Following a string of drug-related attacks and violent incidents in Antwerp over the past few weeks, the city's mayor Bart De Wever stated that the Federal Government is not doing enough to counter drug crime because the social elite uses drugs themselves.
Numerous shootings and explosions in certain Antwerp neighbourhoods have made headlines this summer, leading De Wever to ask for more resources to tighten security in Antwerp port – through which most drugs enter Belgium. But he is not hopeful that his calls for assistance will be heard.
"The social elite has simply given up the fight. Because they often take drugs themselves and they even flaunt it," he said in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws. "Drugs stand for fast cars, top models, having lots of money. There is a normalisation of drugs and that is pure culpable negligence."
"People do not want to see that their line of coke has a close link to organised crime, which causes many deaths and social misery," De Wever stressed.
'An absolute priority'
For several weeks, De Wever has been calling on the Federal Government to give cities and municipalities more power to act against such drug-related violence. On Thursday, Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden sat down with 20 Flemish and Walloon mayors to discuss just that.
A law that should give local authorities more possibilities and means to close a case that could be linked to certain criminal activities and money laundering, for example, is in the works, Verlinden said.
However, creating such a legal framework is complex; in the previous government, a similar proposal did not pass into legislation. Verlinden's bill, however, is "an absolute priority" and has already been discussed within the government and will soon be on the table again, reports De Morgen.
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While De Wever, who has been trying to wage a "war on drugs" in Antwerp for nearly a decade, does not believe it is possible to completely eradicate drug trade, he emphasised that there are steps that can be taken to "bring this parasite under control."
Holier than thou?
"I am prepared to set an example as head of the largest police force in the country. I want to take a drug test to prove that I am clean every three months," De Wever said. "As mayor, I sometimes have to sack police officers who took drugs in their private lives in a society where that is fashionable."
The Antwerp mayor recognises the problem in this and believes that police officers see the whole elite above them "sniffing lines and popping pills like crazy," but they get away with it.
"I have seen enough. I also have experience with people who have developed an addiction. It is part of my motivation," De Wever said. "Setting an example? I do not think that is a bad thing."