Opinion Factsheet  

Combatting Radicalisation and Violent Extremism: Prevention mechanisms at local and regional level

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Opinion Number: CDR 6329/2015
Commission: CIVEX
Status: Adopted
Date: 16/06/2016
 
to help shape the EU's actions on the prevention of radicalisation and terrorism, as defined by the special agreement of the European Council. This opinion will demonstrate how local and regional authorities have the power to deliver some of the EU's key objectives in the prevention of violent radicalisation and will outline what instruments are required to combat this phenomenon.

The phenomenon of radicalisation is one of the CIVEX Commission's priorities, and this opinion will foster discussion and exchange of best practice on combatting radicalisation and violent extremism through a multi-level governance approach.

This opinion will bring the CoR's position up to date and – crucially - will feed in the ideas of local and regional authorities at an early stage to the work of several European Commission Directorates General involved in this developing policy area.
The Opinion called for the establishment of a repository of prevent strategies at national, regional or local level, networks of practitioners and national/regional contact points in Member States. This proposal was accepted by the European Commission considering that it was necessary fto support local and regional authorities in developing local and national prevention strategies to counter violent radicalisation. The Opinion also considered that engagement of youth workers is important as part of a broader collaboration with all relevant actors, including with educational institutions, community organisations. In the same vein the European Commission stressed the importance of combining individual deradicalisation programmes with measures such as establishing partnerships with community representatives, investing in social and neighbourhood projects to break down economic and geographical marginalisation. In line the proposal of the European Committee of the regions teh European Commission underlined the importance of action on causes to tackle radicalisation and the recruitment of terrorists, stepping up prevention, mainly by monitoring the internet and holding dialogue with faith-based communities and their leaders.
The text agreed in December by LIBE and COREPER on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating terrorism and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism and amending Council Decision 2005/671/JHA on the exchange of information and cooperation concerning terrorist offences includes two points that relate to the local level. As to the first point it is clear it is part of a compromise including an amendment tabled at the request of the CoR rapporteur:
 (17b) Member States should pursue their efforts to prevent and counter radicalisation leading to terrorism by coordinating, sharing information and experience on national prevention policies and by implementing or, as the case may be, updating national prevention policies taking into account their own needs, objectives and capabilities building on their own experiences. The Commission should, where appropriate, provide support to national, regional and local authorities in developing prevention policies.
 (17c) Member States should, depending on the relevant needs and particular circumstances in each country, provide support to professionals, including civil society partners likely to come in contact with persons vulnerable to radicalisation. Such support measures may include in particular training and awareness raising measures aimed at enabling them to identify and address signs of radicalisation. Such measures should, where appropriate, be taken in cooperation with private companies, relevant civil society organisations, local communities and other stakeholders.
The message of the opinion, in particular the important role played by local and regional authorities in preventing radicalisation, has been shared with a wider audience of decision makers and citizens at large through:
 Two study visits to Mechelen, first one in February when a delegation of 5 MEPs and some CoR members visited Mechelen and in October when Commissioner King (responsible for the Security Union) visited Mechelen.
A high number of articles of the Mechelen model in national as well as international media (l'Espresso, Huffington Post DE, Die Zeit, NYT, VRT, RTBF, De Morgen, De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad, Het Laatste Nieuws, Le Soir, Wall Street Journal, Middle East Eye, BBC, Deutsche Welle and many more).
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

- stresses that efforts to combat terrorism and prevent the violent radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations remain essentially the responsibility of the Member States, but that local, European and international cooperation is also of crucial importance in addressing the issue effectively;

- considers it necessary to address the phenomenon of violent radicalisation, as it presents a threat to citizens in Europe as well as to Europe's universal values based on its cultural and humanist inheritance;

- underlines the importance of action on causes to tackle radicalisation and the recruitment of terrorists, stepping up prevention, mainly by monitoring the internet and holding dialogue with faith-based communities and their leaders, as well as meetings, information days, awareness-raising activities and in general sensitising civil society to these issues;

- calls on the European Commission to seek swift agreement on a common definition of the phenomenon of violent radicalisation, as a starting point for a more coordinated approach by the various countries and with the contribution of the regional and local authorities, also taking into account that each Member State's experience is deeply shaped by unique political, cultural, and legal elements;

- points out that European funds must be allocated to European towns and regions and local and regional authorities urged to access these funds in order to implement projects and programmes to prevent violent radicalisation, campaigns to identify problems which are at the root of the conflicts, and awareness-raising activities;

- considers it necessary each Member State to set up the necessary structures to detect radicalisation, to be responsible for strategic communication and counter-narratives adapted to the reality of each country and its people; to provide guidance and individual mentoring to persons who are at risk of becoming radicalised and to provide a contact point for reporting possible radicalisation and receive guidance on how to react to it, for families, friends, teachers and other contact-persons; such structures should be developed in close coordination between the European, the national, the local and regional levels.

Importance

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EU Cities against Radicalisation

As a follow-up to that conference, the EC and the CoR organised a conference entitled “EU Cities against Radicalisation” on 26 February 2019, in Brussels, with 150 participants from across the EU.

The conference brought together mayors, European and national policymakers, cities' networks and organisations involved in countering and preventing radicalisation.

The participants discussed the challenge of violent radicalisation leading to extremism at the local level, with a focus on sharing innovative and effective responses to radicalisation and on exploring how cities can cooperate with each other in this area. The conference showcased the support that is available from national governments and the EU to empower cities to develop initiatives against radicalisation

The event was opened by Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, and Sir Julian King, EU Commissioner for the Security Union and Mr. Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions.

Mr. Bart Somers was moderator of one panel of the conference. He underlined the need for an inclusive society. This should be achieved by fighting segregation via an inclusive narrative of living to-gether in diversity. He especially mentioned the "third generation" (people, whose grandparents immigrated). These people should be included into the narrative and not be viewed as migrants who have to integrate.

The proposal for a ‘Covenant of Cities’ proposed by Beatriz Becerra MEP and Bart Somers was supported by European Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King. It was acknowledged that there is a need for a higher level of engagement and want to build this type of network to promote regular, structured contacts and approaches to tackle radicalisation.

 
26 Feb
 

EU Mayors' Conference: Building Urban Defences Against Terrorism: Lessons Learned From Recent Attacks

The target audience of the conference included mayors/city representatives of EU cities that have been affected by terrorism (such as: London, Manchester, Barcelona, Berlin and Stockholm) and cities from which it is known that they are specifically engaged with the protection against terrorism and the prevention of radicalisation (such as: Mechelen and Sintra). Also, the EU cities that have signed the Nice Declaration, all EU capitals and local and regional authorities from the European Committee of the Regions CIVEX commission were invited.

The opening remarks were delivered by the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for the Security Union Sir Julian King and the President of European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz.

Mr Somers moderated one panel of discussion.The main goal of the panel was to raise awareness on the importance of preventing and countering radicalisation as a complementary long-term challenge to security focussed (including protect) efforts paving the way for the implementation of stronger and more impactful PREVENT work at city/municipality level. The panel was moderated by Mr. Bart Somers, CoR Rapporteur on the opinion “Combatting Radicalisation and Violent Extremism: Prevention mechanisms at local and regional level”. Mr. Somers emphasised the need for continued prevention efforts "Build rather bridges than walls".

 
08 Mar
 

Article in The Guardian

The newspaper The Guardian published an article by Bart Somers where he describes Mechelen's approach against radicalisation and terrorism. The title of the article is "My Belgian city has shown we are not defenceless against terror".

 
14 Jun
 

3nd meeting of the European Migration Forum

The Commission's agenda on migration outlines an immediate response to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean and sets out longer term steps to manage migration in all its aspects
In this context, European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee will organize the 3nd meeting of the European Migration Forum.
The Forum will provide the opportunity for ca.120 civil society organisations from across the European Union and its neighboring countries to discuss with European institutions and representatives from local, regional and national authorities the key issue of ACCESS: migrants' access to Europe, to rights and to services.
The meeting will include a discussion on safe legal alternatives to the perilous journeys migrants undertake, as well as a reflection on the way migrants can access services upon their arrival, together with the rights to which they are entitled to, and how to ensure continuation of such provisions to facilitate their integration process.
Mr. Bart Somers will intervene during the session "Access to services and rights", on the 3 March 2017, highlighting the challenges that a local municipality faces with regard to the integration of migrants and refugees in order to ensure inclusion within its society, as well as presenting what has been working well in Mechelen.

 
02 Mar
 

Security Union Commissioner King visits Mechelen - Press Coverage

Various articles:

 
07 Oct
 

Security Union Commissioner King visited Mechelen to discuss prevention of radicalisation

EU Security Union Commissioner Julian King visited the Belgian city of Mechelen as part of the Commission's commitment to step up its work in tackling radicalisation. He met Mechelen Mayor Bart Somers to discuss what has become known as the "Mechelen approach" in fighting radicalisation. Commissioner King met a wide range of local experts, including the Council's Radicalisation Officer and the Head of the Mechelen Police. Mr Somers and Commissioner King spoke with victims of terrorism and families directly affected by terrorism and exchanged views with frontline workers – such as youth and social workers, as well as activists involved in a variety of grassroots initiatives including sports and art projects.

 
07 Oct
 

Commissioner Ms Vĕra Jourová met Bart Somers

Mr Bart Somers, Mayor of the Belgian Municipality of Mechelen and CoR-rapporteur, met EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova, to discuss cooperation in combating radicalisation and increasing joint efforts for more inclusive societies.

 
29 Sep
 

The role of the EU's regional and local authorities in addressing the refugee crisis:

Europe's migration challenge is an area where European citizens want to see more European action. As Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, told the CoR Plenary Session last year, local and regional authorities are on the frontline of the challenges, but also at the heart of the solution because they often provide the first services when migrants arrive.

On the invitation of Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia, the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions will meet in one of Europe's most affected regions, Thessaloniki, on 16 September, to take stock of the situation and find common responses for the future.

 
16 Sep
 

Voices of Molenbeek Conference

The event will be introduced by Mr. Bart Somers, Mayor of Mechelen and CoR member, author of the CoR report on "Combatting radicalisation and violent extremism: prevention mechanisms at local and regional level", adopted at the last Plenary Session of the European Committee of the Regions.

 
06 Sep
 

Conference of The Slovak Presidency - Totalitarian Regimes

Mr. Bart Sommers made specific suggestions to the Slovalk Presidency on how to prevent radicalisation.

 
22 Aug
 

Visit to Mechelen "Preventing Radicalisation"

The fact finding mission to Mechelen took place on 25th February, on the invitation of Mr. Bart Somers (mayor of Mechelen and rapporteur of the CoR opinion on Combatting Radicalisation). The experience and preventive approach of local authorities in fighting radicalisation was presented by speakers from Mechelen, Vilvoorde and Antwerp. The second part of the mission included a testimonial of a mother who lost her son in fights in Syria and two field workers of Mechelen and Vilvoorde

 
25 Feb