Tim King (editor of European Voice for The Economist) writes: [Molenbeek] is one of the most densely populated parts of Brussels, but its population is only 95,000. And it is not that the entire borough is a no-go zone. The lawlessness problems are concentrated in much smaller areas.
All of which raises the question of why Molenbeek’s problems have been allowed to persist for so long. This is not a task on the same scale as reviving the South Bronx or redressing the industrial blight of Glasgow. The nearest parallel I can think of is Brixton, a London suburb, three miles south of Westminster. Blighted by wartime bomb damage, then home to large contingents of West Indian immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s, it suffered race riots in the 1980s. But much of Brixton has been turned round, so why not Molenbeek?
The answers are an indictment of the Belgian political establishment and of successive reforms over the past 40 years.
Those failures are perhaps one part politics and government; one part police and justice; one part fiscal and economic. In combination they created the vacuum that is being exploited by jihadi terrorists.
Belgium has the trappings of western political structures, but in practice those structures are flawed and have long been so. The academics Kris Deschouwer and Lieven De Winter gave a succinct, authoritative account of the development of political corruption and clientelism in an essay published back in 1998 as part of the piquantly titled book “Où va la Belgique?” (Whither Belgium?)
Almost from the beginning, they explain, the state suffered problems of political legitimacy. [Continue reading…]