Belgium’s transport minister resigned following the revelation she was informed of reports highlighting security deficiencies in Belgian airports — including Brussels — despite at first saying she had no knowledge of them.
The classified European Union (EU) reports in question, leaked by the the Ecolo and Green opposition parties, alleged that over the past five years authorities in Belgium have “seriously” neglected security in the country’s airports, reports EUobserver.
The specific complaints in the 2011 and 2015 reports focused on the ‘air-side’ of the airports — the supposedly secure zones accessible only to passengers and staff after check in — although the two bombs exploded by Islamist terrorists at Brussels airport on 22 March were detonated in the pre-check in area accessible to the general public.
Areas of criticism — described as either “non-compliant” or “non-compliant with serious deficiencies” — in relation to which authorities were told to “swiftly take appropriate corrective actions” included: the monitoring of foreign airlines; cargo screening procedures; and staff security training.
The 2015 report identified “serious” problems related to “explosive detection systems” that “were not regularly monitored at several airports” as well as deficiencies at Brussels airport with regards to “surveillance, patrols and other physical controls, protection of passengers.”
On Wednesday the Federal Transport Minister, Jacqueline Galant, backed by Prime Minister Charles Michel, claimed she had no knowledge of the EU reports and had not received any “formal request” for corrective actions.
However, the opposition parties then published an internal email from December 2014 sent to Ms. Galant by her top civil servant saying: “There are serious deficiencies in Belgium concerning aviation security.”
The email in question urged the minister to recruit more security staff or hire outside consultants. The man who sent it, Laurent Ledoux, resigned on Wednesday. He accused Ms. Galant of treating her staff in the manner of the “Gestapo”. Flanders News reports Mr. Ledoux saying:
“Ms. Galant defends specific economic and private interests. Despite all the efforts made, I have reached the conclusion that it is impossible to work with her or her staff. Moreover, she uses Gestapo practices. She wants the names of the leading civil servants that won’t do what she wants without question.”
After several days under fire, earlier today Ms. Galant handed in her resignation from the role she has held since October 2014.