Press statement by President von der Leyen with Belgian Prime Minister De Croo and Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson following the memorial for the victims of the Brussels attack of 16 October 2023

Thank you very much, Alexander,

It was important for me to be here today after this terror attack that hit the capital of Europe. And I thank Prime Minister De Croo and Prime Minister Kristersson for having invited me. My condolences go to the families and friends of the victims of a targeted and heinous terror attack.

Ulf, you spoke about hate. This attack was motivated by hate. There is no place and zero tolerance for hate in Europe. We see these days that hate speech is spreading extremely fast through social media, like wildfire. Hate speech has real-life consequences, but we have now the tools to fight it online. Thanks to our DSA – the Digital Services Act – we are able to oblige the platforms to take hate speech and terrorist content down.

We know that hate speech leads to terror acts, putting in danger the security of our citizens, independent of their faith, nationality or opinions. One specific dimension relates to individuals who are considered a security threat and have received a return order. Currently, they can be asked to leave voluntarily. We must urgently change this.

And this is the reason why we, the European Commission, have therefore proposed that, if a person is considered to be a national security threat, Member States must have the power to force the person to leave. This is in our Pact on Migration and Asylum among others. And this is another reason to get it over the finish line now. And I am very confident, knowing that the next Presidency will be the Belgian Presidency, so we will bring this Pact on Migration and Asylum over the finish line.

On returns: We must work more as Team Europe. We have more leverage together, the Member States and the European Commission. We will intensify our efforts dealing with countries of origin and transit. We, as Europeans, will have to define who comes to the European Union and under what circumstances. All this is based on a comprehensive partnership with countries of origin and transit, but important is to work together as Team Europe.