International approach to fight cross-border crime in Limburg

Dutch, Belgian and German investigating teams are stepping up their collaboration in the Rhine-Meuse Euroregion and the Rhine-Meuse-North Euroregion to fight cross-border crime. The Dutch Minister of Security and Justice, Mr Opstelten, the Belgian Minister of Justice, Ms Turtelboom, and the Minister of Justice of North Rhine-Westphalia, Mr Kutschaty, reached agreement on this on Monday in Maastricht.

In this cross-border region, the police and judiciary of the three countries are already working together, if only through the Bureau for Euroregional Cooperation (Bureau voor Euregionale Samenwerking or BES) which was set up in Maastricht on the initiative of the Netherlands. Opstelten, Turtelboom and Kutschaty have now agreed to optimize this cooperation.

With the assistance of the BES, it will be possible to optimize harmonization of investigations on-site, to share information and experiences and to allow those involved to tackle cross-border crime more effectively. Dutch, Belgian and German police and judiciary are working closely together in cross-border areas. The common priorities defined for the approach are: travelling gangs, home burglaries, drugs crimes, trafficking in human beings, car-jacking and criminal biker gangs.

The ministers have also agreed to create an online system for handling requests for mutual legal assistance in criminal cases in the cross-border region for the three countries involved; this is in line with projects that are already running within the EU. This could save a lot of time and make their work more efficient. Every year, thousands of requests for mutual legal assistance in criminal cases are submitted in the cross-border region. Even so – despite this computer era – those requests are made using ordinary mail, requiring extensive registration by both the sending and the receiving institution. As a pre-requisite, it must be possible to send these documents by e-mail via secure (internet) lines.

According to the ministers, the region could be the ideal laboratory for further cross-border cooperation, the reason being the existing network with close contacts in the Euroregion. Based on the experience in Limburg, the relevant parties can decide on rolling out the method in all regions where the Netherlands and Belgium and Germany border.