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Let me begin by thanking the US, President Obama and Secretary Kerry, for hosting this Summit on countering violent extremism, radicalization and recruitment to terrorism.
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 country in the world can ignore the risks of violent extremism.
The European Union and each of its Member States are determined to do their part. But we should never forget the nature of the threat – and of the world we live in. No nation, no power can carry out this fight alone. The tasks ahead call for a coordinated effort by national governments, regional organisations, civil society groups. Only a global alliance can address this threat effectively.
In the EU we will need to enhance security measures to prevent new attacks. But 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 not believers. To do so, we will work with our communities and we are stepping up different forms of inter- faith dialogue. We will not let extremism exploit our diversities against us: diversity is our strength, diversity is who we are. Diversity is what scares them.
Prevention and education
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: they were provided with the opportunity to develop policy recommendations, to collect best practices, to support those being confronted with problems of radicalisation.The fight against violent extremism will be long. As we focus on immediate threats, we should also think strategically, to our future. Younger generations are the key to our success. The terrorists know this very well: the images of child soldiers are becoming a core feature of their propaganda.
We cannot afford to lose the fight for our youth. This is why education is so crucial. “The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them” – let us not forget the words of a brave young woman, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. And girls in education, we know that this frighten extremist more than anything else.
In Europe, we believe public education is a powerful tool to promote open-mindedness and tolerance in the youth. We are also engaging with local communities, the civil society and the private sector, in order to foster their resilience and to prevent the formation of parallel education networks, where extremist ideas may thrive. The EU Education Ministers will meet in Paris on March 17th to define new measures to tackle radicalization across the EU. The meeting is a joint initiative of the French Government and the EU.
In our partner countries, the EU supports initiatives aimed at identifying drivers for youth extremism, empowering women, promoting community policing, strengthening local actors, improving the media and education capacities to counter radicalizing ideologies. We have to make sure that young people are not only in education, but that they can find their place in their own societies, and an appropriate one. A powerful one.
As we all know, the internet has become a primary mean for radicalization and recruitment. Unlike the past, when radicalization took place within traditional forms of associational life, today it often takes place in the solitude of our children’s bedrooms. It is essential that we develop close partnerships with the private sector and the telecommunications industry to counter effectively this metastasised terrorist threat.
Let me underline the next steps which the EU plans to take in more concrete terms:
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. That is where we plan to hold our Annual Plenary session of the GCTF Horn of Africa Working Group – which will take place in Kampala/Uganda on 17-20 March 2015 – and where we will also organise a large Exposition Event on Countering Violent Extremism projects.
We stand 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.
The EU is mobilised on addressing the underlying factors of radicalization. We will launch promptly additional programmes on how to link education and countering violent extremism, addressing the socio-economic aspects of conflicts linking them with the Post 2015 agenda.
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, we 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 but not least, the EU is increasing its efforts and its role for solving the many conflicts and crisis that lay the ground for terrorist groups to recruit and prosper. From Sinai to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, from Middle East to Libya. Let me say a word on Libya. A perfect mix of arms, natural and financial resources, absence of state structure, smuggling and trafficking of human beatings, ready to explode.
Efforts done in these hours by UN Secretary General special envoy, Bernardino Leon, to bring difficult internal dialogue to the result of a national unity government is the last chance. Not only Libya, but all neighbouring countries, Europe, the world cannot afford it to fail. We all have our part to do, to make it work.
It has a lot to do with countering violent extremism. We have to work at home, as we have to work in the world.
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 not a clash of civilisations, this 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.
The threats we are facing have taught us something. After the fall of the Berlin wall, many believed the world needed some sort of “global policeman” as a security provider. 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.