Paris, November 2014 – Many European cities are faced with radical groups who justify violence with an extremist ideology. As shown during the first meeting of Efus’ new project LIAISE, radicalisation may take different forms: extreme-right groups, people who leave their country to fight the Jihad, gangs of violent ultras, hooliganism… All these forms of extremism are a potential threat for many European citizens.
Strengthening the capacities of local authorities
The attack against the Jewish Museum of Brussels in May, perpetrated by a French jihadist who had come back from Syria and Iraq and been in various European countries, as well as other violent acts perpetrated in the name of extremist ideology reveal the dangers of the process of radicalisation. Local authorities are on the front line in the fight against this phenomenon, which has European and international ramifications.
Co-financed by the European Commission and the project partners, LIAISE seeks to help European local authorities to implement measures for the prevention of violent radicalisation in all its forms. The project has several objectives: to foster exchange among local authorities on their practices and areas of concern; to provide information on the European framework and the actions and tools made available by the European Union and member states; to provide support to cities and give them the opportunity to exchange with experts on their local situation, and last but not least, to provide training on specific topics that will have been identified through the project.
The participants in LIAISE are the cities of Malmö (Sweden), Reggio Emilia (Italy), L’Hospitalet (Spain), Vilvoorde, Brussels and Liege (Belgium), Augsburg, Düsseldorf (Germany), the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD, United Kingdom) and the association for intercultural dialogue Ufuq (Germany). The associate partners are the Ministry of Social Affairs of the state of Bavaria (Germany), the Berlin-based association Cultures Interactives and the Belgian Forum for Prevention and Urban Security (FBPSU).
How to deal with various phenomena?
The first work meeting showed that radicalisation phenomena are varied, as are the levels of experience. Some cities have already put in place partnerships with representatives of communities that are particularly affected, with the objective of preventing more young people from leaving their country for the war zones. Some have successfully implemented de-radicalisation programmes targeting extreme right groups. Some have created units in charge of monitoring and helping families that have been identified as having members at risk of leaving for the war zones. And some local authorities are only now starting to take measures.
Partners in the project are particularly interested in analysing the process leading to violent radicalisation, i.e. common factors among all types of radicalisation. They are also of course keen to work on responses: what can be done to prevent and treat violent radicalisation.
Discussions during the meeting showed that it is a complex issue. When does radicalisation become a problem? Partners emphasised the importance of preserving the freedom of expression and of belief. They agreed that the red line is violence: what needs to be prevented and fought is violent radicalisation.
Another challenge is the risk of stigmatisation, in particular concerning violent radicalisation that justifies itself in the name of Islam. The project partners hope that LIAISE will provide an opportunity to promote enlightened views on radicalisation that can counter simplistic narratives that stigmatise some groups of population.
Aware that radicalisation is not the only urban security challenge of today, the project partners believe that the work on radicalisation being carried out throughout Europe should be more based on prevention.