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Belgium Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

King Philippe appointed Open VLD party leader Egbert Lachaert on 18 August as the 12th person tasked with attempting to form a government after the inconclusive May 2019 elections. In March, the Belgian parliament gave the caretaker government led by Sophie Wilmès special powers to govern during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus outbreak. The special powers will expire on 17 September, and Wilmès stated that she was ready to resign if she failed to receive the parliament’s confidence. If political parties failed to reach an agreement and parliament voted against re-confirming Wilmès, early elections would be a likely outcome.Antwerp province authorities lifted the four-week curfew introduced on 28 July for the entire province owing to a localised surge in COVID-19 cases. Other measures, including the reopening of fitness centres and rules for face coverings, were being relaxed on a national and local level.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 endured a deep recession in the first half of 2020 with the country locked down to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The government's financial support measures will elevate the already-high levels of public debt and will restrict fiscal policy once the COVID-19 virus crisis has passed.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: September 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 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. In the second half of 2020, the risk of the government partially or locally reintroducing restrictions to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases will remain high.

Last update: August 6, 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. Co-ordinated mass-casualty assaults such as the March 2016 Brussels attacks 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. Belgium’s counter-terrorism agency OCAM maintains the terror threat level at 2 out of 4. OCAM head Paul Van Tigchelt stated in May 2020 that the risk of far-right attacks was equal to the risk of Islamist attacks.

Last update: August 7, 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: July 18, 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 increased since 2014.

Last update: July 18, 2020

Social Stability

High

Protests and riots driven by the economic downturn stemming from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak are increasingly likely. There is a high risk of violent confrontations between small groups of radical demonstrators using blunt weapons or throwing objects, and the police, who is likely to respond with tear gas. There is an increased risk of looting, particularly targeting luxury shops in the Louise area in Brussels, in the aftermath of large protests. Demonstrations near European Union assets by interest groups affected by EU decisions are common. Environmental activist groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, are increasingly likely to stage protests aimed at blocking public infrastructure or disrupting business operations.

Last update: August 7, 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