Comines-Warneton, Belgium, 29 April 2014 – Efus participated in the colloquium on “Security without borders” organised by the governors of the provinces of Hainaut and Western Flanders on 29 April 2014 in Comines-Warneton (Belgium). More than 200 people attended this day-long event, during which some 25 speakers intervened. The day concluded with a “drink to friendship between France and Belgium”. Efus was partner in this event.
In a joint letter addressed to conference-goers, the governors write that, “This is an important challenge for both countries, which are neighbours and share common political, economic, social and cultural history, shaped by their creators, folklore, municipal liberties, but also by their ordeals, mining disasters and wars, including the First World War which left scars in all families on both sides of the border.” Indeed, for France, the trans-border cooperation with Belgium is among the richest, oldest and most dynamic it has with its neighbours. It contributes to the building of a concrete Europe that is visible and close to citizens.
Going beyond police and customs cooperation between France and Belgium
The two governors outlined the challenges posed to stakeholders on both sides of the border: “The right to security for all must be guaranteed in a Europe that aims at being a space for exchange, tolerance and democracy.”
The Belgian Minister of the Interior, Joëlle Milquet, who was one of the guest speakers, said that regarding the fight against cross-border crime, “even though the general trend shows that we are on the right track and that Franco-Belgian cooperation is bearing fruit, we must remain vigilant and continue efforts”.
This colloquium follows the renewal of the Tournai Agreement by the French and Belgian Ministers of the Interior, Manuel Valls and Joëlle Milquet, in March 2013. The agreement, which includes notably cross-border cooperation in the areas of police and customs, has been monitored since it was signed in 2001. The new agreement still needs to be ratified by the French parliament.
Speaking as member of Efus and Mayor of Lomme (France), Roger Vicot said that local authorities should be closely associated to the Franco-Belgian cooperation. Indeed, apart from areas where there is mainly a police-focused cooperation such as arms trafficking, trafficking in human beings or drug networks, local authorities must deal with the daily consequences of robbery, burglary, small-time trafficking and all aspects of urban security that concern people living on both sides of the border.
“I have heard calls for stronger cooperation among institutions,” said Roger Vicot. “But it has to be noted that a lot has been done already. Some things work perfectly well such as the Centre for police and customs cooperation [CCPD according to the French acronym]. We have solved practical issues in certain areas, such as the bus sytem and the management of waste waters. We should be able to do the same for human rights, and in particular the right to security.”
Mr Vicot added that, “One of the speakers asked whether we are ready. I say: Do we have a choice? Criminals have already erased all frontiers as well as the kinds of hurdle we, on the other hand, face in our respective lines of work. We must strengthen cooperation and the exchange of practices among cities and institutions. This is what we do at the COVISUR, an informal structure for cooperation among cities of the Lille region, and this is also what we do at the European level among the 250 cities that are member of the European Forum for Urban Security.”
Mr Vicot said there should be a common reflection on issues of day-to-day security, such as binge drinking among young people. “Problems linked to night life and binge drinking among young people are not specific to Lille, Mons or Brussels. They are very serious problems that affect the whole of Europe and we must keep working on them together.” He also championed the idea of creating formal local community safety partnerships that would include security stakeholders from both sides of the border.