Ladies and gentlemen,
My first reaction when I heard from the Federal Prosecutor, Frederic Van Leeuw, that he wanted me to be there today was a reaction of surprise. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office has an important international dimension and there are many bilateral contacts involved. We are at the end of my mandate as Minister of Justice and there were only one or two occasions during those five years where Frederic Van Leeuw insisted to involve me in such a meeting.
This needed to be a very special occasion. That the full board of Belgian General Prosecutors attends the meeting is a clear confirmation.
And I realised by looking at the background of this meeting that it is indeed a very special relationship you are celebrating today. I am very happy to be able to take part in it, thereby showing the support of the Belgian government and its appreciation for the level of bilateral cooperation with Romania.
Ten years ago, when the cooperation agreement between the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism was signed, Romania had only very recently joined the European Union.
By signing this agreement, a founder of the EU and one of its most recent members demonstrated that they had understood how much a strong bond between the prosecutor’s offices was needed to complement the legal framework of EU judicial cooperation.
As a Minister of justice, I take part in the negotiation at EU level and in the implementation at national level of important legislation such as the European Arrest Warrant, the European Investigation Order and soon a European Production Order to access e-evidence. I am convinced that those instruments are needed and can have a real impact on criminal investigations. And the insistence of our British friends to maintain these instruments even after the Brexit demonstrates how important these instruments are.
But I am fully aware of the fact that, especially in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, it is first of all the quality of the contacts between prosecutors and their joint commitment which make the difference.
This is all the more true in a moment where the European project is being tested by a worrying evolution in some Member States with regard to the rule of law or the fight against corruption. In this framework, where mutual trust is being questioned, making progress on ambitious EU legislation is difficult.
But the challenges of organised crime and terrorism remain, in Belgium as in Romania. Criminal groups continue to move across Europe and to benefit from obstacles that remain in law enforcement cooperation. Dismantling these organisations and charging their leaders out of it requires a very intensive cooperation between judicial authorities based on a high level of trust. This requires personal and direct contacts.
That you decided to invest in that relationship in 2008 was a testimony of a clear vision on both side.
That you decided to celebrate its tenth anniversary today demonstrates not only that the cooperation is a success but also that it remains a needed tool in which you need to keep on investing.
I am honoured to have had the chance to be with you and I wish you very nice and fruitful celebrations.