Yesterday terrorists hit at the heart of Europe, our city, Brussels. Innocent people were killed and injured. Among those treated for their injuries are three of our colleagues from the Commission. Our thoughts are with the victims of these attacks and their friends, their families. We come out of an expression of solidarity with Belgium and with Europe, a minute of silence where Their Majesties the King and the Queen of the Belgians, Prime Minister Michel and Prime Minister Valls joined. And it was very heartening to see them and our staff coming together; it was very heartening to see this expression of solidarity across Europe yesterday and today. And I am confident it will continue.
As you are aware, the European Commission yesterday, in coordination with the other EU Institutions, increased the security level. As a consequence, access to our buildings is being more tightly controlled.
We remain vigilant, these enhanced security measures remain in place, but work continues. Our staff has been given an option to work from home. About one third of our people are taking this option. Since November, we have significantly improved our capacities for people to telework. It is for the efficiency of the Commission, but it is also – in a moment like this – very helpful so we can do our jobs. We are in constant contact with other institutions and with the Belgian authorities to evaluate the situation.
I want to express my thanks to the Belgian authorities, to the security forces and the emergency services that have reacted so quickly yesterday in providing critical support.
These are testing times. These are times for us to stand together. These are times for compassion. These are times to stand against hatred, extremism, those who have disrupted the lives of so many. The Commission staff are ready to contribute to the fight in Europe against what has become so frequently an enormous stress for our people.
We have welcomed the Prime Minister of France, Mr Valls, in the Commission. We had our regular, weekly meeting and Dimitris [Avramopoulos] will report more on the discussions we have had today. No doubt – they have focused on the security situation and the terrorist threats.
We have to recognise there is a lot of work for us Europeans to do. But it does not mean that life will stop – we will live, we will love, we will work, we will play. And we will continue to be open and tolerant, understanding that religious extremists do not speak for an entire religion. And understanding also that many of those who seek refuge in Europe are running from the same extremists that have hurt us here in Brussels yesterday.
And with this, I would pass the floor to Dimitris [Avramopoulos] to brief you on the details of the discussion we have had on the security situation and the approach we are taking.
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And if I may say something that was not in your question: [When I was looking around the audience: how many Belgians here?]
What was so very impressive to me yesterday was how the goodness of our people, all of them - Belgians and other Europeans and from other nationalities - how this goodness has shined through. We have had our own staff coming up with offering their homes for people to stay, if they are stuck with no possibility to leave the city, offering their cars to drive people around, being part of a horrible scene being slightly injured but not leaving so they can help those that are more impacted. And I just want us to carry, not only the horrible image of what has been done, but this image of who we are as Europeans: the goodness we carry with us.