Reports are of a series of coordinated explosions at the departures hall of Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station, the heart of Brussel's European quarter. Maelbeek metro station is located within minutes’ walking distance of the European Commission headquarters, the UN regional office and the Council of the EU.
The Belgian capital is in lockdown with the prime minister Charles Michel warning the public to "avoid any movement". Nevertheless the European Commission’s daily press briefing took place as usual at 12 pm. Spokesperson Margiritis Schinas said security issues were being dealt with by Belgian authorities, adding that the College of Commissioners’ weekly meeting will take place as usual tomorrow. “We continue to work calmly and effectively. We feel safe and we do our work,” he said.
Food industry trade groups, many of which are headquartered in Brussels, have also reacted to the attacks, which come just days after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, a known surviving suspect of the Paris attacks in November last year in which 130 people were killed. A spokesperson for industry group FoodDrinkEurope told FoodNavigator: "Brussels is going through shocking and horrifying events. It is the home of our organisation and staff. FoodDrinkEurope's team is deeply saddened and our thoughts go to victims and their families."
Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen of Copa and Cogeca, the industry group for farmers and the European agri-business said: “We are deeply shocked by these unjust and inhumane actions. We will continue to fight for a democratic Europe and for a better future for European agriculture. We also offer our support to the police in their work to track down these unlawful terrorists and ensure Europe is a safer place.”
Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, said: “I am horrified by the despicable and cowardly attacks which took place in Brussels today. My thoughts go out first and foremost to the victims and the wounded, as well as their families and friends.
“These acts anger and sadden me at the same time. They are born from barbarism and hatred which do justice to nothing and no one. Brussels, like other cities hit by such terrorist attacks, will stand strong, and the European institutions hosted so generously by the Brussels institutions and its inhabitants will do likewise.”
World leaders have also condemned the attacks. British prime minister David Cameron pledged to do “everything we can to help” while the Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven called it an attack on democratic Europe.