China / World

Uneasy times as nation mourns the dead after Brussels bombings

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-25 08:07

Belgium's capital Brussels always boasts of being the heart of European Union. First, geographically, it is an ideal European gateway and second, it serves as headquarters of European integration.

Normally, thousands of international journalists flock to the zone where many European institutions are located, gathering stories on the bargaining processes of the project to maintain Europe peace.

But the atmosphere here is different today.

On the day after the attacks at Maelbeek metro station, a stone's-throw from the European Commission building, and Brussels airport at Zaventem, journalists assembled in the capital to report on the one minute of silence for victims of the bloody disasters.

Today, this area is gradually returning to normal. Shops, restaurants, coffee bars and office buildings are open after a day of closures. But the tunnel, where the European Commission and the European Council sit at either end, remains closed.

And the main road beside the attacked metro station is not accessible, blocked by police. Police, journalists and rescue workers are busy in the surrounding area.

It was gray this morning in Brussels and so it was yesterday. About one kilometer of the street leading downtown was blocked, no access for vehicles or pedestrians.

It reminded me of the seriousness of the explosions and in some way - this being the heart of the European Union - a grave EU "heart attack".

Near the European Council, I found a bunch of flowers with "No Fear" written on an accompanying card. This is encouraging to find at a time when Belgians are in deep sorrow. And it is high time to spread courage, love, sympathy and share sorrow, instead of spreading fear.

However, suddenly, I realized this is my third time reporting mourning in Europe since the beginning of last year.

On the night of Jan 7, 2015, when my newspaper was organizing a New Year seminar in Brussels, gunmen attacked the Charlie Hebdo magazine building in Paris. We held a moment of silence with seminar participants. Then in late November when the G20 summit was being held in Turkey, I was reporting the leaders' one-minute silence for more than 130 people who lost their lives in another Paris terror attack.

Since then, European countries have tightened security measures while at the same time struggling against a stream of migrants from the Middle East crossing EU borders. Belgium has raised its security alert level and the soldiers and police patrol frequently in downtown Brussels and the European Union's buildings.

But they failed to prevent the attacks on Brussels on March 22. So Wednesday's period of mourning became the third one I covered in Europe in about a year. I really wish there will be no more and I really wish there will be no hatred and conflict, just peace and love.

However, if the European authorities don't take an iron-fist approach to illegal immigrants, find better ways to deal with relations with Middle East countries and fix the loopholes of security control, it is really hard to say what will happen.

This time, the terror attacks happened inside the airport's departure building and inside the metro. To be honest, when even this country was on the highest security alert level in November and December, everybody had free access, without security checks, to come and go.

This is obviously a loophole. Some people say Europeans are not willing to sacrifice freedom of movement. But what happened on Tuesday was bloody and costly.

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