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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

The Belgian Evolving Implementation of the Administrative Approach

Organised Crime
Maude Biettlot
University of Ottawa
Maude Biettlot
University of Ottawa

This paper aims to situate the administrative approach in the EU framework to combat organized crime and to study its setting up in the Belgian context over the last years.
Organized crime has been infiltrating the society from many years through the perpetration of illegal and legal activities. This penetration has resulted in corrosive and systemic consequences from the destruction of the public image of a sector to the outcompetition of the bona fide entrepreneurs. The coordination of an administrative approach with the traditional criminal approach is a powerful way of dismembering organized crime and its resilient dimension.
Although there is no universal definition of the “administrative approach”, experts agree on fundamental principles:
- the use of administrative and regulatory mechanisms
- through multi-disciplinary and coordinated interventions (working apart together) amongst stakeholders
- in order to prevent, disrupt and repress crime.
The administrative approach has been a focus at the European level within the context of the preventing and combating organized crime over the last years. In 2011, the European Commission commissioned the Informal Network for the Administrative Approach to promote, strengthen and develop the role of administrative authorities in the fight against organized crime. In 2014, the European Crime Prevention Network published a toolbox in the framework of the ISEC project “Towards a European Centre of Expertise on Crime Prevention”.
The Belgian debate about the administrative approach to tackling organized crime began in 1996 when the Governement discussed the creation of a Working Group for Administrative Enforcement in the follow up of the development of such an approach in the Netherlands. In 1998, the Senate set up the Parliamentary Commission Inquiry on Organized Crime which highlighted the risk of criminal organizations to penetrate the society through the exploitation of loopholes of the existing legislation and the role the administrative authorities can play in the prevention, perturbation and repression of organized crime. However, these recommendations have not been really implemented over the years.
Nonetheless, the absence of a specific set of tools and an institutional framework setting up an administrative approach does not mean that the fight against organized crime should only be waged through criminal law. Indeed, the administrative authorities, more specifically the local authorities, can deploy three types of instruments to fight organized crime. First of all, they have to maintain/safeguard public order, public safety and public health (general policing task) and can take some administrative police measures. Second, the Law of 21 June 2013 gives the administrative authorities the competence to take municipal administrative sanctions such as the suspension, the withdrawal of a permit/licence or the closure of an establishment. Third, the administrative authorities can screen and monitor applicants (persons and legal entities) to grant a licence. However, these instruments are not specifically directed at fighting organized crime.
Over the last years, Belgium has been implementing a new institutional framework. Indeed, three pilot-projects have been set up as information hubs and expertise for all the involved stakeholders.
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