Published 24 May 2024


Celebrating Belgium’s CITES work in the heart of the European Union

This year marks 40 years since the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulations came into force in Belgium. Next year also marks 20 years of an online tool that helps EU law enforcement detect, analyse and monitor illegal activities in CITES-listed species.

40 years of CITES regulations in Belgium

Belgium is an important destination and transit point in the trade of many CITES-listed species, including reptile commodities, plant products, including timber and plant-based medicinal and aromatic products, ivory, and seahorses. In response, Belgium is a champion in driving forward actions to effectively implement CITES regulations.

TRAFFIC congratulates Belgian CITES authorities on successfully reaching this anniversary."

Anastasiya Timoshyna, Director of the European Programme Office

Officials inspect a shipment of dried shark fins at Brussels airport © Pol Meuleneire, GAD Zaventem.

Timoshyna continues, "This is an important milestone, and we would particularly like to celebrate one of the important mechanisms to support law enforcement collaboration in Europe – the  EU-TWIX (Europe Trade in Wildlife Information eXchange) system, which would not have been possible without the leadership of the Belgian authorities as its founding partners.”

National law enforcement agencies in Europe play a crucial role in the effective enforcement of European Union Wildlife Trade Regulations through inspection authorities in combating illegal wildlife trade into, within and from Europe.

EU-TWIX assists national law enforcement agencies, including CITES Management Authorities and prosecutors, in detecting, analysing and monitoring illegal activities related to trade in animals and plants protected by the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.

The TWIX system is continually developing and improving, thanks to the four project partners: the Belgian Federal Police and TRAFFIC with the advice of the Belgian CITES Management Authority and Customs, which have supported the creation and evolution of EU-TWIX since 2005. This also involves crucial financial support from the Belgian Government, without which the successful running and development of the system would not have been possible.

Almost 20 years of the pioneering EU-TWIX

EU-TWIX training at Heathrow airport © UK Border Force.

In 2025, we are delighted to celebrate 20 years of EU-TWIX in operation, and the key investigations it has triggered throughout those years.

"We are happy that an idea from Belgium many years ago has grown into a tool, to assist law enforcement agencies of all the EU Member States and several non-EU members, every single day to detect, analyse and monitor illegal activities in CITES-listed species.

We are delighted that the TWIX system has been rolled out in several other regions in Africa and look forward to future developments to sustain the next 30 years.” 

Miet Van Looy, Head of Unit of the Belgian CITES Management AuthorityEU-TWIX has become a significant platform to tackle wildlife trafficking: it now includes 39 countries, and over 1,400 law enforcement officials, across police, customs, CITES authorities, and judicial agencies. Inspired by the regional success in Europe, more TWIX systems have been replicated in various regions of Africa, and opportunities are being explored for other parts of the world.

"Over the years, we have seen a significant impact of the EU-TWIX exchanges leading to effective collaboration between law enforcement and management agencies within countries and across international borders, including prosecutions triggered," said Vinciane Sacré, Senior Project Manager – EU TWIX.

TRAFFIC remains committed to supporting the cooperation between enforcement agencies, increasing the understanding of market dynamics and behavioural change approaches and building capacity, especially ensuring the legality of imports through seaports and airports.