• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Franco-Belgian tensions resurface after 'naivety' slur
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Belgian counterpart Charles Michel. Photo: AFP

Franco-Belgian tensions resurface after 'naivety' slur

The Local/AFP · 24 Mar 2016, 08:03

Published: 24 Mar 2016 08:03 GMT+01:00

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin was heavily criticised on Wednesday after he accused Belgian authorities of
"naivety" over the spread of Islamist extremism.

"I think there was a will, or a lack of will, on the part of some (Belgian) authorities... perhaps also a kind of naivety," Sapin said Tuesday, suggesting that they "thought that to encourage good integration, communities should be
left to develop on their own."

Speaking to French TV station LCI, he added: "But we know, and France perhaps knows better than others, that this is not the right answer. When a neighbourhood is in danger of becoming sectarian, we should (implement) a policy of integration."

Sapin's words, coming a day after the suicide bombings in Brussels, were slammed in France and Belgium.

"It is indecent when people are suffering, are in shock. We need solidarity, not lectures," said Belgian Socialist politician Laurette Onkelinx.

A member of Sapin's own French Socialist party, Francois Lamy, described the finance minister's statement as "just shameful".

The row had echos of the days after the Paris attacks when French media and certain politicians pointed the finger at Brussels for failing to nullify the Islamist extremist threat that had grown right under its eyes.

The fact many of the attackers who killed 130 people in Paris were from Brussels and that the coordinated attacks were clearly planned in hideouts throughout the country, left many in France with the view the Belgian authorities and intelligence services were guilty of huge failings.

“The wretched attacks were prepared abroad and mobilised by a team of actors living on Belgian territory,” said interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve at the time, after summoning his Belgian counterpart for talks.

And following the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, the chief surviving suspects from the Paris attackers, some in France wondered why it took Belgium a full four months to find him, when he was seemingly right under their noses.

"Either Salah Abdeslam is very clever or the Belgian services are stupid, which is more likely," French MP Alain Marsaud commented after the capture.

The two countries also clashed in February when Brussels decided to step up checks on the French border to prevent migrants, displaced from the Jungle camp in Calais, from setting up a similar sprawling encampment outside ports in Belgium.

France called the move "odd" and "not based on reality".

However the leaders of the two countries have tried to present a united front, particularly since Brussels has joined Paris in the growing list of European cities scarred by a major terrorist attack.

Story continues below…

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls sought to distance himself from his colleague's words, saying he did not want "to lecture our Belgian friends".

"We closed our eyes, everywhere in Europe and including France, to the rise of extremist Salafist ideas in neighbourhoods where a mix of drug trafficking and radical Islam have led astray ... some of the youth," Valls told Europe 1
radio.

An aide to Sapin told AFP he had not wanted to single out Belgium and was talking more generally about the terrorist threat.

The aide said Sapin had sent a message to his Belgian counterpart, Johan Van Overtveldt, apologising for the "controversy".

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French mayors dismiss suspended burqini ban
Photo: Jean Christophe Magnenet /AFP

The row over France’s burqini ban continues with several mayors vowing to keep restrictions in place despite the country’s top court suspending the ban in the resort town of Villeneuve-Loubet.

France's top court suspends burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court has suspended a town's ban on wearing the full-body burqini swimsuit.

Milk price raised, but French farmers still unhappy
The sign on the tractor reads 'We're dying', as farmers blocked Lactalis dairy headquarters. Photo: AFP

Milk prices have been raised by France's biggest dairy group to placate farmers, but unions say their demands have not been met.

Burqini bans 'dividing France's Muslim women'
Photo: AFP

The burqini bans have divided France, but they have also left Muslim women in France in two groups, argues a professor who has spent years studying the impact of the burqa.

Pizza-delivery drones could be on their way to France
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's your pizza. Photo: AFP

No more need to deal with grumpy French waiters...

Heatwave drags on as France faces red-hot weekend
Photo: AFP

France will see searing temperatures on Friday and Saturday, as the heatwave warnings have been extended (once again).

Nice: The French capital of burqini fines
The beach in the Riviera city of Nice. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

It's one of only two of the 30 towns with a burqini ban in place to have actually given out any fines.

How to make France's famed Île Flottante dessert
Photo: Paul Oatway

France-based food blogger Laura Tobin shares her recipe for this delicious French dessert.

France's top court set to rule on burqini ban
Photo: bellmon1/Flickr

France's highest administrative court will decide this afternoon whether to overturn the burqini ban.

Corsica bushfire leaves 500 hectares scorched
Photos: AFP

A massive fire left 500 hectares of bushland in Corsica ravaged.

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Education
French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
National
Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
Society
Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Politics
Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
2,761
jobs available