European governments vowed today (22 March) to defend democracy against terrorism after blasts at Brussels airport and in the EU’s institutional heart left at least 26 dead and dozens injured.
“The whole of Europe has been hit,” French President François Hollande declared, urging the continent to take “vital steps in the face of the seriousness of the threat.”
As country after country voiced anger and dismay, Russia and Turkey – themselves targets of deadly attacks in the last eight months – said the blasts highlighted the need to fight terrorism of every hue and across all borders.
“This is a day of tragedy, a black day,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on national television.
“Our Union’s capital is under attack. We mourn the dead and pledge to conquer terror through democracy,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a tweet.
It added in French, “Nous sommes tous Bruxellois,” — “We are all citizens of Brussels.”
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said: “Terrorism will never defeat us. The union of democrats in Europe will always prevail over barbarism and madness.”
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven described the blasts as “an attack against democratic Europe. We will never accept that terrorists attack our open societies.”
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tweeted: “My heart and spirit in Brussels, Europe,” while Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said “the Brussels attacks strike the heart of our Europe.”
“The fight against terrorism is the duty of every one of us,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić said the attacks “jeopardise all the values of civilisation that we strongly support.”
European Union President Donald Tusk condemned the blasts as “terrorist attacks.”
“These attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence,” he said in a statement.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted that the terrorists attack the European’s way of life and “because of who we are”. “We will never let them win”, he said.
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was to be lit up in the colours of Belgium on Tuesday night in homage to “the victims, their families and the Belgian people”, said Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Global action on terror
Russia and Turkey said the blasts underscored the global need to fight terrorism across borders.
A Russian plane was downed by a bomb over the Sinai Peninsula in October that killed 224 people, while Turkey has suffered more than 200 civilian deaths in six major attacks since July, blamed on Kurdish rebels and jihadists.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at what he called “barbarous crimes” and expressed his condolence with Belgium.
“(They) demonstrate once again that terrorism has no borders and threatens people around the world. Fighting this evil calls for the most active international cooperation.”
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the attacks “have once against shown the worldwide character of terrorism”.
Foreign Minister Volkan Bozkır added: “Every effort must continue to fight terrorism without distinction and those who support terrorism.”
Turkey’s pro-government media on Tuesday pointed at what they described as hypocrisy in Europe towards the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebel group.
On Friday (18 March), President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Europe of “surrendering to terror” for letting PKK sympathisers erect a tent outside the European Council building in Brussels last week as EU leaders held a summit on migration.
“Despite this clear reality, European countries are paying no attention, as if dancing in a minefield,” Erdogan charged on Friday.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned Tuesday's deadly attacks in Brussels, calling them "despicable" and demanding that those responsible face justice.
"The despicable attacks today struck at the heart of Belgium and the center of the European Union," said a statement from Ban's office. "The secretary-general hopes those responsible will be swiftly brought to justice."
Ban "is confident that Belgium's and Europe's commitment to human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence will continue to be the true and lasting response to the hatred and violence of which they became a victim today," the UN statement said.