European Union External Action

Washington Summit on Countering Violent Extremism

20/02/2015 - 00:00
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Terrorism targets not just the security of people, but also freedom of speech and diversity of societies. Those were some of the messages EU High Representative Federica Mogherini delivered in a speech at a Washington Summit on Countering Violent Extremism at the White House on 19 February.

Washington Summit on Countering Violent Extremism at the White House

Mogherini said that "the attacks in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen shook our continent. Once again, years after London and Madrid, we were brutally reminded that terrorism is a global and European threat. No nation, no power can carry out this fight alone."

In her speech Mrs Mogherini called for "a coordinated effort by national governments, regional organisations, civil society groups. Only a global alliance can address this threat effectively."

Given the crisis in Libya, in the margins of the conference, Federica Mogherini met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. In a joint statement they said that "all those around the table firmly supported the role of Bernardino León, UN Special Representative for Libya, in mediating for a national unity government, which the international community is ready to support in the fight against Daesh. All parties have decided to maintain constant coordination between them to define together the next steps to be taken".

"Extremists are afraid of books and pens - education frightens them"

In her speech at the conference Mrs Mogherini said "security is not the only issue at stake. The terrorists in Paris and Copenhagen targeted our freedom of speech. They targeted the cultural and religious diversity of our society. They targeted the very values we built our Union on. Europe will not give up its values. We will not give in to the terrorists’ threat. Our response will safeguard the liberties of all European citizens, be they Christians, Jews, Muslims or non-believers."

Mrs Mogherini also quotes Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai who said that “The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them”.

She noted that EU Education Ministers will meet in Paris on 17 March to define new measures to tackle radicalization across the EU. The meeting is a joint initiative of the French Government and the EU.

She said that the internet has become a primary means for radicalization and recruitment and it is essential that we develop close partnerships with the private sector and the telecommunications industry to counter effectively this metastasised terrorist threat.

Coordinated action on countering violent extremism

In terms on action the EU is taking the High Representative said that prevention is a core element in our strategy against violent extremism. The EU has defined its vision through the EU Strategy on Prevention of Radicalization and Recruitment, which is regularly updated. Since 2011, the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN) has worked with over a thousand local practitioners and more than 800 organisations coming from all over Europe.

Mrs Mogherini stressed that the EU will continue its close cooperation with international initiatives and our key partners. "We will follow-up on the outcome of the Washington Countering Violent Extremism Summit, in particular through fostering Countering Violent Extremism cooperation including on education, through engaging more with local communities, especially in the Horn of Africa region" she said.

She also said the EU stood ready to facilitate further forms of dialogue including the possibility of creating a Round of Eminent Persons from Europe and the Islamic world, to encourage intellectual exchanges and promote dialogue on the cost and ramification of terrorism in our societies.

On education, the EU offers to host a regional experts' meeting in early summer to involve the EU's Radicalization Awareness Network and together with the United Nations, the European Union will explore options to host a high-level segment in the margins of UNGA next September in New York, to promote the message for enhanced global partnerships in countering violent extremism.

Finally, she noted the EU is increasing its efforts and its role in solving the many conflicts and crisis that lay the ground for terrorist groups to recruit and prosper, from Sinai to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, from the Middle East to Libya.

"This not a clash of civilisations"

In her concluding remarks Mrs Mogherini said "it is key to develop a counter narrative to recognize that the first victims of this terrorism are Muslims, often Sunni, Arabs, Africans, and Asians. This is not a clash of civilisations, this is not a fight between Islam and the West. This is a criminal misuse of a noble religion to perpetrate terrorist attacks in a fight for power. After 9/11, the narrative of a 'clash of civilisations' seemed to prevail. By 2015, we have learnt the clash runs 'within' our civilisations, and no one can succeed alone. Countering violent extremism is a security, a political and cultural mission. We can fulfil our mission only together."

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