Today, Belgian interior minister Annelies Verlinden and Federal Councillor Elisabeth Baume-Schneider exchanged views at a working meeting focusing on internal security and federalism. The two ministers discussed means of protecting the public from organised crime, terrorism and violent extremism, and the growing threat to public officials and gender-based violence.
Cooperation against organised crime
For some years now, Belgium has been confronted with violent organised crime, which in some cases has also erupted in open violence in public. Joint investigations by the police forces of Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Europol have confirmed that the scale of organised crime in Switzerland has previously been underestimated. The findings from these investigations have expedited other inquiries in Switzerland. Close police cooperation between Belgium and Switzerland also led to the arrest of one of Europe's most wanted criminals in Zurich last year, and his subsequent extradition to Belgium.
Information-sharing at European level
To combat these mostly cross-border threats to internal security, it is essential that countries in Europe share information. Belgium, which will take over the EU Council presidency in the first half of 2024, also recognises how important it is for internal security to strengthen cooperation between all Schengen members and associated states, such as Switzerland.
Interest in Swiss federalism
As a representative of a federal state, the Belgian minister was also interested in the federal structure of the Swiss police. Ms Baume-Schneider explained how the police forces are organised in Switzerland, what law enforcement competencies are exercised by the cantons and what role fedpol plays as a central government agency. Ms Verlinden also met with representatives of the cantons.
The meeting also gave the two ministers an opportunity to reflect on the tragic coach accident that occurred near Sierre on 13 March 2012, almost eleven years ago to the day. The accident claimed the lives of 28 people, including 22 school children from Belgium and the Netherlands. The chief of the Valais cantonal police, Christian Varone, who eleven years ago demonstrated both expertise and compassion, attended the meeting in Bern at the invitation of the FDJP.
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