Belgium’s justice and interior ministers unveiled a new plan to tackle drug crime in the port of Antwerp on Wednesday. The port of Antwerp has become a global hub for drug trafficking and the city is facing an increasing number of violent drug-related incidents, Belgian agency Belga reported exclusively for BTA.
Instead of creating new agencies to fight drug trafficking, Belgium chooses to further centralize its actions. A new port prosecutor will deal with all drug crimes, and the fight against drug trafficking will be led by the Antwerp prosecutor, even in the event of incidents in the neighboring province of East Flanders.
The Stroomplan XXL (“Flow Plan XXL”) unveiled on Wednesday is the successor to the first Stroomplan, which came into force in 2017. Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Kikenborn admitted that this first Stroomplan was not a great success. “But we remain true to the philosophy of the plan and do not want to create new agencies,” the minister stressed.
The direction of the fight against drug crimes will be in the hands of a port prosecutor.
“The port prosecutor will become the director in the fight against drug crimes at the strategic, tactical and operational levels,” Van Kikenborn said.
In future, the public prosecutor’s office in Antwerp will also have exclusive jurisdiction. Much of Antwerp’s port is in the province of East Flanders and would in theory fall under the jurisdiction of the Dendermonde prosecutor’s office, but “the direction is best taken by a prosecutor and Antwerp is in the best position to do so.” , Van Kikenborn said.
Antwerp’s federal judicial police and customs will take control of the entire port area.
“Centralizing operations at the Antwerp Public Prosecutor’s Office will make a noticeable difference to the federal judicial police. As a result, there will also be a permanent point of contact. Such a point of contact also improves communication and further development of specific expertise,” said the Minister of Justice.
“We do not want to make reforms for the sake of reforms. Above all, we want better services for citizens, less fragmentation and more cooperation. We did not wait for the recent drug incidents in Antwerp. Because of them, we are constantly on our guard, because it is unacceptable that the people of Antwerp should be subjected to this violence,” Van Kikenborn said.
Belgium’s Interior Minister Annalie Verlinden also stressed the need to continue the fight against drug crimes to stop the escalation. “However, there is no miracle solution. We also see that drug crime is increasing in other countries in Europe,” Verlinden said.
There are no easy solutions, according to Verlinden. Cooperation between all services is crucial for the Home Secretary, but the normalization of cocaine use in many circles also needs to be discussed.
“We need to convince our youth that drugs are not a sustainable answer to their pursuit of happiness. Education also plays a role in this.”
(News selected by the Belgian agency Belga for publication by BTA without interference with the text according to the cooperation agreement between the agencies)