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The European Union co-sponsors the High-level International Conference on "International and Regional Cooperation on Countering Terrorism and its Financing Through Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime" to take place in Dushanbe on 17 May 2019. The EU delegation will be led by Mr. Pedro Serrano, Deputy Secretary-General for Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis Response, European External Action Service (EEAS). Mr. John Gatt-Rutter, Head of Counter-Terrorism Division, will also participate. The EU Delegation in Tajikistan will host a side-event dedicated to reintegration of returning families of foreign terrorist fighters, including children, youth and women.
Terrorism needs globally coordinated responses to defeat it. Counterterrorism (CT) and preventing/countering violent extremism (P/CVE) are top EU priorities. The UN Global CT Strategy and the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism are cornerstones for EU CT and P/CVE efforts. The EU attaches great importance to a holistic approach to tackle terrorism by strengthening law enforcement, information exchange, eliminating the exploitation of the internet for terrorist purposes and cutting off resources of terrorism financing in full compliance with the rule of law and international law, including human rights law and international humanitarian law. The EU actively engages in the full implementation of the UN Global Counterterrorism Coordination Compact.
Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service Pedro Serrano said on the occasion: "Central Asia is a strategically important region where there is a strong demand and great potential for new partnerships. We share the interest in strengthening our engagement – whether it is in the field of security, in particular counter-terrorism and the prevention of extremism, but also trade, energy, connectivity or development."
Counterterrorism features ever more prominently in EU's external action; In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks of January 2015, the Council provided substantial guidance on the EU’s external engagement in the fight against terrorism. This led to the establishment of important new tools and the launch of new actions in this field - including the setting up of a network of EU counterterrorism experts in a number of EU Delegations; counterterrorism dialogues and action plans with key international partners. Adapting to the evolution of the terrorist threat, the Council further developed its strategic guidance in June 2017. This reinvigorated the European Union's policies for Anti-Money Laundering and the Countering of Financing of Terrorism.
In 2018, we saw the almost complete defeat of Da'esh as territorial entity. However, this defeat did not eliminate the terrorist threat but rather caused it to change shape. The return of foreign terrorist fighters from territories previously held by Da'esh as well as their search for new safe havens in and around our Neighbourhood, the consequent risk of radicalization and violent extremism being propagated in local communities within the EU and beyond, the need to bring returning terrorists to justice, evolutions in money-laundering and terrorism financing, the (re-)emergence of other terrorist actors such as Al-Qaeda and terrorist sleeper cells and low-key lone operators, and persisting terrorist propaganda on-line, remain challenges that demand action of the EU and its partners.
Increasingly, the EU considers its work and cooperation on counterterrorism with partner countries in Central Asia as a priority. On 15 May 2019, the European Commission and the European External Action Service jointly issued a new EU Strategy on Central Asia: "The EU and Central Asia: New Opportunities for a Stronger Partnership". In this Strategy, emphasis is placed on the importance of cooperation between the EU and its partners in Central Asia in preventing violent extremism and radicalisation, financing of terrorism and addressing the issue of returning terrorist fighters, in cooperation with civil society and with continued attention for human rights. The EU will promote exchange of good practice on the prevention of violent extremism, including research on the drivers of violent extremism, preventive measures and counter-messaging. It will seek to strengthen the resilience of the local communities towards violent extremism while respecting human rights and the rule of law and being gender-sensitive, in line with the UN Action Plan on Preventing Violent Extremism. The EU will deploy a dedicated EU security and counterterrorism expert with regional competence for Central Asia shortly.