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Country Reports

Belgium Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

The Belgian parliament has approved the caretaker government led by Sophie Wilmès in a confidence vote, giving it full power during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus outbreak. The main Walloon and Flemish parties agreed to support Wilmès in managing the response to the pandemic instead of attempting to form a cabinet after the inconclusive elections held in May 2019. Political parties resumed talks over government formation in June.The caretaker government has announced a further relaxation of the lockdown measures from 1 July, allowing for the reopening of swimming pools, cinemas, casinos, theme parks, and conference centres, as well as public events of up to 200 people indoors and 400 people outdoors.There is an increased risk of localised riots triggered by perceived police brutality, particularly in the most deprived districts of the Brussels area, with a high risk of associated property damage and arson attacks. Larger organised protests have resumed with the lifting of the lockdown restrictions, with an increased likelihood of small groups of individuals looting shops, particularly in the Louise area, in the aftermath of anti-racism rallies. The economy is set to contract again in the second quarter, implying that Belgium will endure its first recession since the second half of 2008.The economy is set to contract by 10.0% in 2020 (revised down from May’s projection of a 9.2% drop). The downgrade is caused by the more apparent economic costs of the lockdown measures implemented to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus.Belgium faces a heightened risk of both low-capability and more sophisticated jihadist attacks carried out by lone actors or small cells, inspired but not necessarily directed by non-state armed groups such as the Islamic State.
Last update: July 4, 2020

Operational Outlook

Belgium’s operational environment is generally attractive for international businesses. The country’s regulatory framework is stable and closely intertwined with European Union laws. Belgium is located between the EU’s political powerhouses, France and Germany; has access to the EU’s single market; and forms part of the Benelux union, providing well-established economic and political ties with neighbouring Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Belgium has a high-quality communications and infrastructure network and a broad array of transport links with other European countries. However, excessive red tape and strong trade unions are likely to slow down business operations.

Last update: February 26, 2020

Terrorism

Elevated

Belgium faces an elevated risk of mostly low-capability terrorist attacks by self-radicalised Islamists acting alone or in small groups using firearms, knives, or crude IEDs and targeting public spaces, state or security force personnel, or Jewish assets. There is also a risk of further co-ordinated mass-casualty assaults such as the March 2016 Brussels attacks. These would likely require the participation of well-trained returning foreign fighters to succeed. There is a substantial presence of radicalised individuals in several largely isolated Muslim communities.

Last update: February 27, 2020

Crime

Organised crime is mostly present in Brussels and Antwerp, but criminal groups also operate in other major urban areas. Criminal gangs often use Belgium as a crossroads at the centre of Europe, for instance for trafficking people and drugs to other destinations. Police have seized large quantities of cocaine smuggled from Brazil in the ports of Antwerp, Ghent, and Ostend between 2017 and 2019. In addition, there is also a risk of cross-border terrorist cells operating from the country. According to data released by Interior Minister Pieter De Crem in December 2019, knife-crime incidents increased to 657 in 2018, compared with 626 in 2017.

Last update: February 29, 2020

War Risks

The risk of inter-state war on Belgian territory is likely to remain minimal. The country is an active member of NATO and the European Union and does not face any hostilities from neighbouring countries. Although the Belgian army participates in multilateral international military operations, the government usually focuses on soft diplomacy in external relations. However, Belgium supports the US-led international military alliance against the Islamic State, so the threat of retaliatory terrorist attacks in Belgium (as opposed to traditional warfare) has steadily increased since 2014.

Last update: February 27, 2020

Social Stability

High

Occasional environmental and anti-government protests are likely in Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, and Liège. Although the majority of protests will be peaceful, there is a moderate risk of violent groups attacking police with blunt weapons or thrown objects. Repeated demonstrations in the centre of Brussels and especially near European Union assets (for example, the Berlaymont building) by interest groups affected by EU decisions are also common. These protests occasionally lead to minor confrontations with police. Anti-migrant protests organised by the right-wing PEGIDA movement, particularly in Antwerp and other parts of the Flanders region in northern Belgium, are also likely.

Last update: February 27, 2020

Health Risk

Elevated

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

The quality of public transportation is generally high. However, transportation strikes are relatively common in Belgium and can occur with little notice.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Belgium has a temperate oceanic climate and rain is common throughout the year. Summers (June to September) are mild and winters are cool, even cold.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +32
Police: 101
Ambulance: 100
Fire Dept.: 112

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019