The Interior Committee of the House will come out of summer recess on Tuesday morning for consultation about the rowdy activities in the coastal municipality of Blankenberge. The opposition wants to question Minister of the Interior Pieter De Crem (CD&V) about how things could get so badly out of hand. It was super busy and sweltering everywhere, but in Blankenberge it came to an unseen fight between the police and young Brussels rioters with migration roots.
‘I wonder whether the local mayors and their forces have not been left to their own devices by the federal level’, says N-VA parliamentary party leader Peter De Roover. “Apparently that couldn’t predict that it might be a difficult weekend.” De Crem says that the federal police, which provide support to the coastal forces in the summer months anyway, can provide extra capacity if necessary.
The N-VA says it is working on a number of ways to make life difficult for amok makers. One of them comes from MP Koen Metsu’s sleeve. The basis is a resolution passed by parliament in mid-July to ban hard-learning amok makers from recreational areas and open-air swimming pools. They have been confronted for years with groups of grudging young people.
The intention is to work out a legal regulation on a black list. Whoever stands on it cannot enter any domain or swimming pool. Metsu wants to insist that De Crem extend the scheme to some coastlines. ‘With heavy fines and a ban – if necessary for years – to go to the coast,’ it says.
Although, according to De Roover, there are still some legal pitfalls. ‘A hooligan ban in a stadium is well defined. But prohibiting people from entering, say, the city center or the coast does not seem simple to me. Moreover, this requires an amendment to the law, making it impossible to use it this summer. In the short term, a firm lick-for-the-piece policy with enough blue on the street seems the best option. ‘
In the short term, a firm lick-for-the-piece policy with enough blue on the street seems the best option.
The battle in Blankenberge and the large rush to the coast put the mayors into overdrive. Several coastal municipalities made it clear that day trippers are no longer welcome. In the meantime, only Knokke is still sticking to that regulation, and that as long as the heat wave lasts. The Knok police checks the accident roads. Tourists must be able to prove that they have booked an overnight stay or an apartment.
Even more striking were the statements of the Blankenberg police commissioner Philip Denoyette. He said the station was looking for young people with a risk profile. Read: Young people with migrant roots were picked from the people and sent back. ‘Of course that is not possible,’ says lawyer Elke Cloots, who specializes in constitutional law and a lecturer at the University of Antwerp. ‘That amounts to ethnic profiling and is contrary to the anti-racism law. I also understand that the elderly or families with children do not kick things out. But you cannot target a separate group because of its background. Then check everyone to make sure there are no amok makers among them. ‘
Picking people with a ‘risk profile’ off the train amounts to ethnic profiling and violates the anti-racism law.
Legally it is equally doubtful whether you can deny people access to the coast. The government had previously had to withdraw its tail about the ban on people traveling to their second home during the lockdown, when it looked like the Council of State would shred that ban.
‘Mayors have the freedom to take measures to guarantee public order or public health. Then they can deviate from fundamental fundamental rights for a short period, although the condition is that the measure is proportional and does not go beyond what is strictly necessary, ‘says Cloots. ‘What Knokke does is shoot a mosquito with a cannon. It is like a football stadium where no one is allowed to enter because the club has a few dozen hooligans. That people are allowed to move freely is a fundamental right, as is the principle that everyone deserves equal treatment. ‘
Mayors have the freedom to take measures to guarantee public order or public health. Then they can deviate from fundamental fundamental rights for a short period, subject to the condition that the measure is proportionate and does not go beyond what is strictly necessary.
‘Moreover, a ban means that pregnant women, the elderly or families with small children can no longer go to the coast. Nor is it that the mayors are powerless. They have a large arsenal that they can use in a targeted manner, ranging from a ban on gathering together, an alcohol ban, to the restriction of access to the beach. Ostend works with a reservation system. That seems much more to defend. ‘
There is a good chance that the Council of State will shred such measures. However, the rules will probably no longer be in force at the time of the judgment. There is an ongoing procedure against the Antwerp curfew. It is currently suspended by the heat wave. The question is whether she will return afterwards. As with the second-time residents, politicians fear that the Council of State will suspend or annul the curfew, so that it is remembered to bury the whole thing for good. And that certainly now that the contamination peak in Antwerp seems to have passed its peak.
Top consultation on train regulation to the coast
On Tuesday, politicians and NMBS will discuss changes to the train scheme for the coast. Besides the NMBS, the cabinets of the federal ministers of the Interior Pieter De Crem (CD&V) and of Mobility François Bellot (MR), the 19 coastal mayors and West Flemish governor ad interim Anne Martens (CD&V) are sitting at the table. After the brawl in Blankenberge and the large influx to the coast due to the heat wave, Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein (Open VLD) finds an ally in Martens to reduce the train supply to the coast. The NMBS has announced that it will adhere to the current mobility plan, unless its political employer imposes changes. Like every summer, the NMBS has a holiday offer with extra trains to the tourist destinations. On fine days, it puts in additional trains on the route to Ostend and Blankenberge, five trains outward and the same number back. On weekends, 265 trains run to the coast on both Saturday and Sunday. On a weekend day outside the summer holidays, there are about 210.