Belgium furious at Dutch drug café plans

Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt has written a strongly-worded letter to his Dutch counterpart Jan Peter Balkenende protesting at plans to move marijuana-selling coffee shops close to the border with Belgium.

Maastricht city council plans to move seven of the city’s 16 coffee shops out of the centre, meaning some will be within walking distance of Belgian towns.
Newspaper Het Belang van Limburg says Verhofstadt has reminded Balkenende his new government pledged not to place the cafés close to national borders or schools.
The plan also breaks the Schengen treaty which states that drugs policies will not adversely affect neighbouring countries, the Belgian pm says.
The Belgians are worried that the cafés will lead to an increase in crime and draw hard drug dealers to the area.
Belgium’s home affairs minister Patrick Dewael is to raise the issue at the next meeting of European justice and home affairs ministers. The Netherlands has decided to turn a blind eye to soft drug use, Dewael told the newspaper. ‘The Netherlands must solve this problem itself, not export it.’
Maastricht mayor Gerd Leers told ANP that he had already asked justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin what the effect of the coalition agreement would be on the plans to move the drugs cafés but has not yet had a reply. He dismissed Verhofstadt’s letter as an election stunt.

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