Deal reached to boost joint drugs fight
21 February 2006
BRUSSELS — Belgium and the Netherlands agreed on Monday to carry out joint investigations into drug smuggling from South America and Eastern Europe.
The agreement was signed by Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael, Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx and Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner.
The ministers stressed both countries already work closely, but existing operations could be better co-ordinated and improved in efficiency.
Both nations want to tackle the root of the drug smuggling problem and will send Dutch and Belgian police to Colombia, Flemish broadcaster VRT reported.
Dewael said Belgium regularly deploys liaison officers in Colombia, which he described as an important land in terms of drugs criminality. “We could combine forces and do that from Benelux,” he said.
Meanwhile, an agreement was also reached on drawing up a security plan to deal with cross-border drugs crimes. Germany has been invited to participate in continued talks, which will be held before the summer months.
Besides police and justice officials, city mayors and council authorities will also engage in the talks, which will be followed by high-level discussions after the summer.
Belgium has faced a worsening cannabis problem in recent months as the Dutch government has moved to crack down on illegal cultivation.
As a result of the crackdown, cannabis plantations have been relocated across the border in Belgium to Limburg and the Kempen region in the Antwerp province.
There was also sharp criticism heard in Belgium recently in response to comments from Maastricht Mayor Gerd Leers, who proposed relocating coffee shops away from the Dutch city’s central district.
He suggested setting up a “cannabis boulevard” along the Belgian border to service drug tourists. “[But] the trouble would then be pushed further in our direction,” Dewael said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news + Dutch news