Belgium

Overview:  Belgium in 2022 had an active counterterrorism policy that included robust domestic security efforts, international information sharing, and support for multilateral efforts.  The country’s greatest terrorism threat remained homegrown terrorism carried out by lone actors, whether inspired by Islamist terrorism or, to a lesser extent, REMVE, which Belgium calls “violent right-wing extremism.”  The general threat level during 2022 remained at 2 on a four-point scale, with 4 the most severe.  Since the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities noted an increase in “right-wing extremist propaganda,” especially online.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  There was a stabbing attack in Brussels in November that authorities claimed was related to violent extremism.  The attack resulted in the death of one police officer and the serious injuring of a second.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Belgium’s primary CT-related agencies included the Ministries of Defense, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Interior, and Justice, together with both federal and local police, the civilian and military security and intelligence services, the Office of the Federal Prosecutor, the Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, and the National Security Council.  The Ministry of Interior maintained a crisis center.  An interagency body called the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA), comprising representatives of the relevant ministries, was responsible for setting nationwide threat-level ratings and maintaining Belgium’s database of individuals with a nexus to terror.  Belgium’s law enforcement capacity, though underfunded, was capable and experienced in responding to and deterring terrorist activity.  During 2022, CUTA reportedly was tracking about 700 people for links to terrorism, up from 675 the year before.

During 2022, Belgium’s Parliament did not pass any legislation that would alter Belgium’s ability to investigate, prosecute, or deter terrorism.  Challenges to effective counterterrorism efforts continued to include Belgium’s complex government structure; the difficulty of information sharing between various agencies at different levels of government; data collection and retention regulations; short prison sentences; and bureaucratic hurdles to the full use of civil informants.  Belgium implemented United Nations Security Council resolution 2396 through, among other actions, the implementation of the EU Passenger Name Record directive for air travelers, through its aggressive prosecution of known FTFs, often in absentia, and through its maintenance of databases to track known and suspected terrorists.

On December 4 the Belgian judiciary began the trial of 10 individuals accused of participating in or aiding the March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels.  The trial is the largest in Belgium’s history and was expected to take several months before a verdict is reached.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Belgium is a member of FATF, and its FIU, the Belgian Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group.  There were no significant changes in 2022.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2022 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism:  In 2021, Belgium replaced its plan to counter radicalization to violence, “Plan R,” with a new counterterrorism strategy.  Known as “StrategyTer,” the new plan expands the strategy to include “far right” and “far-left extremism.”  It better incorporates the various federal, regional, and community government and social actors in concentrating on preventing violent extremism.  The plan reinforces the local task forces established under Plan R to coordinate the CVE response among local security, municipal, NGO, and social services personnel.  During 2022, the Belgian cities of Antwerp, Liège, and Vilvoorde remained part of the Strong Cities Network and participated in SCN events in the Netherlands.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Belgium participated in CT efforts with the EU, NATO, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe, and it was a member of the advisory board of the UN Counterterrorism Center. The country also was an active contributor to the subcommittees of the UNSC responsible for counterterrorism.  Belgium was a troop-contributing member of Operation Inherent Resolve, the European Union Training Mission in Mali, and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.  Belgium participated in EU efforts to interdict FTF travel across land and maritime borders, encouraged efforts to strengthen Schengen Zone external borders, and maintained a leading role in the European Strategic Communication Network.

The nation was not a member of the GCTF but often participated as an observer.  CUTA represents Belgium on the newly created EU Network of Prevent Policy-Makers, which is dedicated primarily to the fight against violent extremism.

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