Oostend in summer

Ostend is famous for its sea-side esplanade, including the Royal Galleries of Oostend, pier, and fine-sand broad beaches.  Ostend is visited by many day-trippers from all over Belgium heading to the beaches, especially during July and August. It is also appreciated by sailors, finding here a charming place to drop anchor, visiting numerous bistro and restaurants.

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The harbor is usually crowded in summer month, creating a picturesque setting next to the railway station.

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In hot day, the broad beaches are crowded, and experienced visitors come early in the morning hours to get the best places.

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Further from the town, more space with equally fine sand on broad beach.

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Oostend nowadays is truly international hosting visitors from all continents and cultures.

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Oostend: Japanese garden

The garden reflects in the ‘Kaiyusschiki’ style and includes water features, bamboo, statues and a rock garden. Wander the winding paths or simply relax and enjoy the peace and quiet with your own personal moment of zen.

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Commissioned by Royal family of Belgium, it is situated in the city center, close to the beach, and villa of legendary Queen Astride.

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King Philippe, the prince then, inaugurated the garden in 2001 in presence of the architect Takeshi Savano, who created the masterpiece on territory of 2500 square meters, Shin-Kai-Thei – a little island of Japan in Belgium.

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Carps, typical inhabitants of a pond in an Asian garden, are supposed to bring luck to contemplating waters visitors.

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Address:
Koningin Astridlaan
Oostend 8400
Belgium
+32 59 80 55 00

#Liège: ‘prisoners of believe’

Anna van Densky, OPINION It was in exceptionally gloomy day in Belgium in spite of the sunshine: two police agents stabbed and shot dead – Soraya and Lucile;  one passerby civilian – Cyril just 22 years old shot dead, and a number of wounded police agents – all  in the city of Liège – a ‘capital of Wallonia’, otherwise famed by its rich cultural history.

Today outside Belgium, Liège is well-known for its University, attracting students from all over the world, but for those who are fans of crime novels, Liège is celebrated for being a birthplace and a favorite setting for the stories of George Simenon, the third most popular writer in French language, a creator of the legendary character commissaire Maigret, the ideal detective, who mastered psychology.

The city has drastically changed since those days Simenon had been describing. There are no more squalid little streets, without lanterns, and shabby houses – a usual background for Simenon crime scenes, but in the modern surroundings  the profession of a detective is as much in demand as in  those days.

Contemplating on Liège shooting we expect many questions to be answered: why a certain Benjamin Hermans 36 years old, native of Rochefort, a small town next to Liège, decides to spend his short “family” leave from a prison for killing police agents, his compatriots, in name of the Great God of Muhammadans – Allah Akbar?..What makes him to socialize with Islamists in prison? Why he decides to convert to Islam? And why above it all, the administration of the prison, knowing him as an extremely violent and marginal character, accepts the risks to release him for “socializing” in town?..

There are no simple answer, but they needed to be found honoring the memory of the victims – Soraya, Lucile Garcia and Cyril. We also need the conclusions to avoid new losses in future. However, today everything is shrouded in gloom.

Are we all just “hopeless prisoners of what we chose to believe”?..

 

 

#FutureofEurope: MEPs fail to show up

Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel received warm welcome from European Parliament’s President Antonio Tajani,  who stressed the importance of these debates on #FutureofEurope with European leaders, which ‘enable us to look ahead at what we can do together: member states, Commission and European Parliament”. However we did not receive any confirmation for the ‘importance of the debate’ from the behalf of the overwhelming  majority of MEPs, who simply failed to show up.

A few of Parliament’s group leaders praised Michel’s commitment to a strong Europe that delivers  added value to citizens, referring to the city of Brussels not only as the capital of Belgium, but also as the heart of the Europe. However, their compliments did not sound very convincing in a big void space.

One can question if the idea to give the PM speech of such a paramount significance in Brussels during mini-plenary was such a good idea, and wouldn’t it be better to follow the established format of presenting Belgium in Strasbourg? But this thought by no means diminishes criticism towards MEPs who regard their participation in mini-plenary as ‘benevolat‘. It is definitely not.

The nonchalant attitude is especially detrimental in view of upcoming European elections. In case the citizens will adopt the symmetrical attitude towards MEPs and ignore polling stations, the European Parliament would simply suffer lack of legitimacy, dramatically affecting the #FutureofEuope, at least its #EU dimension.

Will Puigdemont follow fate of Companys?

After the rigorous action of German police, stopping Catalan independence leader upon the EU arrest warrant, issued by Madrid, the major question arises: will  German judges condemn Puigdemont to follow the fate of President Companys (1882-1940), who was detained by Gestapo in France and handed to Spain?

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President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont next to Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy

The President of Catalonia from 1934 and during the Spanish Civil War , Companys was detained in France, where he lived in exile,  and handed over by the Nazi secret police Gestapo in a formal procedure to Spanish state, where under the dictatorship of Gen.Franco the President Lluís Companys i Jover was tortured in prison, and executed by firing squad in 1940.

Carles Puigdemont at Lluis Companys i Jover tomb
Carles Puigdemont at Lluís Companys i Jover tomb

The lawyer of former President of self-proclaimed Catalan Republic said that highway police had stopped Puigdemont on Sunday (25.03.2018) after he crossed the border from Denmark to Germany. He also confirmed that Puigdemont had been on his way back to Belgium after his trip to Finnish Parliament. A spokesperson for Puigdemont made the following statement:

“1. President Carles Puigdemont was retained in Germany when he was crossing the border from Denmark, on his way to Belgium from Finland. 2. The treatment has been correct in every moment. At the moment he is in a police station and his legal defense is already activated. 3. The president was going to Belgium to put himself, as always, at the disposal of the Belgian justice.”

Madrid assess the independence movement in Catalonia as a ‘plot’ against Spain’s legal and constitutional order. The charges carry up to 30  years in jail. Catalan politicians are accused of rebellion, contradicting the principle of self-determination of people enshrined in UN Charter.

 

Ab absurdo: Puigdemont as asylum-seeker

Anna van Densky, OPINION The circulating in mainstream media hypothesis of President of Catalan Republic Carles Puigdemont escapade to Brussels in search of political asylum can’t be regarded otherwise as absurd.

First, if politicians have to flee Spain because of dissent, it will mean that Kingdom of Spain is not a democracy. (Political dissident from Span? Hmmm… It reminds me of something…)

Second, it would mean that organising plebiscite is a criminal activity, which will provoke a confrontation with the United Nations, being in contradiction with the most sacred part of international law – the human rights.

Third, the attack on human rights will torpedo the work of entire EU External Actions Service, discrediting their efforts to improve human rights situation outside the bloc.

Forth, it will reinforce the public sympathy for Catalans, and raise criticism against the European institutions for not respecting their own engagements, and principles. So many citizens will ignore the next elections to the European Parliament, which will be a blow to the EU credibility. Imagine if only 20% of Europeans come to drop ballots for EU?..

So there are some reasons for which Carles Puigdemont will be never charged for organising a plebiscite, and never arrested.

Unfortunately, the crisis government of prime minister Mariano Rajoy created will continue, however the EU can not afford to let it rub off its own image and activities, subsequently the EU will not allow Puigdemont to become Europe’s Nelson Mandela. The Brussels has many faults, but giving in to Madrid in human rights abuse means to agree to look like a theatre of absurd – a suicidal move for an already shaken by Brexit project. Ab absurdo!

 

Mogherini ignores Sophia mission failure

The EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini ignores the obvious Sophia operation failure in Mediterranean, in spite of the clear will of Belgium to cancel the participation of their vessel in sea rescue mission. Mogherini also pretends to be unaware of the assessment of the House of Lords, openly stating the EU mission has failed to prevent massive migrant smuggling to Europe.

Ahead of the Council meeting the Foreign minister of Belgium Theo Francken clearly stated during a national TV programme that his country has the intention to end Louise-Marie frigate participation in the Mediterranean operation, because of the double message it sends inspiring more migrants to undertake the risky journey in a hope to be saved and transported to European coasts, thus not only saving lives but also  increasing flows of the ‘illegal migrants” eager to gamble.

The UK House of Lords report on Sophia mission is even more eloquent in its assessment, entitled: “Failed Mission”. The major recommendation is to disrupt the business model of smuggling networks through required ‘concerted action’ at Libya’s southern land border.

The Council agenda foresees discussion on migration, focusing on the situation on the Central Mediterranean route. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and William Lacy Swing, Director-General of the International Organisation Migration will both take part in the discussion.
Grandi is also known for his criticism of the ‘xenophobic climate’ in Europe vis-à-vis mass migration from Africa and Middle East.