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Belgium in the front line to reconstruct foreign policy of EU

Guest contributor



On Thursday, 30 July, a court in Antwerp, Belgium held the second preliminary hearing on the case of Assadollah Assadi, the clerical regime’s diplomat, who, was in the process of carrying out the terrorist bombing of the major gathering of Iranians on 30 June, 2018 in Villepinte, Paris. Along with Assadi, his three accomplices Amir Saadouni, Nasimeh Naami and Mehrdad Arefani will be tried too, writes Ali Bagheri.

The three-judge panel referred the case of the four jailed terrorists to the Antwerp Special Counter-Terrorism Branch. This marked the completion of the preliminary stages of the trial of Assadi and his accomplices, which the Iranian regime had spared no effort to prevent from happening. The trial will begin on 27 November, 2020.

Earlier on 15 July, the first session of the court upheld the indictment of the federal prosecutor against these terrorists, and agreed with the request of the federal prosecutor to put Assadi and his accomplices on trial on two charges of "attempted terrorist act with intention of murder" and "participation in a terrorist group.” This is the first time that a diplomat in Europe is being prosecuted for direct involvement in terrorism.

Iran protests put the clerics at gunpoint

The clerical regime in Tehran, is in a crippling situation inside and outside the country. December 2017 and Nov 2019 uprisings forced the regime to cut down the Internet for 1 week and also reports show the regime has killed at least 1,500 unarmed protesters. These protests completely destroyed Iranian regime legitimacy inside the country.

Recently, the Iranian regime has sentenced several of detainees with death penalty. Such an action received a huge opposition in social media to stop execution in Iran. Following these massive campaigns and rallies of Iranians in US, and EU countries, the Iranian regime step back and has postponed these verdicts until now.

Trump wants the Iranian regime on its knees

The US sanctions which were imposed after the decision of US president, Donald Trump, to pull out of Iran Nuclear Deal confronted the Iranian regime with a critical situation. According to Reuters, Iran’s oil export has dropped below 100,000 barrels per day. Iran was exporting more than 2 million barrels per day after JCPOA which lifted oil sanctions on Iran. Consequently, Iran GDP has shrieked by 7.6% in the first 9 months of 2019/20. It has also caused the Iran currency, Rial, to plunge drastically, each USD is more valuable than 230,000 Rials now.

EU must pay a lot to keep the same policy towards Iran

The prosecution of the Iranian diplomat for terrorist activities can disperse the limited number of voices who try to keep financial and political bonds with this regime. In fact, Belgium is going to play a historical role in EU foreign policy. The outcome of Assadollah Assdid terrorism can lead to several scenarios that each of them is a milestone away from what we observe today.

In summary, France expelled Iranian ambassador and another member of the Iran embassy in Paris. Albania, the country that hosts MEK, the main opposition group, has expelled the Iran ambassador and several embassy charge d’affaires for their activities in terror plots. Netherlands has expelled 2 other Iranian diplomats. All these has happened since 2018.

The EU policy since the past decades promotes the Iranian regime key points and the so-called moderate parties, president Hassan Rohani and the FM Javad Zarif, are well known figures of the so-called moderates in Iran. Ironically, they made a dreadful record in executions and human right violations.

The trial of Assadollah Asadi is getting more important when we have a look on the other side of the case. The National Council of Resistance of Iran provided documents to the court which shows Asadi received his orders directly from the ministry of Intelligence and security (MOIS) and he was the head of MOIS in Europe. In addition, he is directly working under the directives of the ministry of foreign affairs of Iran. Consequently, his conviction in the Belgium court will also impact two major ministries of Iran which are part of the state. Therefore it can lead to designate the Iranian regime not just as a state sponsor of terrorism, but as a terrorist state which has its own consequences.

Firstly, all of the privileges and resources that the regime relies on to carry out its terrorist acts in Europe must be taken away from it. The regime's embassies must be closed. Annual report released in June 2019, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution of Germany (BfV) said: "In Germany, the headquarters of the Ministry of Intelligence at the Iranian embassy in Berlin plays an important role in intelligence operations. In addition to independent intelligence operations, this agency also supports activities undertaken by the Ministry of Intelligence [in Tehran]."

Secondly, the front companies, cultural and educational centers, religious associations and so-called mosques that are funded and supported by the Iranian regime are all centers that sustain the regime's espionage and terrorist activities, and so they must be exposed and closed down.

Next, the regime's agents and operatives who function under the cover of commercial, cultural, or religious activities, or pretend to be journalists or opponents, refugees, or citizens, must be expelled from European countries.

These actions will significantly impact the criminal network of a terrorist state which are permitted to work legally even now. In addition, these are needed to guarantee if EU can protect its boarders and its residents from a terrorist state which uses all its assets to conduct terrorism. As it is stated by Claude Moniquet, co-founder and CEO of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, terrorism when it comes to the Iranian regime in foreign policy is not an accident but a method.

Europe seeks a new approach

Until today we have observed an appeasement approach towards Iran. Despite a massive human right violation, massive interference of the Iranian regime in the region, still EU countries do not want to mess up things with Iran. They try to support moderate voices and bring the regime to the negotiation table for several times. However, the terrorist case in Antwerp court can change the known policy for the past 40 years. Western governments, in order to protect their security and intelligence services must prevent from communicating or contacting the regime's notorious Intelligence Ministry or its Qods Force, an exchange that only facilitates the entry of the regime's agents into Europe.

Maybe the time has arrived for EU to start recognition and supporting the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its President-elect, Maryam Rajavi (pictured), whose 10 point plan guarantees a democratic shift in Iran and also many Islamic states in the region. The lady that the Iranian regime sought to assassinate her and some of the most prominent American and European officials in attendance in the Villepinte gathering leads the strongest opposition movement against the Iranian regime and seeks for democracy, freedom and secularism in Iran, the values that no one disagrees in Europe.

All opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not represent the opinions of EU Reporter.


Pakistan urged to 'take responsibility' for 'genocide'




A group of activists who demonstrated in Brussels want Pakistan to be held to account for the violent events of over five decades ago which, it is claimed, have so far gone unpunished, writes Martin Banks.

On 26 March 1971, Pakistani troops entered east Pakistan in order to put down a growing movement for Bangladeshi independence. A nine-month war of Independence followed, ending with Pakistan’s defeat and surrender on 16 December.

The level of casualties inflicted on the Bengali civilian population, and the issuing of a Fatwah by Pakistan encouraging their soldiers to treat Bengali women as “booty” of war, was such that as many as 3 million prople were killed, and up to 400,000 women, and young girls, suffered rape.

The events of 1971 are widely considered as genocide.

This week the Bengali community in Belgium came together with human rights activists to call on the European Union to recognise this fact.

Speaking at a gathering outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, President of European Association for the Defence of Minorities Dr. Manel Mselmi spoke to this website.

Dr Mselmi said: “The Bangledeshi Genocide reminds us that we are all human beings, and that we should respect each other’s cultural heritage, language and religion.

“Conflict based on linguistic and religious levels can never be solved by violence, war, persecution and torture, because at the end the oppressed people always seek to find freedom and dignity even though they lose their families and lands, they will always defend their values and identity.”

The activists called on the government of Pakistan to acknowledge and to take responsibility for its past actions. A letter, hand-delivered by Belgian human rights activist Andy Vermaut of the Alliance internationale pour la défense des droits et des libertés AIDL, addressed to European External Action Service High Representative Josep Borrell, called upon the European Commission “to utilize its considerable political leverage to pressure the government of Pakistan to acknowledge its responsibility for this genocidal atrocity”.

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Commission approves €10 million Belgian scheme to support organizers of festivals in the Flemish and Brussels Regions in context of the coronavirus outbreak

EU Reporter Correspondent



The European Commission has approved a €10 million Belgian scheme to support organizers of festivals that are planned to take place in the Flemish and Brussels Regions in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. Under this scheme, the support will take the form of direct grants. Beneficiaries will receive up to €500,000 to cover the costs incurred for the organization and production of the festivals as well as for the implementation of measures that the Belgian authorities had to impose to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The purpose of the scheme is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that the beneficiaries are facing due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the Belgian scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the support will not exceed €1.8m per company as provided by the Temporary Framework; and (ii) the aid can be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions of the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.62017 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Art Nouveau gem: Hotel Solvay open to the public

EU Reporter Correspondent



Excellent news for the architecture aficionados, iconic Hotel Solvay in Brussels is opening to the public! Alexandre Wittamer, the owner of the building, and Pascal Smet, Secretary of State for Urbanism and Heritage, have announced today that the Solvay House will be open to the public as from Saturday 23 January 2021. This listed and iconic Art Nouveau building was designed and built by Victor Horta between 1894 and 1903 and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

“I am pleased that the Solvay House will frequently open to the public. This gives hope to the cultural and tourism sector, both of them suffering a lot because of the health crisis. From now on, both Brussels residents and tourists will be able to visit this Art Nouveau masterpiece in complete safety, and enjoy a dose of culture with a trip back in time. Thanks to this opening, Brussels will be able to further enhance its rich offer of cultural, heritage and tourist attractions. I am convinced that this way the cultural and tourist revival of our Region will receive a boost as soon as the health measures allow it,” explains Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region.

Urbanism and Heritage State Secretary Pascal Smet was happy that this Art Nouveau gem will now be open to all the people of Brussels and everyone who visits Brussels. “We owe this jewel to Victor Horta and Armand Solvay, of course, but also to the Wittamer family, who saved the house from demolition in the 1950s and have maintained it well all this time. That is why the Brussels Region is today giving the family a special recognition. It was an absolute priority for me to open the Solvay House to the general public and I thank Alexandre Wittamer for having dared to take this step with us.”

Given the history of the building and the initiatives taken by the Wittamer family to preserve this heritage gem, the Brussels Region has awarded the Bronze Zinneke to the Wittamer couple.

The owner Alexandre Wittamer shared his view: “It is an important moment for us. My grandparents bought the building in 1957 and saved it from demolition. They wanted to pass on their love for Victor Horta and Belgian Art Nouveau to future generations. What we are doing now with is following on from what we started last century. It is wonderful that both young and old can discover and rediscover Art Nouveau. Brussels can be proud of its architects and artisans of the time.”

“I’m very happy to award Alexandre Wittamer with a Bronze Zinneke. This statue, a miniature cast of the statue of Tom Frantzen in the Karthuizerstraat, is a tribute to Brussels residents who are informal ambassadors of our city. Welcoming people in a cosmopolitan, open, multilingual and people-oriented city. Like that Zinneke, a bastard dog: strong, streetwise, enterprising, complex and curious about the world. I find these characteristics in Alexandre and his family. His grandparents became the owners of the listed Hotel Solvay of our world-famous Brussels resident Victor Horta. The family converted it into a haute couture house and helped preserve it for future generations,” said Image of Brussels Minister Sven Gatz.

The Brussels government wants to enhance the value of its heritage, in particular by making it more accessible, which explains the decision to open the Solvay House to the public. In line with this, the Brussels Region financed the creation of a website and online ticket sales for the Solvay House on the initiative of the Secretary of State for Urbanism and Heritage, Pascal Smet.

Anyone can now visit the house by reserving a ticket on the website for an affordable fee of 12 euro. To ensure that Horta lovers can easily plan their visit, a combination ticket with the Horta Museum and Hotel Hannon is being developed.

Art Nouveau and the Horta buildings provide a very attractive, specific tourism offer, an offer that until now was not structural, while the buildings were not always easily accessible. That is changing. After all, Brussels is the Art Nouveau capital and wants to keep that title.

Visit Brussels wants to keep using this asset both internationally and with the Belgian and Brussels visitors.

“The Solvay House is one of the absolute architectural Art Nouveau gems. Opening it up to the general public will enrich the museum offer and give Brussels an important tourism asset. We are convinced that this will improve the international reputation of our region,” says Patrick Bontinck for Visit Brusssels

“For Brussels culture and tourism, it is great news that the general public can now admire this Art Nouveau gem. The City of Brussels values this art movement throughout the year by supporting many recurring events. These include the BANAD Festival, Artonov and Arkadia asbl and its guides,” explains Delphine Houba, alderwoman for Culture and Tourism for the City of Brussels.

Now that the general public can visit it, the Solvay House reveals a hidden treasure. It was protected in its entirety in 1977 and is one of the best preserved Horta buildings, thanks to the attention and renovations by three generations of the Wittamer family, who bought it in 1957 to establish a haute couture house. The renovations happened under the supervision of the “Commission royale des Monuments et des Sites” (Brussels heritage instance) and the heritage services of Since 1989, the region has spent no less than … euro for the renovation of this building. has recently recognised the Solvay House as a museum institution, this way increasingly highlighting this heritage.

Source: Brussels Region

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