- Category: News
- Published: 17 February 2010
ECAD Advisory Board meeting in Visé
On February 5th, the ECAD Advisory Board held its regular meeting. This time the members of the Board visited the Belgium town of Visé which joined our organisation last year at the Mayors' Conference in Göteborg. Mayor Marcel Neven's address at the Mayors' Forum is available at www.ecad.net/conference-papers.
The Advisory Board discussed routine issues on the agenda and the remaining preparations ahead of the 17th Mayors' Conference which will take place in Malta on April 22-24, 2010.
The meeting of the Board fortunately coincided with a festive event - a reopening of the town's old church after nearly 20 years of renovation. At the picture, all participants of the ceremony assembled in the chancel, letting the photographers to do their work...
Visé, a town with about 17,000 inhabitants, is strategically located half-way between Liège and Maastricht, on a bank of the major waterway of the region, river Maas. There were not many historical twists and turns which did not affect this small French speaking Walloon town. It is then not a surprise that the citizens are proud of their 700-year old club of arbalesters and two significantly younger but still beloved clubs of harquebusiers which have shown their treasures at the church ceremony.
Mind you, even in today's united Europe the neighbours continue to cause citizens of Visé a headache. Maastricht, the neighbouring Dutch city, tries to push some of its burden over the border. In his address at the ECAD Mayors' Forum, Marcel Neven called for solidarity with the regions' cities which suffer from the consequences of drug tourism – a phenomenon which is fuelled by Maastricht’s many “legal”, "high quality" and "comfortable" cannabis outlets, so called "coffee shops". This Dutch municipality was not able to resolve the situation on its own, though it came up with a number of different measures, among them a proposal to move some of the coffee shops out of the city centre and closer to the Belgian border!
Visé organised a meeting with a representative of the Maastricht city administration, Mr Peter Corsius. This, in order to deepen the Board’s understanding of the situation which the cities of the region are faced with. The cities, which do not agree that consumption of marijuana upon the municipal indulgence is a good response to the drug abuse problem...
A conclusion which could be drawn from a rather expletive address of Mr. Corsius is simple: some 30 years ago, when the Netherlands have chosen their way of dealing with cannabis, not all Dutch cities realised what spectrum of consequences their policy would bring about in a Europe without borders... Mr Corsius invited "to think together" about what could be done in the present state of affairs. What are the chances that an adequate decision would be made – to close down coffee shops? The decision making process seems to be greatly complicated by the fact that the income from sales of this illegal by both international and Dutch laws narcotic drug has become an important source of the city's budget.
A short discussion between the members of the ECAD group after visiting one of the drug outlets located some hundred meters away from the city hall, revealed that we all have been stricken by the same observation: customers, which were many on a Friday afternoon, all looked pretty much as any "ordinary" young people... this led us to a sombre reflection on how the present system of coffee shops with the authorised sale of 5 g hashish or marijuana per purchase occasion broadens a circle of potential drug consumers...
However, there are signs that the situation in the Netherlands might be getting straightened out, thanks to the efforts of national and international communities. ECAD is glad that Maastricht has a neighbour which is ready to help to create a sustainable solution.
ECAD thanks colleagues in Visé for their great hospitality and good organisation of the meeting.
Left: Charles Havard, Municipal Secretary, and Jim Corr, Chairman, ECAD, point at the ECAD membership certificate placed under a document signed Cardinal Mazarin
Right: Advisory Board on the way to the meeting at the Maastricht municipality