March 22, 2016, about 8.30 in the morning, Brussels, the political capital of Europe, heard two massive explosions in the largest airport in Zaventem. Shortly after, another explosion hit the metro station Maelbeek, located in the European quarter where many institutions and officials are. Immediately, the explosions were classified as terrorist attacks and led to the formal gathering of the European leaders for discussing the challenging issues regarding the European Security. For the moment, Politico says 31 people were killed and 270 injured.
As the two explosions took place, immediate evacuation of the people was undertaken. Those who were already registered and ready to go away were displaced in the sports halls around Brussels. The injured were hospitalized in the Saint-Jan hospital in Brussels that also launched an immediate blood donation. Due to severe damage as the aftermath of the explosion, Brussels National Airport in Zaventem remains closed today.
All passengers whose flights were booked for yesterday and today were offered replacements by the respective airlines from any other European capital to their final destination. Shortly after the explosion, the airport was checked by the Belgian police with another bomb found and detonated by the police. So far, a very coordinated work has been carried out by the local authorities and the European leaders. The security level in the country was raised to the highest level, four, along with boosting border control close to France, Germany and The Netherlands. Isis has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Belgium and has threatened further attacks in Europe.
After the explosions in the metro and the airport, the Belgian Security Council held an urgent meeting, followed by a press conference by the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. He says the worst expected thing happened to Belgium just four days after Belgian authorities caught Salah Abdeslam; a suspect claimed to be guilty in the Paris attacks. The governmental priority, according to Charles Michel, remained to help others and maintaining security measures within the country and outside its borders. Immediately after that, authorities established an emergency number where individuals could get answers to any upcoming issues. Until 4 PM no train circulated from the train stations in Brussels. Two of them were reopened again at 4 PM, and Brussels Central Station, the closest to the epicenter of the events, opened later in the evening.
The Belgian King Philippe and Queen Matilde addressed the nation at 7 PM. Other European leaders, such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande voiced their solidarity and support to the Belgian people. Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the European Commission and Head of the European External Action Service, during her visit to Jordan, gave an emotional speech while calling to remain European in any circumstances.
Today, public transportation and train circulation have been restored to the vast extent. Only metro lines 2 and 6 are still not operating in Brussels. International train commuting has been restored, too. Brussels Airport remains closed according to their press service. Security measures were also undertaken in other airports and places with scores of people circulating. The area close to the Metro explosion is not fully operational yet. Namely, Directorate General AGRI, which comprises the subdivision of the European Commission reported to function remotely from home due to the damages in their office. The rest of the city has been restored to the common operational processes; schools and other public services are operating on a routine basis.
For the moment, three victims of the attacks have been confirmed. CNN reports that the first identified victim of the assault was a Peruvian mother of three who was heading to the US. According to the information posted by her brother on Facebook, her husband was seeing her off at the airport and was also injured in the attack. The Belgian federal authorities later confirmed this. Another victim is Olivie Delespesse, who was an employee of the federal government in Wallonia. Finally, the third victim was a student at Saint-Louis University, who died in the attack at Maalbeek Station. The rest of the victims have not been confirmed yet.
The response from the international community was unwavering in their support for the Belgian people. However, the attacks have reignited the European migrant debate. While the President of the United States Barack Obama voiced solidarity with the victims and noted that harsher measures in the fight against terrorism will be imposed, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo declared that the country would not be able to accept any migrants before stricter measures on border control are levied. The declaration by the Prime Minister illustrates a disunity within the leaders of the 28 member states of the European Union, which usually act united in such cases. The current issue for the European Union remains evident, as it’s Common Foreign and Security Policy does not foresee the joint action against terrorism on behalf of the EU. Each of the member states is entitled to undertake measures on their own. The terrorist attacks intensified the debates on border control along with the stronger positions voiced by the Brits, who will undergo a referendum on exiting the European Union on the 23rd of June. The time for Europe to decide its future has come.