Important to stand up for the open society

The grief and the shock are still substantial after the terror acts in Norway. We are all desperately trying to understand why this happened. Testimonies from the survivals from Utöya seem like they are taken from a nightmare. Like many others I am impressed by the leadership of the Norwegian Prime Minister in this difficult situation. It is extremely important to stand up for the open society and not be frightened to silence.

In the investigations of the horrendous terror deed it has become known that the person who claims to be responsible has been working for years on some sort of manifesto saying that Norway and Europe shall be “cleansed” from multiculturalism and from Islam. This manifesto is a product of a very disturbed man, but unfortunately we recognise some of these sentiments in Europe today. I have many times expressed my concern over xenophobic parties who build their unfortunately quite successful rhetoric on negative opinions on Islam and other so called threats against society. This creates a very negative environment, and sadly there are too few leaders today who stand up for diversity and for the importance of having open, democratic, and tolerant societies where everybody is welcome.

Thankfully it is uncommon to go from words to such horrendous deeds like the ones that Anders Behring Breivik is suspected for having committed, but this shows how important it is to work against radicalisation in all its forms. Last fall, the European Commission initiated a more systematic cooperation against radicalisation. In November last year I presented an Internal Security Strategy for the EU, where anti-radicalisation is listed as one of our priorities. The aim is to gather people from across the EU who work with these issues on the ground – researchers, social workers, religious leaders, youth leaders, policemen, and others – to exchange ideas and experiences. The first meetings already took place and we are planning to formally launch the anti-radicalisation network in September. The project will receive about four million Euros during the coming years. I have now seen to it that also our Norwegian colleagues are invited to participate in this network. Europol is also working against radicalisation, and there is work ongoing in several Member States. It is extremely important that we work with preventive measures in order to stop people with extreme ideologies to go from words to action.

Moreover, it seems like the man suspected of these crimes has also constructed the bomb that went off by the government offices in Oslo. It is far too easy today to get hold of substances that can be used as precursors in making home made explosives. The Oslo bomber seems to have used fertilizers, which is one of the most common substances within this area (another one is hydrogen peroxide, which is the active substance in hair bleach and was used in the London bombings in the summer of 2005). Last September I put forward a proposal which would require people to get specific licences in order to by large quantities of such substances, and that such large purchases must be reported. The proposal would also mean that some dangerous substances would be banned and that the concentration of other substances must be reduced. Legislation can of course not be the cure for all risks of acts of violence, crime or terrorism, but by introducing common regulations across the EU we can make it harder for malicious persons to make these dangerous explosives.

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