Mr. President, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me thank the Tajik Government for organising this conference on countering terrorism and its financing and for its generous hospitality.
Today’s event is important to our international and regional cooperation at a moment when the terrorism we are jointly fighting continues to threaten and kill innocent citizens across the globe. That it takes place here in Dushanbe has additional value for the European Union, as two days ago we adopted a new Strategy on Central Asia, presenting a vision and priorities for our relations with this region for the coming years.
The European Union wants to forge a strong and modern partnership with the countries of Central Asia in their progress towards a more resilient, prosperous and closely interconnected economic and political space. Indeed, Central Asia as key communication hub between Asia and Europe plays an important role in global efforts for peace and security, as well as sustainable development.
But let me return to the common security threats that are at the core of our discussion this morning.
The developments in Syria and Iraq have sharpened the global debate on the relocation of Foreign Terrorist Fighters and international travel of terrorists. The EU is committed to ensuring the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2396 (on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts).
It is crucial to hold Foreign Terrorist Fighters – both men and women – accountable for their actions and maximise the possibility of successful prosecution, in line with applicable national and international law.
At the same time, their return to their countries of origin is raising difficult questions not only as regards security and accountability, but also regarding de-radicalisation and reintegration. Questions concerning children affected by these situations, often stateless and homeless, are particularly complex, from legal and humane perspectives.
And yet these questions are key if we want to prevent the spawning of new generations of terrorists. We have to be modest in this regard. There is no easy answer, nor magic formula. This is why we need to exchange experiences and learn from each other. On this occasion, I would therefore like to commend Tajikistan for its efforts in taking back a number of its children.
On its side the European Union stands ready to support capacity-building programmes in partner countries having to cope with returning terrorist fighters. We are committed to providing support to handle the challenges related to returning families of FTFs. Yesterday, the EU organised a side event here in Dushanbe dedicated to this topic.
The EU is also at the frontline in the fight against money-laundering and terrorist financing. We call for the full and effective implementation of the recently adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2462 (on fighting terrorism financing).
Countering terrorism financing must be a key part of our efforts to weaken and degrade terrorist organisations, including in Central Asia where terrorist groups have financed their operations from drug trafficking.
The EU has strengthened its internal regime including with regards to risks posed by certain crypto-asset service providers and further strengthened its financial intelligence units. The EU has also developed a Global Facility that channels public expertise from EU Member States to help partners improve their respective regulatory frameworks, bank supervision or Financial Intelligence Units. Countries must close the gaps and address their strategic deficiencies in line with recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force.
The EU also believes it is essential we address prevention of radicalisation and focus on the root causes of terrorism. National mechanisms for monitoring radicalisation in prisons and after release must also be promoted. De-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration must be dealt with jointly as a package, to prevent further spread of terrorist ideology.
At the international level, between 2015 and 2018, the EU has doubled the funding for counterterrorism and P-CVE programmes outside the EU to €338 million. Prevention programmes aim for example at identifying and tackling drivers of youth extremism, at empowering women and at promoting community dialogue. We seek to empower local actors, the media and education sectors to address radicalising ideologies.
As already emphasised, the fight against terrorism is a long-term effort. One that requires strong cooperation despite our differences.
We are actively seeking partnerships and collaborations with international and regional partners. Let me reaffirm once again the European Union's keen interest in working together with all partners present here today.
And first and foremost, with Central Asian Partners. We are keenly aware of the current challenges for Tajikistan, whose long border with Afghanistan is a source of much concern from a security point of view. Central Asian countries are indeed key actors in ensuring sustainable peace in Afghanistan. The EU is ready to expand regional cooperation with Central Asia to support the peace and stabilisation of Afghanistan.
We will continue our Border Management Programme for Central Asia (BOMCA) – as well as the Central Asia Drug Action Programme (CADAP). The next phase will benefit from a more substantial budget, to better address the needs of our partners. We will include Afghanistan in this programme and build on achievements of the Border Management Programme for Northern Afghanistan, which will end this year.
But beyond bilateral relations, a strong multilateral framework remains essential - to build understanding of the nature of the challenges and establish cooperative mechanisms across continents. The role of the United Nations in this regard is indispensable. And work carried out over the last year by USG Vladimir Voronkov to coordinate and align efforts of UN specialised organisations, agencies and programmes deserves praise and acknowledgement.
I also want to commend the role of the OSCE in the region and their recent High Level Regional Conference in Ashgabat on 17-18 April.
Only jointly we can build a better tomorrow. Only through cooperation can we successfully promote peace, prosperity and security. The EU will remain firmly engaged in these efforts.