Betrayed by the Brazen Belgians; Frank Speaking - but It Should Be Harriet

Daily Mail (London), March 28, 1998 | Go to article overview

Betrayed by the Brazen Belgians; Frank Speaking - but It Should Be Harriet


Byline: SIMON HEFFER

SHOULD you be thinking European unity is all plain sailing, note this story. Earlier this week three Kenyan refugees, fleeing the odious regime of President Daniel Arap Moi, were found sleeping rough on the Embankment in London.

They ended up there because the authorities in Belgium, finding them in Brussels, did what any humane, civilised Western democracy would do: it put them on Eurostar with one-way tickets for Waterloo. The poor old Kenyans didn't even know which country Waterloo was in.

This action says something pretty unpleasant about Belgium's commitment to the European ideal of human rights. But it also says something about Belgium's view of Britain being little more than its own convenient offshore dustbin.

You would think the Belgians would be a little more grateful to us. We invented the country in the first place, carving it out of what had been the French empire after the Napoleonic wars. Twice in this century tens of thousands of brave British soldiers died on Belgian battlefields to defend the freedom of that country.

THIS latest act of contempt by the Belgians for a European Union partner comes as no surprise to us, however. We recall that, in the Gulf War, the Belgians refused to supply bullets for the allied effort in case Saddam Hussein broke off his fight with us and sent

his air force to bomb Brussels's chocolate factories.

In the most recent Gulf crisis, when the call went up for support from Europe for what the United Nations was threatening to do, the response was pretty half-hearted from most of the Continent. Belgium, typically, did not even bother to make excuses for its customary cowardly apathy.

We have seen unfortunate evidence of the uselessness and corruption of the Belgian authorities in the past couple of years. A shocking paedophile murder ring went undetected for ages because of the police's mixture of incompetence and corruption.

Next to such a disgrace, their throwing a few persecuted refugees out of the country and making it our problem is small by comparison.

Belgium has become affluent largely on the back of the European Union.

With Brussels as the EU's capital, the country is a magnet for public sector investment, funded by Europe's taxpayers. The hoteliers, restaurateurs and property developers of Brussels and its hinterland are fat, and getting fatter, on the basis of this state-subsidised expense-account living.

For Belgium to offload its own responsibilities cynically and shamelessly on others is hypocritical and disgusting. For our Government and taxpayers, who out of humanity must now do what the Belgians refused to do and help these Kenyans, it is a sad lesson. …

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