A minute of silence for the victims of yesterday’s attacks in Brussels was held in the European Commission’s headquarter Berlaymont building.
This brief event took place in presence of Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, the European Commission College in its entirety, King Philippe of the Belgians, Queen Mathilde of the Belgians, the members of the Belgian Federal government, and Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister.
Wednesday’s rendez-vous in the European Commission’s press room took place while only half of the European flags were up on the Berlaymont building of the Schuman square, just 300m from Maelbeek metro station hit by Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels.
“Yesterday, terrorists hit at the heart of Europe, our city, Brussels. Innocent people were killed and injured. Among those injured are three of our colleagues from the Commission. Our thoughts are with the victims of these attacks and their friends, their families. We come out of expression of solidarity with Belgium and Europe to a minute of silence,” said European Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva.
Having the Belgian King, the members of the Belgian Federal government, and the French Prime Minister standing together with the EU Commission College to pay tribute to the terrorist attacks was “very heartening” for the Vice President, “as an expression of solidarity throughout Europe,” she said.
“These are testing times. These are times for us to stay together, these are times for compassion, these are times to stand against hatred, extremism, those who have disrupted lives of so many,” added Georgieva, who represented the EU Commission. We must be “ready to fight in Europe against what has become so frequently an enormous stress for our people,” she said. To fight against fundamentalism Georgieva suggested that Europe should “continue being open and tolerant, understanding that religious extremists do not speak for an entire religion and understanding also that those who seek refuge in Europe are running from the same extremists that have hurt us here in Brussels yesterday”.
“Yesterday we were hit in the heart of Europe, but this heart is strong and resilient. In this situation we are all Belgian. Because to be a Belgian is to be a European. What has happened in Brussels has happened unfortunately already as you all remember in Paris, in Madrid, in London, but also outside Europe in Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, Mali and the list goes on”, stressed the commissioner on migration, home affairs and citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos. “Each time the citizens of Europe have come strong and united”, Avramopoulos pointed, as Europe responds with “more unity, resilience, solidarity, cohesion and strength. A threat towards Europe needs a European response”.
Avramopoulos underlined that it is time for Europe to achieve more coordination and information/intelligence sharing, keeping in mind that the perpetrators of the attacks were known to the police. “Information needs to be interconnected”, he added, pointing to the European Parliament, which will be voting on the Passenger Name Records (PNR). “The European Parliament must vote as soon as possible and must not delay implementation”, he repeated, asking also for better implementation of Schengen border control. “Schengen is not the problem. We cannot have a secure area of free moment if we don’t have better security at external borders”.
The commissioner on migration, home affairs and citizenship closed his remarks by repeating that Europe “cannot lose sight of eradicating, addressing terrorism both here at home, but also outside. Right now we are at the peak of two crises, security and migration. While they overlap in timing, but should not be confused”. “It’s beyond time to get serious about security, safety is also one of the fundamental rights of our citizens,” he concluded.