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.