The issue of drug-related violence is not new, but this summer it has been particularly bad in Antwerp. House facades have been damaged by explosions and windows have pierced with bullets.
The Judicial Authorities are currently investigating more than 30 cases of drug-related violence that have been committed since the beginning of June. This is more than the number of such cases investigated in the whole of 2021.
Not long after taking office the Mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever announced “a war on drug’. In the past he also back the “Stroomplan”, an initiative to try an tackle drug crime issues. Nevertheless, his city remains an international cocaine trafficking hub.
“A different approach is needed”
Speaking on Monday evening Mr De Wever told Terzake that a different approach is now required. "The drug trade is organised internationally. It’s members are no longer just in Belgium, but also in other countries and sometimes even in prison. It is from there they order these kinds of attacks, and they are then carried out by young people for a few 100 euros. We often arrest them, this summer we have already arrested 18 such people, but it leads us nowhere. These are people insignificant to the organisations."
Mr De Wever believes that a firm approach is needed at a federal level. “The National Security Council should meet, just like it did with the terror crisis in 2016. The Prime Minister should gather his ministers of the interior, justice and finance (responible for the Cutoms Service) and say 'we need a comprehensive plan to reduce organised crime'.”
The Mayor of Antwerp says that he sees no "sense of urgency" on the part of the Federal Government. "That frustrates me enormously. I notice good will on the part of individual ministers, but this isn’t enough. Only when there is a case of spectacular violence, do all minister say in chorus that they will take addition measures. There is no vision and there is no plan”.
Convening the National Security Council “Not a solution"
Meanwhile, the Federal Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden (Flemish Christian democrat) says that she doesn’t believe that convening the National Security Council is a solution. "A consultative meeting was held with the mayors of Rotterdam and Antwerp in March. Concrete action was agreed then”.
“In the meantime, we have also reinforced the Federal Judicial Police and we will continue along this road. The agreements now need to be translated into action on the ground. We don’t need to create new consultative bodies”, Ms Verlinden said in a written response.
Ms Verlinden also said that she would be meeting with Mayors from the major cities, including Antwerp, during the course of this week.