I find myself compelled to write about Brussels today, a city I love, my home these last 40 years. I cannot find the words to express the range of emotions I have felt in the last days following the horrific events that took place this week. Here at the IAPP in Brussels and at HQ in New Hampshire, USA, we are deeply saddened by the events of Tuesday that engulfed Brussels. Belgians, Europeans, as well as citizens from beyond the borders of the EU have all been affected by yet another tragedy which impacts us all in countless ways. Our hearts and minds are with the victims at this time — those whose lives have been lost and those who have suffered unimaginable injuries, their families and friends.
On behalf of the IAPP staff and community, Trevor Hughes, president & CEO of the IAPP, and I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and injured, and to the people of Belgium.
Tuesday the 22nd of March started much like any other working day with folks taking children to school, rushing to their place of work. On the privacy side of things, there was a Brussels IAPP KnowledgeNet meeting on the Privacy Shield, as well as a GDPR & Diversity event planned at Microsoft’s European Innovation Center in the European quarter; international privacy pros were on the ground or traveling to be in Brussels, much like all the other busy professionals Brussels attracts. No one could have foreseen the chaos that was to unfold.
The days following the attacks have been relatively quiet, the EU quarter in particular, where we have our offices. Many businesses and offices closed on Wednesday with staff being told to work from home. Walking through the EU quarter at lunchtime on Wednesday was an eerie experience; the quiet after the storm. For the past three days, Belgium has been in official mourning. The residents of Brussels have expressed their grief with messages in chalk on the pedestrian zones in the city center. Vigil gatherings have come together in the city center in solidarity. King Philippe of Belgium in a televised address said that the country would respond to the threat "firmly, calmly and with dignity." Prime Minister Charles Michel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker joined a vigil in downtown Brussels on Tuesday evening. Michel had earlier said: "This is the most tragic attack that Belgium has ever seen. We are determined to do everything possible to safeguard our freedoms. Our freedom was struck in the heart this morning in Brussels, as it has been before in Paris, London and Madrid."
I would also add that we must not forget the suffering inflicted by ISIS in other parts of the world community, namely most recently in Baghdad, Ankara and Istanbul. ISIS knows no borders.
Slowly but surely, Brussels will rebound; it is a city that embraces the best of “Belgian" with cosmopolitan and international flavors. We will have the task ahead to ensure we stay an open and safe city. That said, the Belgians are a resourceful people, and with determination and resilience they will surmount this challenge and prevail.
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