The BENELUX Police Convention:

An important step forward in cross-border crime fighting


Door Math Noortmann




On 1 October last, the new Treaty between Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands on police cooperation finally entered into force (in short BENELUX Police Treaty). This happened more than five years after the treaty was signed in 2018. This treaty replaces the 20-year-old Convention on Transnational Police Action (2004) and can be seen as a special milestone in cross-border crime control. The treaty not only provides more possibilities for the “exchange of personal data and information”, but also allows police forces to continue “cross-border action” “on their own initiative”. That one sovereign country’s police may “observe”, “track” and “pursue” in another sovereign country is unprecedented. The BENELUX thus settles an important (jurisdictional) wall in cross-border crime control and perhaps initiates a new development in the European Union in terms of day-to-day cooperation between services in border regions.

Substantively political discussions on implementation issues, led to the delay between signing and entry into force. The various opinions from the Personal Data Authority, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Regional Mayors, police and police union provide a good insight into identified and expected issues. Certain implementation issues have therefore already been identified and named and set out in a formal implementation agreement. This, of course, does not eliminate the problems. No treaty provides or can provide for the diversity of operational issues and questions that are bound to arise when the treaty is actually going to be implemented. New, unexpectedly operational issues will also emerge, which will make it necessary, through additional national implementation regulations and implementation arrangements between police forces and between other potential stakeholders such as national prosecutors’ offices, to keep the treaty enforceable and functional.

However, the convention is not limited exclusively to police cooperation. ‘Taking administrative measures’ is also explicitly stated as the “purpose of the [information] exchange”. In my view, the Public Prosecutor’s Office therefore rightly concludes that on the basis of this convention, “police forces and judicial services cooperate more closely with local administrations to exchange more targeted information on organised crime (administrative action) in accordance with national law.” (also see the article in Kortom ). There is certainly an opportunity to intensify the discussion of the concept of the integrated approach between border regions, but to what extent the Benelux Police Treaty can actually be a trigger for further border regional cooperation between municipalities, police forces and prosecutors remains to be seen.

The BENELUX Police Convention is a unique and innovative initiative. There can be no doubt about that. Article 65 states that: “No later than five years after the entry into force of this Treaty … the effectiveness and impact of this Treaty in practice” should be evaluated. In order to demonstrate that the Convention contributes to improved border-regional cooperation in crime control and is instrumental in reducing cross-border crime, it seems advisable to structurally monitor the implementation of the Convention from the beginning. Collecting and analysing data from the beginning is necessary not only for meaningful evaluation but also for improvements in day-to-day implementation and real-time operationalisation of the treaty.