Auteur: Andrew Rettman
The European Commission and EU Council have suspended most meetings after deadly bomb blasts in Brussels on Tuesday (22 March) morning, but some EU staff remain defiant.
“All meetings on premises and outside cancelled, access only for staff with badges,” human resources commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said on Twitter shortly after news of a blast at the Maelbeek metro station near the commission's headquarters.
The head of the commission’s press service, Margaritis Schinas, said the “midday press-briefing will take place today as every day”.
“Accredited journalists with badge can access,” he said, adding: “We live free, we stay safe.”
The press service of the EU Council, across the road from the commission, said: “All meetings cancelled this morning. Priority to ensure safety of staff and visitors.”
The Council chief, Donald Tusk, said: “The European institutions are hosted in Brussels thanks to the generosity of Belgium's government and its people. The European Union returns this solidarity now and will fulfill its role to help Brussels, Belgium and Europe as a whole counter the terror threat which we are all facing.”
British centre-left MEP Richard Howitt said the European Parliament had also urged staff to stay in place, tweeting: “The European Parliament is in lockdown after bombs which are now said to be in four metro stations. We are inside but safe.”
Brussels-based European Central Bank communications officer Peter Ehrlich tweeted that parliament would continue working, however.
He quoted members of the economic affairs committee and EU banking supervision agency chair Daniele Nouy as saying “life and work have to go on despite terror”.
Other EU officials also sent out messages on social media after mobile phone networks became saturated.
The EU’s ambassador to the US, David O'Sullivan, wrote from Washington: “Awful news this morning from Brussels, my adopted city. Thoughts go out to all those involved, and their families.”
Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said she was aboard a plane that was about to land at Brussels airport when the explosions forced the pilot to reroute.
“Thoughts go to all affected by terrible acts of terror. Unacceptable attack on our free society,” she said.
The international schools which cater for EU officials’ children were in any case closed for the Easter break.
But Belgian authorities have warned everybody to stay home for the time being.
"Brussels is essentially in lockdown," Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said.
EU leaders from Athens to Vilnius sent condolences to Belgium.
But the eurosceptic British party Ukip put out a press release blaming the events on Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel area as part of its campaign in the British EU referendum.
Social media users were quick to pour scorn on the statement, accusing the party of bad taste and bad timing.
The office of Russian president Vladimir Putin said he “has expressed his condolences on the civilian deaths in a series of explosions in Brussels.”
But the Russian foreign ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the attacks are due to "double standards" in Western foreign policy.