New focus for Belgian defence policy

Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput has announced that Belgium is embarking on a strategic geographic shift in its defence policy. Belgium will in future concentrate defence efforts on helping the nations of North Africa. Mr Vandeput announced the monumental shift during a visit to Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco that he is making together with the Belgian Interior Minister and the Asylum Secretary.

The Belgians believe that south of North Africa lies a region where terrorist bands are numerous. Mr Vandeput thinks that as a result it's important that Belgium supports the nations of North Africa that can better serve as a buffer between the potentially explosive areas to the south.

Mr Vandeput notes that at present North Africa is stable, but that terrorist outfits are gaining greater foothold in the countries to the south. There the population is growing quickly. The area is at risk from climate change. All this forms an explosive cocktail that could lead people to head for Europe.

The Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput believes that the Sahel has a direct impact on our own internal security: "I think it is important that we concentrate on this area in coming years."

The aim is to assist in military training, to support the security forces in these countries and to show how matters can be dealt with.

Plans are for the mid-term. There are no immediate plans for actual military co-operation projects involving the deployment of Belgian soldiers in North Africa.

For the Belgian ministers this is their first trip to Algeria. They have no experience in the region and they are forging the very first contacts, but the trip has already yielded results. Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon has agreed with the Algerians that Belgian police will co-operate more directly with their Algerian counterparts. At present all co-operation passes via Interpol or the French police.