• 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
Paris luxury hotel told to pay up after guest molests cleaner

A cleaner who was molested at a Paris luxury hotel by a Qatari guest has reportedly been awarded €57,000.

Frenchman leading Brexit negotiations starts new job
Photo: AFP

Frenchman Michel Barnier officially starts work as the European Commission's Brexit negotiator on Saturday in an appointment that British media called a "declaration of war".

VIDEO: Frenchman goes on iPhone-smashing rampage
Photo: YouTube Screenshot

Meet France's angriest Apple customer.

Nuit Blanche: Get set for an all-night party in Paris
Photo: La Nuit Blanche

Will YOU be heading down to the Seine on Saturday?

France told there's no more money for TGVs
High speed TGV trains parked in Lille. Photo: AFP

A report from the French senate has recommended that three planned high speed rail networks be scrapped.

Frenchman surfs again after shark bites off his leg
All photos: AFP

Meet the amputee Frenchman who is surfing again he was attacked by a shark.

Paris motorists to fund city's public transport system
Photo: AFP

Motorists in the Ile-de-France region will be hit by a tax rise in order to finance the city's trains and buses.

More French women becoming mothers after 40
French mums are getting older. File photo: Pexels

French mums are getting older, but the overall birthrate has fallen.

Paris police bust high-rolling gang of pram thieves
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

A gang of thieves has been caught after they pinched an estimated €100,000 worth of prams.

French banned from 'Mona Lisa smile' on photo IDs
You can forget a smile like this on your passport photo.

The French are going to have to remain grumpy-looking, at least on their passport photos.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
It's official: France finally gets its new map
National
VIDEOS: France's raunchiest TV commercials of all time
Sexism at the wheel: France wants more women drivers
Society
Lifestyle
VIDEO: Is life on a French café terrace really this bad?
Society
Only in France: 'Drive slowly - grape juice on the roads'
Society
Saudi princess 'told guard to kill Paris decorator'
Education
Why are foreign students in France 'Europe's unhappiest'?
Education
The troubles with French universities laid bare
Culture
The crazy French writing phrases you can't get your head around
Features
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
'Stop telling immigrants to be French and help it happen'
Society
Take the test: How far have you assimilated into French culture?
Lifestyle
Eleven things you should know before moving to Paris
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
2,736
jobs available