Crime, transport, pandemics, food: cross-border cooperation guarantees safety and crisis resilience

Whether it comes to combating international crime, health crises or food safety, the Benelux countries are cooperating intensively in all of these areas to improve the safety of their citizens.

The safety of citizens is a very diverse domain — one that is of central importance to the Benelux Union. As a result, we are active in many initiatives in this field, involving a huge range of actors.

Police cooperation at different levels

Greater safety thanks to the Benelux Police Treaty

The Benelux Police Treaty, which Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed in Brussels in 2018, helps guarantee public safety in our countries. This agreement — unique in the EU — covers:

  • the exchange of information and the sharing of databases
  • cross-border criminal prosecution
  • conducting mutual investigations
  • cross-border action and cooperation of special units in crisis situations
  • mutual support for safety at major events
  • joint training and exercises of police forces

The joint flight against drug-related crime

The fight against drug trafficking is another important tenet in the safety cooperation between the Benelux countries. Ongoing projects in this field include:

  • combating drug trafficking with North Rhine-Westphalia via postal and courier services
  • cooperation around drawing up crime analyses
  • the Hazeldonk partnership between the three Benelux countries and France, targeting organised drug distribution networks and the criminal organisations involved

Securing our roads through joint inspections

The Benelux countries are working together closely in the field of traffic safety. To name just one example, Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg police units carry out joint inspections of HGVs and buses, as stipulated in the Liège Convention signed in 2014. Besides uniform road traffic monitoring and cost savings, these joint inspections ensure fair competition between transport companies, adequate working conditions for drivers and increased road safety. Our three countries are leading the way in the European Union in this respect.

Joint approach to food safety

Food is another sensitive safety issue. For that exact reason, the Benelux countries decided to include food safety in their common agenda and in their multi-year plan (2021-2024). Closer cooperation in this area will enable us to better protect consumer health. Our cooperation is aimed at preventing crises as much as possible — or responding to them as best as we can when they do occur.

In particular, our common approach to food safety focuses on:

  • better coordination with regard to food safety standards
  • increased cooperation in monitoring the online food trade
  • animal welfare and animal transport
  • checks on animal feed

Building greater resilience to health crises together

The coronavirus pandemic has profoundly changed our lives at all levels. Since new major epidemics cannot be ruled out, our countries must sit down together to prepare for them as best as they can.

Better cross-border cooperation in combating pandemics and other health challenges can be guaranteed by:

  • an early warning system between countries, backed by coordinated contingency plans
  • solidarity between neighbouring regions, as was the case at the height of the coronavirus crisis. We managed to prevent overloading the emergency services and improve patient care at that time by transferring patients and through donations of equipment and medicines across our borders
  • international cooperation to procure equipment and build resilient strategic stocks

Building sustainable crisis resilience together

The recent coronavirus pandemic alarmingly demonstrated how unpredictable crises can be. Even so, it also showed the positive effects of the close cooperation between the three Benelux countries.

COVID-19 is just one of many possible scenarios. Cooperation between the Benelux crisis centres is essential given the many potential risks we face across all areas. It should come as no surprise then that crisis prevention and management have become cornerstones of the activities undertaken by the Benelux countries. Our main objective is to jointly develop resilience to crises and prevent human, social or environmental damage as much as possible.

A comprehensive inventory of potential risks and hazards

To be as prepared as possible in the face of potential crisis scenarios, the Benelux countries, together with the neighbouring German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, conducted a joint stock-taking exercise. The resulting inventory includes any chemical hazards along the border and possible energy supply disruptions, for example.

With the same goal in mind, the Blackout 22 project was carried out in May 2022, with the participation of members of the Pentalateral Energy Forum (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland). This regional exercise focused on testing the effectiveness of information-sharing and cooperation mechanisms to prevent an electricity crisis.

Adapting to the challenges posed by climate change

The tragic floods of 2021 and the extremely dry summers of recent years have shown that the Benelux is by no means immune to the impact of climate change. As a result, the Benelux Union is committed to intensive cross-border cooperation to:

  • guarantee water quality and supply
  • manage flood and drought crises
  • guarantee energy supply