Having abandoned permanent neutrality following invasions by Germany in the First and Second World Wars, Belgium has not suffered serious threats to national security since 1945. In recent years, high indebtedness, the effects of the economic crisis and concerns about internal instability have led to the austerity measures of October 2009 which include cuts in defense, in particular in armaments. However, the international commitment remains significant. The Belgian troops flank the French, German and Spanish armies in the Eurocorps, an EU contingent headquartered in Strasbourg. They also participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monuc) – a former Belgian colony – and in Lebanon (Unifil) and those of NATO in Afghanistan (Isaf) and Kosovo (Kfor). The commitment to anti-terrorism at the domestic and community level is also strong, especially after the Paris attacks in November 2015. Since 1977, the headquarters of NATO’s allied forces in Europe (Shape) has been based in Mons, in the south. of Belgium, and is the place dedicated to the organization of coordinated military operations. Finally, confirming the Belgian cooperative nature and the traditional good neighborly relations that the country maintains within the Benelux, there is the establishment of a common naval fleet with the Netherlands. For Belgium defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.com.
The liberal agenda of the Michel government
For the first time in its history, Belgium is implementing some liberal reforms, questioning its own solid welfare state system. After seven years of financial crisis, aggravated by internal conflicts in the majority of the then Prime Minister Yves Leterme, the country urgently needs to implement structural reforms that can put a stop to the growth of public debt and the deficit / GDP ratio, trying to to restore state finances.
The coalition government formed after the consultations of May 2014 and led by Charles Michel, has put aside the ambitions of institutional reform to focus instead on more marked federalism and economic reforms. Belgium managed to get out of the excessive deficit procedure in mid-2014. The federal government managed to implement some significant reforms: firstly that of the pension system, which will raise the minimum retirement age to 67 by 2030 ; the suspension of wage indexation based on inflation; a series of cuts in the cost of labor, with a reduction in the contribution rates paid by the employer from 33 to 25%, shifting instead the increase in taxes on consumption and energy. The only French-speaking party within the coa;
However, it is possible that socialists and trade unions will implement strong opposition to the reforms, especially in the Brussels region and in Wallonia. Political divisions could therefore once again crack along the Community lines rather than on those merely of content. Furthermore, from an economic point of view, the reforms, although they are aimed at relaunching economic competitiveness in the long term, could instead have further depressive effects on the economy in the short term, leading to a reduction in domestic demand.
The terrorist threat in Belgium
Belgium has the highest number of foreign fighters among Western countries in relation to population: according to a study published in October 2014 by the ICSR of London, there are over 400 Belgian citizens engaged in fighting in Syria or Iraq, among the ranks IS or other minor jihadist formations. Like the other European countries, Belgium too must therefore face the phenomenon of returning ‘foreign fighters’, intending to bring their experience to Europe. It is therefore not surprising that Brussels has not only created a task force expressly dedicated to counter-radicalization, prevention, monitoring and judicial persecution of potential jihadists from and / or to the Middle East, but has also taken on a leading role at EU level in coordinating precisely with respect to this phenomenon. In recent years there have been several Belgian anti-terrorism operations, most of which directed against the organization adhering to radical Salafism called Sharia4Belgium, which has several active members in Belgium and Syria, in recruiting and financing activities. As many as 46 members of this group are on trial in the Antwerp court. The greatest danger for the country’s police forces is that new sensational attacks may occur such as the one that took place on May 24, 2014 at the Jewish museum in Brussels, cost the lives of four people. After weeks of investigation it was discovered that the perpetrator of the shooting was a French jihadist, who passed through Syria in 2013. This indiscretion revealed to the investigators the direct link between Belgium and France. In January 2015, a new Belgian anti-terrorism operation led to the discovery of a jihadist cell in Verviers, directly involved in the Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market on January 7-9, 2015. A few months later, in November 2015, the police carried out 19 anti-terrorism raids between Brussels, Molenbeek and Charleroi, which led to the arrest of 16 people of Maghrebi origin, the killing of Abdelhamid Abaaoud – the mastermind of the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015 – and discovering the Salah Abdesalam base in the Belgian capital.