• 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
Christians and Muslims to mourn murdered French priest
A regional Muslim council has planned a "brotherhood march" in Lyon, while a church in Bordeaux said it would hold a non-denomination vigil for the 85-year-old priest. Photo: AFP

Muslim and Christian groups will hold vigils on Saturday for a French priest murdered by extremists in his church, as police charged a man in connection with the brutal attack that has plunged the nation into mourning again.

France church attackers 'smiled' and spoke of Koran
Three nuns were in the church when Father Jacques Hamel was killed. Photo: AFP

One of the jihadists who murdered an elderly French priest smiled as he carried out the attack, and nuns who witnessed the grisly murder said the killers spoke about the Koran.

Air France strike grounds 20% of flights

Air France on Saturday cancelled around 20 percent of its flights on the fourth day of a strike by flight attendants during the peak summer travel season, the airline said.

Summer in France: The top ten beaches
Photo: Gomezdegomera/Flickr

How many have you been to?

France braces for busiest day of traffic all summer
Photo: AFP

Thinking of driving this weekend? The French are being advised to think twice.

Opinion
'France has problems but it's not on brink of civil war'
A French police officer stands in front of a Muslim prayer room after it was destroyed by a fire, suspected to be arson, in Ajaccio.. Photo: AFP

While certain French politicians and security chiefs have openly talked of the nightmare prospect of civil war in France, one expert tells The Local the country is too resolute to go down that path.

Ten hidden gems in France you should visit this summer
Photo: Erik Harström/Flickr

Looking for holiday ideas this summer?

What's on: Ten cool things to do in France in August 2016
Photo: AFP

August is almost here - and we've got you covered for events.

Paris in August: Should you stay or should you go now?
Photo: AFP

When it comes to August in Paris, you're either a stayer or a goer. But which is the best choice?

French PM: 'France needs new relationship with Islam'
Photo: AFP

As France struggles to get to grips with an increasing number of terror attacks the French PM says the country needs a new relationship with Islam.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Travel
Summer in France: The top ten beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
France: A timeline of terror since the Charlie Hebdo attack
A timeline of terror in France since Charlie Hebdo
Culture
Thirteen free and easy ways to learn French
Culture
32 mistakes foreigners make when they arrive in France
National
Here are the worst scams to avoid whilst driving in France
Analysis & Opinion
Isis can simply be a conduit for the violent desires of psychopaths
Features
Six outdoor bars in Paris you simply must visit
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Culture
The open-air Villette cinema has been cancelled over security fears
Culture
Henri Rousseau exhibition proves huge hit in Paris
National
Frenchman caught trying to sell Nice massacre souvenirs online
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
OPEN NOW: Here's why you should head to the Paris Plages
Culture
What's on in France: Still plenty to see and do in July
Lifestyle
Treasures of Versailles to go on display in Australia
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
National
Nice attack: What we know so far
National
Nice attacker: Body-building, drug-taking, violent flirt
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
IN IMAGES: Drawings in tribute to Nice attack victims
Society
Promenade des Anglais: The iconic heart of the French Riviera
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
France faces more questions after latest deadly attack
National
Why is France the target of choice for jihadist attacks?
National
Nice truck attack: 'Bodies went flying like bowling pins'
Nice attack: Families of missing make pleas on Twitter
2,755
jobs available