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World

Belgian Transport Minister Resigns Over Airport Security Debate

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now more developments following last month's terrorist attacks on the Brussels Airport and subway. Belgium's transportation minister has resigned. She was accused of knowing about security weaknesses at the airport and failing to do anything about it. Teri Schultz has this report from Brussels.

TERI SCHULTZ, BYLINE: Transport Minister Jacqueline Galant is accused of ignoring warnings from her staff and an audit by the EU last year that cited serious deficiencies in Brussels Airport security and deemed it not compliant with EU standards. At first, Galant told Prime Minister Charles Michel she'd never received the review. So that's what he told Parliament Thursday. But after opposition politicians leaked a copy of the report, Galant tendered her resignation and Michel accepted it. The angry prime minister said he wouldn't accept that she had misled him about the security assessment.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CHARLES MICHEL: (Foreign language spoken).

SCHULTZ: "It is unacceptable," Michel said, "that he was not informed."

Back in 2014, a senior staffer in Galant's own administration warned her there were what he called well-known jihadis working at the airport. That official quit a day before Galant. She criticized him for staging what she called a political resignation and creating an impossible work environment.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JACQUELINE GALANT: (Foreign language spoken).

SCHULTZ: Galant said she was shocked by the way things had unfolded. Kristof Calvo, a member of the Green Party that helped bring the confidential EU audit to light, says the political drama is obscuring more important issues.

KRISTOF CALVO: The first problem is the lack of ambition and action about the security of the airport.

SCHULTZ: Calvo says the second problem is having a cabinet minister lying to the prime minister and lawmakers. A parliamentary commission investigating the terror attacks will now discuss the question of airport security at the top of its agenda when it meets Monday morning. For NPR News, I'm Teri Schultz in Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.