Military to remain on streets until at least 2020, says army

Summary

Unions representing military personnel are concerned about statements made this week that training programmes would be cut to allow Belgian soldiers to focus on skills required to patrol the streets

‘Overseas operations ought to be core business’

According to the army general-major Marc Thys, interviewed yesterday in De Standaard, military patrols will remain in the streets and stations of Brussels until at least 2020. Training for new recruits will therefore, he said, be adapted.

Unions responded by demanding more information, concerned about the pressure being put on military personnel.

The discussion arose following an incident in which a man pulled a knife on three patrolling soldiers in Brussels last week. One soldier was injured, and the man was shot dead.

There is no likelihood of the terrorist threat being reduced in the near future, according to the army. That would mean cuts in training programmes that focus on duties or defence skills other than patrolling the streets.

“It’s about time measures were taken,” said Yves Huwart of the ACMP union, pointing out that troops are already overworked by security duties. “But we are afraid that this, with a steadily shrinking army, offers no solution for the long term.”

Edwin Lauwereins of the VSOA union agreed. ““The government must come up with a structural solution,” he said. “That could include the creation of a security corps to take over guard duty. The first hiring process was supposed to take place at the beginning of this year.”

The new corps would be charged with security at Brussels Airport, nuclear sites, international institutions and government buildings.

“We risk losing our skills if we can’t exercise them,” said Walter Van den Broeck of ACV. “That’s not good for the defence ministry. Overseas operations ought to be the core business of defence. I hope our expertise in that area doesn’t disappear.”

Photo: Andalou/BELGA