New Benelux police treaty to enter into force on 1 October
Police officers from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg can now collaborate more conveniently and effectively across their respective borders. Today, the competent ministers and police chiefs representing the three countries signed the executive agreements necessary for the new Benelux treaty on police collaboration to enter into force on 1 October 2023. It is an important milestone in increasing the safety and sense of security of citizens and in being able to act quickly and effectively within one another’s territories.
In 2004, the police forces of the three Benelux countries had already concluded an agreement, known as the Senningen treaty, under which they could collaborate. This required revision, expansion and adaptation to current security challenges. A new police treaty was signed in 2018.
This new Benelux police treaty represents two major innovative steps. It creates new possibilities for cross-border action and improves information exchanges between police forces.
Firstly, national borders no longer apply during pursuits and restrictions disappear. Previously, police were permitted to pursue across borders only under certain circumstances, which meant that many pursuits had to be stopped at the border. A pursuit that now legally begins in one country may simply continue, increasing its efficiency. The treaty is also innovative and will allow police officers to perform specified investigative acts in the neighbouring country (such as interviewing witnesses or victims, for example).
Secondly, in specific cases, police departments will have direct access to one another’s databases and will be able to exchange data such as, for example, mixed patrols in the border region. Police investigations, of course, revolve around gathering and sharing information quickly to solve cases. Targeted sharing of certain information between police but also with (local) authorities allows faster intervention in the field.
Another new aspect is that special police services (such as anti-terrorist units) can be deployed across borders in acute crisis situations. In addition, assistance at major events (such as EU or NATO summits) remains possible.
With this intensive cross-border police cooperation, based on trust, the countries are leading the way in the European Union.
Minister of Justice, Vincent Van Quickenborne (BE): “I am pleased that the new police cooperation agreement with the Netherlands and Luxembourg can be implemented as of next week. Exchanging police information and consulting one another’s databases is a crucial step that will significantly strengthen our joint efforts against organized crime. In addition, our police officers will be able to conduct cross-border pursuits and surveillance more easily. With this, we are once again proving ourselves as frontrunners within the European Union.”
Minister of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden (BE): “Criminals aren’t slowed by national borders and legislation in their operations. As a government, we must therefore create opportunities for our police to work across borders and collaborate as optimally as possible with our neighbouring countries. This serves to ensure that we can have a greater impact on criminal organizations and their activities and also maintain public order. Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were already frontrunners in these efforts. The Benelux Police Treaty that was concluded in 2004 is being expanded and adapted today to tackle the many and new challenges that we must be able to respond to vigorously. This makes us as Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg an example for other European countries. It is an important and valuable practice that I, as Minister of the Interior, will share during the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2024. It is with confidence and appreciation to the chiefs of police of the three countries and their staff that I see this renewed Benelux treaty enter into force from 1 October.”
Minister of Justice and Security, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius (NL): “Organized crime shows no distinction between the ports of Rotterdam, Vlissingen and Antwerp. International drug crime crosses all our borders and, thanks to the good infrastructure, continues on to our neighbouring countries. Consequently, if the Federal Police then comes across a Dutch vehicle that has been reported, they should of course be able to pursue and force that vehicle to stop, even if they have crossed the border during the pursuit. It sounds logical and therefore may seem simple. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as our officers must operate carefully within the limits of the law. Now that that has been settled, a major step is being taken in cross-border collaboration between the police forces of the three countries.”
Minister of Homeland Security, Henri Kox (LU): “Our Benelux Union is a frontrunner, both in the way we collaborate and in the progress we have made in our collaboration. Cross-border organized crime and terrorism remain major threats that we need to guard and effectively act against, and I welcome the entry into force of the Treaty as a concrete and decisive step in this direction.”
Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor (BE): ” The treaty equally improves the framework regarding the transfer of foreigners in the Benelux. Just think of someone being released from prison in Belgium and having to be brought to the Luxembourg or Dutch border. Or a third-country national who needs to be brought outside the Benelux countries but passes through Belgium from the Netherlands. All kinds of practical arrangements are needed to keep this on the right track and respect the legislation within which it happens. What guidance is needed? Will coercive measures be used or not? Well-defined agreements make it clear to the services about how to work together.”
Benelux Secretary General Frans Weekers: “The Benelux Police Treaty removes border barriers and makes police collaboration between our countries more effective and straightforward and more efficient. It creates a single common Benelux territory in certain areas. This is the best, most far-reaching police treaty in Europe. The Benelux partners are working on true European integration, our countries are now bundling forces and standing shoulder to shoulder rather than back to back.”