In 2017, three district information and expertise centres (ARIECs) were set up in Belgium: ARIEC Limburg, ARIEC Antwerp, and PAALCO Namur. These ARIECs are tasked with raising awareness, advising, and providing support in the area of the administrative approach to organised crime.
The ARIECs offer practical and legal support in the handling and coordination of individual cases. They do so in various ways, such as by bringing partners together (city/municipality, police, public prosecutor’s office, inspection services) to discuss cases, organising flexible actions, and drawing up regulations and protocols for things such as permits.
The Belgian ARIECs are similar, but not identical to the Dutch RIECs (Regional Information and Expertise Centres). First of all, Belgium does not have an RIEC covenant, as information sharing in Belgium is based on protocols. Secondly, the ARIECs are formally accommodated within the police organisation. Another difference is that there is not a network with nationwide coverage yet in Belgium, while the Netherlands has the national RIEC-LIEC structure, and the ARIECs are not funded to the same extent as their Dutch counterparts. Like EURIEC, the ARIECs are funded through European subsidies from the Internal Security Fund. The European subsidies for the ARIECs have been awarded for a period that runs through to the end of 2021, following which the ARIECs are expected to be incorporated into the police structures.
Given that the aim is for EURIEC to tie in with the existing Belgian, Dutch, and German structures, EURIEC consistently attends meetings of the three ARIECs where best practices are shared and common problems are discussed, closely tracking developments in Belgium and submitting and discussing cross-border cases. Aside from that, EURIEC was given the opportunity to present itself at the first network meeting of the so-called SPOCs (Single Point Of Contact), which was organised by ARIEC Limburg. These kinds of events are a great way to raise awareness of the administrative approach in Belgium, and then in particular a cross-border administrative approach.