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EU Commissioner for Home Affairs
Strengthening the EU's response to radicalisation and violent extremism
15 January 2014
We are currently facing a growing extremist threat which has mutated and evolved in the last few years, spreading across our continent. Terrorism is now being driven by a wide range of sources, including nationalist ideologies, Al Qaida, violent left-wing groups, anarchists, and not least right-wing ideologies.
It is now time to focus Europe's efforts on a truly pre-emptive response – because no country in the EU is spared from the spread of violent extremism. In Hungary, Roma people have been killed and beaten by Nazi gangs. In Sweden a few years ago, a suicide bomber almost succeeded in murdering innocent Christmas shoppers with pipe bombs. In Greece, rapper Pablos Fyssas was stabbed to death this autumn, by a member of the fascist Golden Dawn party. I could go on and on.
European citizens are also directly affected by terrorist activity from around the world, as we witnessed in Nairobi, Kenya. But Europeans can also be the perpetrators of these attacks. Often triggered by extremist propaganda or by recruiters, Europeans travel abroad to train and to fight in combat zones, becoming more radicalised in the process. More than 1200 Europeans have left so far, and the number is growing. Some of these young men have joined groups with terrorist agendas, they have been trained and hardened in war, and could pose a threat to our security upon their return from a conflict zone. In the longer term they could act as catalysts for terrorism.
Terrorist groups and extremists are also capitalising on advances in technology to find new ways of engaging with disaffected youth. They take advantage of social networking sites, online video channels and radical chat rooms. They are spreading their propaganda more widely and more effectively.
Traditional law enforcement techniques are insufficient to deal with these evolving trends in radicalisation and violent extremism. A broader approach is required to prevent and counter this phenomenon.
To protect citizens against these threats we need to mobilize a wide range of partners at local, national and EU level. This is not only a task for security and law enforcement bodies and cannot be constrained by legislative measures alone.
The Commission is already supporting Member States in their efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism. In 2011, we established the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), which brings together more than 700 experts and practitioners from across Europe. It pools expertise and facilitates the exchange of ideas on topics ranging from the empowerment of local actors through to organising international conferences, bringing together expertise at all levels.
Today we are moving one step further with the adoption of ten recommendations directed mainly to EU Member States that they should carry out as soon as possible. What we are proposing is a new toolbox for Europe in countering extremism, focusing at the root of the problem. Member States must reinforce their actions to actually prevent extremism that leads to violence, regardless of who inspires it.
On the basis of these recommendations, the EU will develop a European knowledge hub to counter violent extremism. This will act as a sort of European anti-extremism centre that will help national and local authorities in their work and, through the use of EU funding, will also coordinate research in this field. The Commission will earmark up to 20 M EUR between 2014-2017 for the "Knowledge Hub" and other activities of the RAN.
All EU countries should start providing de-radicalisation or exit programmes to make it easier to leave extremist groups. We know what a positive impact such programmes have. Nevertheless, this type of assistance is currently only available in a few countries. This needs to change and in order to contribute to this change we will continue to support and fund these projects. The Commission has already spent around 10 Mio EUR under the ISEC Funds for de-radicalisation projects aiming at increasing the knowledge of the radicalisation process and expertise in how to design effective prevention measures.
We are also urging Member States to present national action plans on how to improve preventive action. At the same time, we need to work closer with countries outside the EU where radicalised young people go to participate in training camps.
Civil society has a lot of knowledge on how to counter radicalisation. National authorities need to work closer with civil society to better counteract extremists' online propaganda. We must develop methods to present counter messages for Jihadist online forums, for example.
Schools also have an important role in strengthening resistance against extremist messages glorifying violence. So, among the recommendations presented today, the Commission is calling on Member States to do more in the field of education.
There is a clear need to empower victims. Both victims' and former extremists' voices are a powerful tool for prevention and de-radicalisation, but the necessary support must be available if we want them to participate in de-radicalisation programmes and contribute to countering radicalisation in other ways.
So, to conclude, the risk of radicalisation leading to violent extremism in the EU is growing and ideology-motivated attacks cause more than just loss of life and economic damage; they divide communities across the EU and fuel extremist views. This contributes to a breeding ground for extremism and perpetuates a vicious circle of radicalisation, aggression, and violence. The aim of our recommendations is to support Member States efforts' to prevent radicalisation and extremist violence; helping to counter extremists' rhetoric that spread myths and divide communities.
We have no time to lose, seeing the fast pace at which extremism, xenophobia and nationalism keep growing in Europe. We see worrying signals that these extremist groups and political movements act as a breeding ground for ideology-motivated violence and extremist views. We will not be able to defeat radicalisation and extremist violence if we don't counter the propaganda spread by those who support extreme, violent, xenophobic and racist views based on hatred and intolerance.
We must all have the courage to stand up for what we have agreed upon and protect our values that are now being challenged in many countries in Europe. The actions and measures identified in today's Communication are important steps in this direction. It is a problem for our democratic societies, and it calls for serious pre-emptive action in all the countries of Europe.