We are European

Guilherme Pinto, President of Efus, reacts to the terrorist attacks that took place in France during the week of 7th January.

It is with shock and dismay that we have experienced these attacks in France, resulting in the deaths of 17 people during the week of the 7th January.  In light of these crimes, we are Charlie,  but, in particular, we are European because the constituent rights of our Union have been affected. The events of these last few days, particularly in Belgium, prove that terrorism – and the radicalisation which is one of the causes of it – is a cross-border phenomenon. We must, therefore, reflect and act upon both the European and international levels.

Beyond the profound emotion which they have aroused within each one of us, these events make us ponder our collective responsibility as well as our role as local officials and field workers, no matter what country we are from.  The police and judicial reply of the States will only be effective if it is reinforced by that of the cities in the field of prevention and integration.  It is, therefore, our responsibility to ensure that the fight against extremism does not translate into the reduction in fundamental freedoms, the questioning of prevention, or  the withdrawal or divide amongst communities.

Now more than ever, the European Forum has a role to play in order to support the local and regional authorities with their missions on prevention, detection of radicalisation and helping with deradicalisation. This phenomenon, which only directly affects a limited number of people, requires the creation of specific and targeted policies.  Far from diverting our attention, these policies must, on the contrary, contribute to reinforcing our fundamental and general policies of inclusion, prevention and security.

First of all, as a platform for dialogue and exchange, Efus must allow local stakeholders – elected officials and practitioners – to share perspectives regarding situations which they may feel insufficiently equipped to address. For more than 25 years, we have demonstrated that, beyond the specifics of local areas and the political affiliations of officials, it is not only possible but necessary to work together.

More than once, we have maintained the need for evidence-based policies.  This is why, for several months now, Efus has been working in cooperation with European cities on the responses to the prevention of violent radicalisation (read here).  We still have much more to learn about this question.  However, there are already a great number of studies and research, as well as initiatives, which have proved successful.  Here, I reaffirm Efus’ commitment to organise exchanges and collaborations between local authorities in order to provide them with the available knowledge and practices.

The task which now awaits us is huge because we face an immense challenge: to make our cities guarantors of coexistence and freedom of expression.  It is by working together that we will enable the general mobilisation observed in the world, and especially in Europe, to translate into concrete actions for the safety of each citizen and the strengthening of social cohesion.

Guilherme Pinto
President of Efus
Mayor of Matosinhos