Hold up at the European Parliament, non-event of the month

Article published on Feb. 15, 2009
Article published on Feb. 15, 2009
Article written by Julien de Cruz Some chose to laugh about it. Some others tell the story with a hint of anxiety. One thing is certain, the news spread like wildfire among the Brussels expats. A man entered the premises of the European Parliament on Thursday, passing through all security checks and proceeded to rob the ING bank branch. He left undisturbed with the booty.
Despite the efforts of security guards and the police force, the robber remains at large.

Heard nothing, seen nothing

The morning after, the event is not exactly front page news in the Belgian press. La Libre Belgique highlights the deficiencies of the building’s security system and publishes an interview of Frédérique Ries, an MEP. She is very surprised and shocked that this robbery could have happened in the Parliament. The other leading daily paper Le Soir coldly states the facts. The Belgians have indeed a bigger fish to fry with the never-ending Fortis bank scandal.

There is thus only the handful of MEPs, parliamentary assistants and employees of the European Parliament to be really worried about the hold up.

Café Babel has interviewed stagiaires and assistants wishing to remain anonymous on the evening of the incident. They have heard nothing, seen nothing but they are barely surprised. They say security checks apply to external visitors and certain employees some of them carrying a badge. For MEPs, entrance is free as well as for their assistants, for civil servants and other technicians. It is hard to really know who is controlled and who is not. These inconsistencies have probably helped the daring thief to get his way in. Among those young professionals however, I notice how relaxed they are, mainly willing to play down the whole event. Most of them laugh about it, they sure did not expect it but it was predictable...

A political symbol

Is it fair to laugh about it? The answer is yes, as even for those young folks close to the higher circles, the robbery was a non-event. One would be almost tempted to give hats off to the robber, not for his crime but for having made unintentionally a political statement. He kicked the Parliament from its stall and took revenge on this seemingly closed glass-walled fortress planted in the middle of Brussels. While the Parliament is busy working out a European answer to the financial crisis, an ordinary belgian guy entered quietly by the back door to claim back his loss.

Parlement_europ_en2.jpg A few weeks ago, an inhabitant of Schaerbeek was criticising vehemently European institutions at the occasion of the debate organised by Café Babel Bruxelles. He had written a poem and he said that young belgians today were desperate and would stop at nothing. For the record, Frédérique Ries, who was there at the time, really liked the poem.