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European Union: New Recommendations to Prevent Radicalization

(Jan. 29, 2014) On January 15, 2014, the European Commission adopted a new communication designed to improve the European Union’s (EU) response to terrorist attacks by minimizing radicalization and thus reducing the risk of violent extremist acts and strengthening the measures undertaken by the Member States. (Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on Preventing Radicalisation to Terrorism and Violent Extremism: Strengthening the EU’s Response, COM(2013) 941 final, EUROPA (Jan. 15, 2014).)

The Communication identifies new trends in the operations of terrorists and extremists in the EU. Currently, terrorist acts are not limited to al Qaeda, but are being conducted by various groups, espousing different ideologies, such as separatist and nationalist movements, right-wing extremism, and anarchism. The Communication also points out that terrorists, who are mostly Europeans, frequently act alone or tend to operate in small groups. (Id.)

An issue of concern is also the “foreign fighters,” who are European citizens who become involved in fighting in conflict zones, such as in Syria, and once they return to the EU, employ their skills acquired abroad in terrorist activities or to radicalize vulnerable youth. The Communication also emphasizes the crucial role that social networking and media play in assisting terrorist groups, by facilitating the online communication of extremist propaganda and the recruitment of new members. (Id.)

The Commission makes it clear that law enforcement authorities, although their role is critical in the fight against terrorism, are not sufficient to tackle the new trends encountered in terrorist and radical groups. The Commission suggests the need for involvement of the “whole society” and makes explicit recommendations to enable the EU and its Member States, acting jointly, to fight terrorism and radicalization more effectively. (Id.)

The major highlights of the recommendations are:

  • development of national strategies, with an internal and external component. Some EU Members already have adopted such strategies;
  • implementation of comprehensive approaches based on the EU counterterrorism strategy;
  • more effective involvement of non-governmental organizations, front-line workers, security services, and experts in the field;
  • a more active role for the Commission, working with the High Representative and the EU Counter Terrorism Coordinator, in assisting Member States to develop strategies and implement them;
  • strengthening the role of the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN), which was established in 2011 and brings together 700 experts and practitioners in the field of counterterrorism and radicalization;
  • facilitation of exchanges and sharing of the knowledge and expertise of individual members of the RAN dedicated to preventing terrorism and radicalization;
  • promotion of the role of RAN as a coordination hub for prevention initiatives inside and outside the EU;
  • more effective alignment of the work of RAN with the needs of Member States; and
  • the development of exit strategies to allow individuals to escape from participating in and being brainwashed by radical groups. (Id.)