Security

With regard to security, Protocol in the FPS Foreign Affairs (P2) acts as a permanent link between the foreign diplomatic missions located in Belgium and the range of Belgian government departments/organisations responsible for defining and taking the actual security measures. The main Belgian departments and organisations involved in security activities are FPS Home Affairs’ Crisis Centre, the Coordinating Body for Threat Analysis (OCAM-OCAD) and the protocol teams of other bodies, such as the Royal Court, the European Union, the airports and Midi station.

Concrete security measures are only taken on the basis of the available information, which is communicated to Protocol in advance by the relevant diplomatic mission.

1. Security during visits by foreign dignitaries

When foreign dignitaries visit Belgium, the Belgian authorities take all the necessary security measures providing they receive the information they require about the visit in good time.

FPS Home Affairs (Crisis Centre) can only supply escorts and close protection services for visits by heads of state and government. This depends on the availability of such services, and notice of the visit must be received in good time (at least two days beforehand). The level of protection provided depends on the exact programme for the visit and an assessment of the risks linked to the visit and/or the person.

The relevant diplomatic mission is responsible for organising protection for government members and other official guests.

Escorts are provided for heads of state and government for visits organised within the framework of relations with the international institutions based in Brussels, visits relating to a European summit or visits during a Belgian presidency. However, close protection services are only assigned to visitors who could be the target of a specific threat (as demonstrated by a risk assessment). In such cases, the decision to provide escorts and close protection services is guided solely by public security concerns. 

Some dignitaries travel with their own bodyguards. No more than four of these bodyguards may carry a firearm, and they may only do so if permission to bear firearms is requested through Protocol in advance.

As regards security checks upon arrival at Belgian airports (or Midi station), only heads of state are exempt from security and customs checks.

Other dignitaries are not exempt from these checks, which will nevertheless be performed with the respect that befits their rank. Only their luggage is exempt from customs checks.

2.  Security of diplomatic buildings and foreign diplomatic staff

Under the terms of the Vienna Conventions (1961 and 1963), the Belgian authorities are under obligation to protect diplomatic buildings (embassies, residences, headquarters of international institutions in Belgium) and diplomatic staff (embassy staff and diplomats working for international institutions).

Nonetheless, all diplomatic missions must submit specific requests for protection to Protocol. This is done by sending a verbal note containing a range of details. Protocol passes the verbal note on to FPS Home Affairs, which takes the measures it deems necessary based on an assessment.

Assets belonging to foreign diplomatic missions are generally protected by federal and local police patrols. They only protect the outside of the diplomatic mission. It is assumed that the mission will take the necessary protective measures inside the building.

If there is an attack on the building (burglary, theft, vandalism), the mission should immediately contact the local police services, which will come to the mission and take a statement. A verbal note should also be sent to Protocol to inform it of the situation. Protocol then contacts the Crisis Centre and the relevant security services and an inquiry is opened. Any additional security measures will be taken on the basis of the inquiry.

This procedure is also followed in the event of an attack against foreign diplomatic staff. In these situations too, Protocol acts as an intermediary and mediator with a view to taking specific or additional measures through the relevant security services.

Insofar as possible, Protocol will provide the victims of such attacks with information and advice about the steps they should take (legal or other, if necessary) to resolve the problem or, if need be, direct them to other competent bodies.