Netherlands axed Brussels intelligence role amid security budget cuts

Ard van der Steur (Photo: Commons)Ard van der Steur (Photo: Commons)

The Ministry of Security and Justice decided to scrap the so called JHA-liaison officer in Belgium last summer due to budget cuts. The liaison officer's job was to make sure that police and judicial information from abroad is exchanged with the Netherlands as well as possible.

The JHA-liaison is the Justice and Home Affairs liaison. Ard van der Steur was appointed the Minister of Security and Justice in March 2015, so he was in charge when this decision was made. Van der Steur is currently under fire in parliament for, among other things, poor information exchange with Belgium regarding Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of the suicide bombers in the terrorist attacks in Brussels last week. 

According to the broadcaster, the fact that the liaison officer post was scrapped in Brussels is remarkable in the current climate, given the fact that Belgium is known as a country of origin for extremist Muslims. Among other things, Belgium was the focus of attention after the attack on satirical magazine in Paris last year as the country where the weapons used came from.

According to the Ministry of Security and Justice, the decision to cut the post in Brussels was made because the former liaison officer already ensured that contacts between the Netherlands and Belgium go smoothly. The liaison was therefore no longer deemed necessary.

The Ministry of Security and Justice faced numerous budget cuts over the past year. In 2014 intelligence service AIVD had its budget cut in half, a decision the Court of Audit later deemed careless and irresponsible. 

In February 2015, shortly before Van der Steur's promotion to Minister, he as parliamentarian stated that no more money can be cut from the Security and Justice budget. "New cuts are not justified", he said. 

In October last year the Senate demanded that the Security and Justice budget be increased. Van der Steur managed to get an extra 250 million euros for the budget, despite demands for more from the opposition. By that stage the police reorganization into the National Police was already 230 million over budget.

In the Court of Audit's annual report last year the coalition government of VVD and PvdA received harsh criticism for its inability to solve problems i implementing policies without causing havoc at affected ministries. The report stated that the government puts too little thought into planning and executing policy, especially when it comes to budget cuts.


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