Belgian-Dutch emergency talks over soft drugs
31 May 2006
BRUSSELS — Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has requested an urgent meeting with his Dutch counterpart, Jan Peter Balkenende, to discuss controversial plans to locate coffee shops along the border between the two countries.
Maastricht Mayor Gerd Leers has proposed relocating coffee shops — where cannabis is legally sold in the Netherlands — closer to Belgian border municipalities such as Lanaken.
The southern Dutch city has long complained about the problems caused by drug tourism. Maastricht hopes to keep foreign drug tourists out of the city centre by relocating its coffee shops beyond away from the built up area to a so-called cannabis boulevard.
But Belgian leader Verhofstadt has reacted with concern, requesting an urgent meeting with Balkenende. Verhofstadt described Maastricht’s decision as “one-sided”.
The emergency meeting could be held as early as Thursday during the planned Benelux summit in Luxembourg, Belgian daily newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ reported on Wednesday.
According to Maastricht’s plans, two coffee shops are to be located about 400m from the border and the Belgian town of Smeermaas in the municipality of Lanaken.
Maastricht mayor Leers said locating coffee shops in empty industrial zones will enable cameras and fences to be installed, allowing authorities to crackdown on the illegal drugs circuit. The aim is also to reduce traffic problems around city centre coffee shops.
However, Lanaken Mayor Alex Vangronsveld is highly critical of the plan and said the city will install cameras on the border to keep tabs on dealers and car number plates. The city is also planning to appeal against Maastricht’s plans.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news