U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998
United States Department of State
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Europe and Central Asia
Belgium is not a major narcotics or precursor chemical producing
country. Belgium is a transshipment country for illicit drugs on their way
to destinations in Western Europe. Belgian law enforcement agencies have
observed a continued increase in drug trafficking through Belgium from Asia
and the Middle East via the Former Soviet Republics. Belgium is a party to
the 1988 UN Drug Convention and takes seriously its obligations under that
II. Status of Country
Due to its large port facilities, transportation infrastructure, and
central location in Western Europe, Belgium is a transit country for
illicit drugs bound for other markets in Europe. Belgium is not a
significant producer of illicit drugs, nor is it a significant manufacturer
of precursor chemicals. Belgian efforts to detect and block drug-related
money laundering have expanded and intensified.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997
Policy Initiatives. In June 1997, a Parliamentary Commission
published its report on Belgian drug policy. Parliament adopted the
recommendations of the report which included strengthening existing money
laundering laws, strengthening asset seizure and confiscation legislation,
increasing international police and judicial cooperation, creation of
methadone treatment programs, and improvement of drug education
programs. The report also recommended assigning the lowest prosecution
priority to simple possession of cannabis.
The Belgian Ministry of Justice maintains drug liaison offices in ten
foreign cities with territorial competence for thirty-one countries. The
drug liaison offices in Bogota, The Hague, Istanbul, Madrid, Moscow,
Paris, Rome, Vienna, Washington, and Wiesbaden are staffed by either
Judicial Police or Gendarmerie (national police) officers. The Ministry
intends to open offices in Warsaw, London, Ottawa and Pakistan as soon as
budgetary resources permit. The Government of Belgium expected full EUROPOL
ratification before the end of 1997.
Accomplishments. In 1997, as part of judicial reform measures, a
central prosecutor was appointed to oversee drug prosecutions
Belgium entered into bilateral police cooperation agreements with
Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. These agreements are
comprehensive in nature. They include the framework/guidelines for
cooperation on narcotics matters. Belgium is in the process of concluding
two such additional agreements with the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
In May 1997, Parliament passed legislation on international judicial
cooperation regarding seizure and confiscation of drug assets. The law
authorizes the Belgian judiciary to execute foreign judgments for seizure
and confiscation of assets derived from drug trafficking or money
laundering. This law is designed to implement provisions of the 1988 UN
Parliament is currently debating organized crime legislation that
endorses a broader definition of money laundering to cover other
professions and activities, including notaries, financial advisors,
accountants, real estate agents, and casinos.
Law Enforcement Efforts. Belgium fully met the objectives of the
1988 UN Drug Convention. Belgian law enforcement authorities pro-actively
and vigorously investigate individuals and organizations involved in
illegal narcotics trafficking into and through Belgium.
Belgian authorities use modern techniques which are generally
effective. Interdiction efforts by Belgian customs authorities at Antwerp
and Zeebrugge are exemplary. During the first three quarters of 1997,
Belgian authorities in Antwerp seized more than 1,973 kilograms of cocaine,
10.4 kilograms of heroin, and more than 25,532 kilograms of cannabis. They
arrested more than 53 persons in connection with these seizures.
Corruption. Corruption is not judged to be a problem within the
narcotics units of the law enforcement agencies. Legal measures exist to
combat and punish corruption.
Agreements and Treaties. The Government of Belgium is currently
negotiating police cooperation agreements with Morocco and Russia. It
expects these agreements to be signed in Spring 1998. Belgium has signed
and ratified the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Belgium is a party to the 1961 UN
Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol. The USG has concluded a Customs
Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Belgium.
Belgium is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and
currently chairs the organization's ninth session (1997-98). Belgium has
implemented the EU Directive on Money Laundering and participates in the
Contact Committee established by the Directive.
Belgian authorities cooperate bilaterally on money laundering issues
with France (TRACFIN), The Netherlands (MOT), the United States (FinCEN),
Italy (Guardia di Finanza), Norway (OKOKRIM) and the UK (NCIS).
The United States and Belgium have long had an Extradition
Treaty. Instruments of ratification were exchanged on an updated
Extradition Treaty in Washington in July 1997. The Supplementary Treaty on
Extradition, signed in 1987, was ratified by the US Congress in November
1996. Belgium has not yet ratified this Supplementary Treaty. A US/Belgium
Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), signed in 1988, was approved by the
Belgian Senate in July 1997 and is scheduled to be reviewed by the Belgian
Chamber of Deputies in December 1997.
Belgium is a member of several international anti-drug organizations,
including the Heads of European Narcotics Law Enforcement Agencies
(HONLEA), the European Committee to Combat Drugs (CELAD), the Pompidou
Group and the Dublin Group. Belgium is a major donor to the United Nations
Drug Control Program (UNDCP). Most Belgian aid is channeled through the
UNDCP to crop substitution and alternative development programs in
Cultivation/Production. There is no significant cultivation or
production of illicit drugs in Belgium.
Drug Flow/Transit. Belgium remains an important transit point for
drug traffickers because of its port facilities (Antwerp is Europe's second
busiest port), airports, excellent road connections to neighboring
countries, and central geographic location. Most illicit drugs pass through
Belgium via the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge; across the border from the
Netherlands; or to a lesser degree through Brussels' Zaventem
airport. Smuggling routes change constantly, but Belgian authorities
believe an increasing number of drug shipments arrive from Asia and the
Middle East through Eastern Europe and the NIS.
Demand Reduction. Belgium has an active anti-drug educational
program which targets the country's youth. Such programs are now
administered by the Regional Governments (Flanders, Wallonia, and
IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs
Bilateral Cooperation. Law enforcement cooperation between the
United States and Belgium is excellent and expanding. DEA and FBI enjoy
close and effective cooperation with the Judicial Police and the
Gendarmerie. (Note: Police restructuring has given narcotics enforcement
responsibility primarily to the Gendarmerie. The Judicial Police continue
to work drug-related organized crime cases.) US law enforcement agencies
represented in Brussels enjoy excellent working relationships with the
Belgian National Magistrates and prosecutor's offices.
Belgium participates in an informal organization known as the Egmont
Group of which Belgium is a co-founder. Belgium chairs the Egmont Legal
Working Group which drafted a model Memorandum of Understanding on
International Cooperation on Money Laundering issues.
The Road Ahead. The United States looks forward to continued
close cooperation with Belgium in combatting illicit drug trafficking and
drug-related crime, and to continued Belgian participation in multilateral
counternarcotics fora such as the Dublin Group and the UNDCP.