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European Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs
Commemorating victims of terrorism
VIII European Day on remembrance of Victims of Terrorism
Brussels, 9 March 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are some dates that will always be with us. The 11 March is one of them. Eight years have passed since the terrible attack in Madrid but it still feels like yesterday.
And last summer we added the date 22 July to the list of dates we will always remember. The place was Utoya, the small, beautiful island outside Oslo in Norway. I have difficulties finding words to describe the horrible attack by a sole lunatic who killed 69 young people and another 8 in Oslo.
The very thought of being on that Island trapped with someone dressed as a policeman – the very symbol of safety and security – killing your friends, and coming after you, is terrifying
Since last year, around Europe and the rest of the world, innocent lives have continued to be taken or devastated by atrocities. EU nationals have also been taken hostage and killed in Pakistan, in Nigeria and the Sahel.
Commemorating victims is important, because the real enemy of human rights and of justice is amnesia. When a bomb goes off and kills indiscriminately, it leaves terror behind in those who survive.
This is why we stand here today, ahead of the 11 March, to remember and honour all those who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks.
I want to thank the European Network of Associations of victims of terrorism for co-organizing this event and for the important work you do.
And it is a particular honour to welcome you, the victims and families of the victims, to express my deepest solidarity directly to you on this eighth European Day of Remembrance of the victims of terrorism.
This day also serves as a reminder about the need to recognise the dangers that terrorism still presents to democracy and to our way of living.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
What happened in Norway last July brought to light once more that all democratic countries are potential targets for individuals radicalised by the ideology of violence.
Through our societies and our communities, we must counter the efforts of terrorists to recruit new members and to radicalise our youth.
We must undercut their message of destruction and despair by spreading our own values promoting freedom, equality and by safeguarding the rights of our citizens.
The European Union and its Member States work hard to prevent all types of extremism that lead to violence and to identify those who want to destabilise or paralyse the functioning of our societies.
But today, I do not want to talk about terrorists. I want to talk about the role victims can play. Over the last two years, I have spoken to victims, and I have heard many people's testimonies. I am impressed to see how many projects victims have developed to help counter violent extremism.
Victims are important partners in addressing problems of security and in building a more resilient society. It is therefore our responsibility to support the work you do.
Violent extremism can best be dealt with at the local level. It requires close cooperation with local authorities and civil society to empower key groups in vulnerable communities.
This is why I launched the European Radicalisation Awareness Network last September. The network will pool all the expertise, and knowledge available on the ground, from all the actors involved in addressing violent radicalisation.
And we have already started. Facilitating discussions between, for instance, the police, victims, religious leaders and academics will help us to find new clues about how to better prevent violent extremism.
Victim associations certainly have an important role to play in these discussions. And I'm grateful to see your strong commitment and willingness to contribute to the network.
Today's event is about listening to your stories and recognising how you contribute to changing the perception of society.
An important step in this regard is to consider the use of the internet and social media. Victims of terrorism are credible voices to challenge the violent extremists' narratives.
The Radicalisation Awareness Network offers a platform for dialogue and partnership between victims and the private and public sector, which is willing to develop online tools that give a and visibility to victims.
But this is not all. Based on the experiences and lessons learned by all local partners and communities engaged, later this year I will organise a Ministerial Conference. The aim is to discuss – and in a very practical way – how we can become better at countering violent extremism.
In addition to all these initiatives, the Commission will continue to provide financial support to projects which can help prevent terrorism. I therefore encourage victims' associations to take advantage of this offer.
Let me end by saying how grateful I am for having such excellent speakers with us today to share their testimonies and their experiences. I admire you for this. Painful things are not easy to talk about, but you do it nevertheless.
And by doing so, you are effectively saying that you will not be intimidated by terrorists. Instead, you are showing that you want to contribute to a more tolerant and open society. For that, you have my deepest respect.