Efus’ op-ed in Le Monde: “It is not by transforming our cities into hyper-secure fortresses that we will solve our security problems”

Discover Efus’ open editorial published in the newspaper Le Monde on 20 March 2024.

On the eve of the June European Parliament elections, the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus), which represents 250 European local and regional authorities, warn against authoritarian tendencies and point to the dynamism of European local authorities and the importance of founding urban security on social cohesion.

For the first time since the establishment of European parliamentary elections, in 1979, extreme-right, populist parties that are in the main hostile to the European project seem poised for a record surge. France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavian countries…  the wave seems powerful and about to unsettle both the European institutions and national governments. 

Repression is not the solution

We are 250 European mayors and are speaking today as members of the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus), which is an association of European cities that work for the prevention of all forms of crime in our cities. Obviously, we deeply respect the right of every citizen to democratically choose their elected representatives. This said, we wish to recall that our experience on the ground shows that purely repressive responses to crime are not adapted. 

Our association was founded more than 35 years ago (in 1987) with the objective of facilitating direct exchanges among European cities on a wide range of urban security topics.

Our responses vary, but our long experience on the ground and numerous direct exchanges among our member cities tell us that repression and excessive surveillance are not the only nor an adequate solution against crime, which is often fuelled by a variety of factors, in particular social and economics.  

It is not by transforming our cities into hyper-secure fortresses that we will solve our security problems. On the contrary, we are convinced that prevention and the strengthening of social cohesion are the best antidotes to insecurity, along the use of sanction when necessary. 

A fantastic capacity for solidarity 

Every day, we see on the ground the dynamism of European local and regional authorities, and their capacity for innovation and solidarity. Indeed, everywhere in Europe, municipal teams and their local partners work tirelessly to design and implement innovative programmes to prevent and fight against drug trafficking and consumption, violence against women and girls, and polarisation leading to violent extremism, to name but a few examples. Such programmes have a real impact on these types of crime, but also more broadly on how secure citizens feel. Indeed, it is well known that feelings of insecurity (whether or not based on evidence) are driving factors in the rise of populist movements and conspiracy theories. 

Respect for human rights 

We differ from the extreme right in another aspect, which is that we are deeply pro-Europe. Our association was created to foster exchanges among European Union (EU) cities. We need the EU not only because it funds some of our local crime prevention programmes, but also, more broadly, because it sets a whole body of values and objectives which we subscribe to. These values are our common basis and they support our work.

Today, we feel it is essential to stress that the common value of all European policies, including those that concern crime prevention and repression, is the respect of human rights and the rule of law. 

Security, democracy and cities 

How do we build cities where all citizens feel free and secure? In the end, this is our daily challenge. It was the theme of the Security, Democracy & Cities conference, which the European Forum for Urban Security organised in Brussels on 20-22 March. This was a unique opportunity to discuss the current challenges to democracy with hundreds of European urban security stakeholders and representatives of European institutions.  


Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam (Netherlands), Vice President of the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus) 

Willy Demeyer, Mayor of Liège (Belgium), President of Efus 

Joan Ignasi Elena, Secretary of the Interior of the Government of Catalonia (Spain), Vice President of Efus 

Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice (France), Vice President of Efus 

Christian Specht, Mayor of Mannheim (Germany), Vice President of Efus