EU announces action plan to tackle violent radicalization
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    EU announces action plan to tackle violent radicalization

    © Belga
    © Belga

    A communication on supporting the prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism was announced today (14 June) by the European Commission.  

    The Commission states that the responsibility for addressing violent radicalisation leading to terrorism lies primarily with Member States and actors at local, regional and national level. However radicalisation, like terrorism, knows no borders, says the Commission, and refers to the recent events leading up to the attacks in Paris and Brussels.

    “Recent terrorist attacks have shown how some young Europeans have fallen prey to an ideology of death and destruction, breaking away from their own families and friends and turning against their own societies, said Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans.

    “This calls for a determined response by society as a whole, to prevent radicalisation and strengthen the ties that bind us together. The EU should help wherever it can.”

    The press release issued today by the Commission does not mention the massacre at the nightclub  in Orlando, the worst mass shooting in the U.S. which claimed the lives of 49 people and left 53 wounded. During a press conference, Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos referred to the massacre.

    Like some of the terrorist attacks in Europe it seems to have been carried out by a home-grown terrorist who was inspired by and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State but, contrary to the attacks in Europe, not managed or instructed by them directly.

    In both cases the perpetrators had been on the radar of the authorities. But while the terrorist in Orlando was a lone-wolf the attacks in Paris and Brussels were carried out by a well-organized terror network.

    In a statement on 12 June, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said that the attack in Orlando is “a tragedy not only for the American people, but for the whole world as all the massacres of people killed for their faith, for their sexual orientations, for their beliefs, in many countries are.”

    “We stand together in solidarity with the people of America, and especially with the LGBTI community which this hateful terror attack targeted,” she continued.

    Today’s communication on preventing terror attacks like these, wherever they occur, lists a number of specific areas where cooperation at EU level can bring added value. According to the Commission, some 4,000 EU nationals are estimated to have joined terrorist organisations in countries experiencing conflict such as Syria and Iraq.

    The majority of the terrorist suspects implicated in the recent terrorist atrocities in the EU “were European citizens, born and raised in our societies” who become radicalized and turned to terrorism.

    The Commission describes violent radicalization as an increasingly complex and evolving phenomenon. “However, the drivers of the recent terrorist acts in Europe are different from, and more complex than, previous radicalisation phenomena.”

    “Radicalisation today has different root causes, operates on the basis of different recruitment and communication techniques, and is marked by globalised and moving targets inside and outside Europe”. According to the Commission, it is not caused by a single “trigger”.

    While religious factors such as Islamic extremism are one of many possible drivers of radicalization – exploiting grievances abusing religious narratives and symbols providing justifications for acts of violence – religion can play a vital role in preventing or countering radicalization: it binds communities, strengthens the sense of belonging and guides people in a positive direction, according to the communication.

    The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Centre of Excellence plays an important role in the action plan. The Commission describes it as a European hub and platform to exchange experiences, pool knowledge, identify best practices and develop new initiatives in tackling radicalisation.

    The Commission foresees up to EUR 25 million over a period of four years to the RAN Centre of Excellence to provide specific support to stakeholders in the Member States in designing comprehensive prevent strategies, setting up multi agency frameworks and networks and implementing concrete projects.

    The RAN Centre of Excellence is also supposed to map latest research findings which are directly relevant for the concrete work of practitioners and authorities within the different RAN working groups.

    Much more EU funding is foreseen from other instruments such as Erasmus+ funds transnational cooperation projects and policy support. In 2014 alone, it provided financing for over 1700 projects across the education, training, youth and sport sectors.

    As of 2016, priority is given to actions and projects that foster inclusion and promote fundamental values, echoing the objectives of the Paris Declaration in 2015 on promoting citizenship and common values.

    As a result, EUR 400 million is now available to develop new policies and projects supporting these priorities, and an additional EUR 13 million will be spent on helping to spread and scale up grassroots initiatives.

    Most funding will be available through the European Social Fund in support of national schemes and small local projects. From 2014 to 2020, EUR 25.6 billion will go directly towards fostering the social inclusion of disadvantaged groups, for instance through tailor-made training programmes and social support schemes.

    In addition, more than EUR 8 billion will be used to help schools address early school leaving and increase access to quality education for all, for instance through adapting school curricula, teacher education courses and individual support to disadvantaged learners.

    The communication is relatively short on the security dimension of addressing radicalization. The Commission states that it will, by end 2016, propose to revise the Schengen Information System to further improve its added value for law enforcement and counter-terrorism purposes. 

    Member States are encouraged to “proactively exchange all relevant information with other Member States, and Europol where appropriate, on released convicts suspected of radicalisation or known radical individuals, in order to ensure close monitoring of those representing a high risk.”

    The Brussels Times (Source: The European Commission)