Destinations Magazine

A Continent Like Belgium

By Stizzard
A continent like Belgium

BRUSSELS, wrote Tony Judt, is “a metaphor for all that can go wrong in a modern city”. The late historian, writing in 1999, was referring to the civic neglect that has left much of the Belgian capital, home to most institutions of the European Union, an unsightly mess of concrete and roadworks with the worst traffic in Europe. But his words could just as well apply to the string of terrorist plots and attacks that has provided Brussels, and some other Belgian cities, with a scabrous reputation as an incubator of jihadi ideology and a paragon of law-enforcement incompetence.

Belgium has long been the butt of European jokes, thanks in large part to its dysfunctional politics. In 2010-11 squabbles over the rights of Flemish-speakers on the outskirts of Brussels held up the formation of a government for 589 days, a world record. But the terror threat has exposed the darker side of Belgium’s maladministration, in the form of uncoordinated security services and neglected areas like Molenbeek, a down-at-heel Muslim-majority commune in west Brussels. After the Paris attacks, French officials sniped at their…

The Economist: Europe

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