working, together with judicial and Regional authorities, to set up a central point of contact for victims of terrorism. Our goal is to help victims with all sorts of questions by giving them clear and practical information, and by following up on the administrative steps they wish to take.
Another key aspect in dealing with the suffering of victims of terrorism is the preparation and the management of the trials of people responsible for the attacks. These trials are necessary for the victims and for the society. The challenge is particularly important for trials of concerted and organised attacks with massive casualties, such as the 13th of November in Paris or 22nd of March in Brussels. As for the second, the main phase will take place next year. We are working on it. The judges and prosecutors are working on it to make sure that we can handle in an appropriate manner what will be long trials with hundreds of victims whose role and needs will have to be taken into account.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Large scale attacks have largely stopped on European territory. The terrorist threat remains present, there is no reason to claim victory, but the level of that threat has decreased.
I never ceased to be amazed by the resilience of our populations. Everyone who had to take the metro or go to the airport in the weeks after the 22nd of March 2016 in Brussels was reluctant to do so. But people kept doing it. And slowly but surely, people ceased to permanently think about it. Things got back to almost normal.
But most victims cannot go back to normal with the scars that are left in their bodies and minds.
And smaller attacks keep happening on our soil, leaving the victims as damaged as those of the attacks which have caused higher trauma in our collective memory. European citizens and people from other countries keep falling victim by bullets or in explosions resulting from terrorist attacks all around the world.
It is precisely when the collective trauma is beginning to heal that commemoration of individual victims becomes even more essential. It is precisely when things seem to go back to normal for the population that we need to focus on the individuals who risk to feel even more left behind.
Commemorations like this are one of the ways and occasions to say that we do not forget and that you are not forgotten.