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Speech of EFUS President and Mayor of Brussles Freddy Thiemelans at the opening of the 9th German Crime Prevention Day , Stuttgart, 17th May 2004

Mr President of the Congress,
Mr Mayor,
Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to thank the organisers of the German Crime Prevention Day for inviting me to take part in this conference. It’s an honour for me, as both President of the European Forum for Urban Safety and as Mayor of Brussels, to be amongst you today.  Our organisation is also delighted to be taking part in this event for the third time.  This bears witness to a reciprocal interest in crime prevention, which I hope will become even stronger in the future.

I am going to briefly present to you 3 points which appear to me as essential.  First of all I am going to tell you why exchanges at the European level are crucial in order to improve our prevention policies.  Then I will discuss the reasons why we want develop greater cooperation with you, the people involved in German crime prevention, and finally, I will present to you the principles which I consider critical in every crime prevention policy.

I will therefore now come to my first point, which is increasing exchanges at a European level between people involved in crime prevention.

Perhaps you already know the European Forum for Urban Safety, which was founded in 1987 by Frenchman Gilbert Bonnemaison, and whose European credentials are also visible in his other European organisations, such as the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC).  The EFUS today unites over 300 cities and local European groups, some of which are part of National Forums, (in Belgium, Spain, Italy, France and shortly Portugal) and since its creation has been an accelerator of action.

Promoting exchanges between local groups at a European level is our raison d’être.   Exchanges are not easy for those involved in local practices as they may have to admit that there are weaknesses in their programmes.  But it is also, and above all, a great opportunity to improve their practices and maybe those of their colleagues.  This issue is crucial at a time when Europe is expanding to include 10 new countries, from which we can undoubtedly learn, and in return we must pass on to them our experience of being part of an area where there is security, freedom and justice, as the Treaty of Amsterdam outlined.

If exchanging experiences at a national level, as you all do within the DPT, is something natural for most people, it seems to me to be more difficult for this to definitively happen at the supranational level.  As yes, the contexts and priorities are clearly different from one country to the other.

But who can still pretend that citizens do not have the same expectations and that we do not have the same difficulties to solve?  Similarly, how can we overcome cross border crime today? These are points which must bring Europe together and from now on help improve the situation.

Europe allows us to go past our cultural and political origins and abilities which at times prevent us from impartially tackling the issue of security.  Security must remain an area where everyone can come together despite their differences.

Europe also allows us to more quickly and effectively learn about and react to changes in our society, which is marked by new more visible and mobile forms of crime.

On the other hand, it’s also up to us, those involved in crime prevention, to enrich Europe with our experiences. Europe, as I’ve said, has recognised crime prevention as an element necessary to maintain a space of freedom, security and justice.  Europe is focusing on the objectives of crime prevention (urban crime, juvenile delinquency, drug-related crime) and has provided tools such as the European Crime Prevention network, which brings together representatives of all European countries as well as organisations such as the European Forum for Urban Safety, in order to strengthen cooperation between its States.

Despite these recent developments, we must remain alert together in order to make preventing crime a priority for Europe and to make local groups more widely recognised as key players alongside the Police and the Courts in crime prevention.

As part of its desire to make those involved in prevention valued at the European Union level, the EFUS has for example defended from early on the introduction of a European Budget, specific for crime prevention, which from now on is part of the AGIS programme.  However there is still a lot to be done.  Hence why we have gone into partnership with the Council of Europe to launch a European Security Observatory in order to improve our knowledge of crime and how we can respond to it at the European level.

It’s time for me now to explain to you my motivation to learn more about the German example and why I’m asking for greater cooperation with you.

As you know, I am from Belgium, a country which has benefited, at times against its will ( !), from influences from abroad including on the issue of crime prevention.  Traditionally countries are studied for this issue.  I’m thinking here about models developed in the United Kingdom, in France or even in Scandinavia, where they introduced very early on structured prevention policies.

I’m convinced that we have much to learn from Germany, which has greatly contributed to crime prevention for several years.  I am in particular thinking about the 2,000 local prevention councils, the launch of the Deutsches Forum für Kriminalprävention (DFK- German Crime Prevention Forum), whose network of cities features many of our own members and even Deutsches Präventionstag.   This event, which brings together a large number of people involved in prevention each year, is an almost unique initiative in Europe.  I don’t see any reason why other event of this nature shouldn’t be created on a European level. 

As I mentioned, I am convinced that meetings between crime prevention professionals is the perfect occasion for each one of use to improve our practices and to therefore improve the daily lives of our citizens.  We should look at Goethe for example, who certainly at the time was not thinking about crime prevention, but who said that duty, our duty must be what we do each day [1].  This concern must encourage us to research the most adapted solutions which demonstrate inventiveness, innovation and pragmatism.

We have recently worked with several German cities as part of European projects; I’m thinking especially of Lübeck, Bonn, Düsseldorf and even the Land de Basse-Saxe Prevention Council.  I can also only be delighted that the DSK’s network of cities has expressed a desire to organise with us meetings with cities from our network in order to better reflect together on the ways in which each one of us can improve our policies and thus the lives of our citizens.

We’ve therefore got a lot to learn from you and I also hope that together we will be able to defend and improve our crime prevention policies by launching joint initiatives.

I come now to the last element: the principles which bring together the members of EFUS and which, in our opinion, must guide all crime prevention policies.

We have never hidden our attachment to the principles developed in France since 1982 by Gilbert Bonnemaison, the founding President of EFUS.  He exported these principles to countries far from Europe such as the United States and even Australia.  It is because they are based on a wild pragmatism, which we too have incorporated into our principles.  In this way in Belgium since 1992 we have been implementing security and prevention contracts so that volunteer local policies can be introduced.

I will briefly remind you at this point of three of these principles which we improved during the drafting of a Manifesto, on which over 800 participants from all horizons worked, during a conference that the EFUS organised in Naples in 2000:

Firstly, problems with delinquency have local specificities: even if there are strong measures in place against delinquency, it’s necessary for the study on the nature of crime to go into more detail in order to understand the issues from which our cities sometimes suffer.

Secondly, crime must be dealt with locally, as a uniform policy cannot be applied identically everywhere without being adapted to the local situation if it wants to be realist.

And finally, treating delinquency must take the form of a partnership, as delinquency cannot be effectively fought against alone.  Leaving one person or group to deal with delinquency would be depriving our territories of the potential to act.

Even more importantly, we must agree that we can only achieve security through respecting democracy.  We must refuse any temptations to resort to extremism with regards to security, as this would contradict our pragmatism and be counterproductive.

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In conclusion, allow me to reiterate that combining preventing delinquency with repression is not a miracle solution.  Nor is it the obvious solution.  Prevention policies must be supported by human and financial resources level with our ambitions. We also need to evaluate them in order to provide the means to improve them.  Let’s not forget that it is no longer a relatively young policy ; it’s twenty years old in the majority of European countries, which still have a lot of progress to achieve.  This progress must be achieved by all levels together; the local, national and European levels, and I hope that everyone here will participate in this democratic process.

Thank you for your attention.

Stuttgart, 17th May 2004
Mayor of Brussels
President of the EFUS
[1] “Qu’est ce que ton devoir ? L’exigence de chaque jour”, Extract from Reflections, Goethe.

Click here to download the speech by Nel Vandevannet, Crime prevention official in Brussels during the workshop “Crime prevention in Europe”.

For the previous German Crime Prevention Day, click here