The Belgian federal government is taking five short-term measures in response to information about the events leading up to last week’s attack in Brussels that left two Swedish nationals dead, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Sunday.
The move follows the resignation on Friday of Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, who took responsibility for the failure of Brussels prosecutors to act on a request from Tunisia last year to extradite the attacker, Abdesalam Lassoued, one of its nationals. Lassoued was killed by Belgian police after the October 16 attack.
Paul Van Tigchelt, former head of Belgium’s coordinating body for threat analysis, was named as the country’s new justice minister on Sunday.
“The government accepts its responsibility,” De Croo said at a press conference announcing the measures to strengthen the country’s security apparatus and ensure a rapid and coordinated response to potential threats.
Brussels public prosecutor Tim De Wolf blamed understaffing in his office for the failure to act on the extradition request. “That helps to explain the course of events, but it is not a justification,” he said on Sunday. “Society did not get what it was entitled to.”
Under the new measures, the public prosecutor’s office in Brussels would receive five additional magistrates, De Croo said, and a long-standing problem regarding the appointment of a Dutch-speaking public prosecutor would be resolved. In addition, the federal judicial police in Brussels will be strengthened by 50 officers and the railway police will receive 25 additional officers.
In an effort to improve intelligence and security measures, two committees overseeing the intelligence and police services will also be asked to analyze whether security procedures are still adequate given the volume of information. The flow of information between the immigration service, the police and the judiciary will also be strengthened. These services will continue to analyze the events leading up to the attack in Brussels.