In September of 2011, I launched the Radicalisation Awareness Network, or RAN, as a response to the ever-growing prevalence of violent extremism in Europe. Individuals such as Anders Behring Breivik in Norway, Mohamed Merah in France or the Stockholm suicide bomber are all examples of violent extremists who committed acts of terrorism. These isolated individuals base their actions on extreme right or left-wing convictions, or religiously motivated extremism, and they exist within our societies. However, around Europe, there is a wealth of knowledge about how to discover such individuals, and hopefully halt them before they can commit acts of violence.
The network, which meets today and tomorrow for a high-level conference in Brussels, consists of people engaged at the local level – teachers, social workers, police officers, religious leaders, researchers, civil society representatives and others. Tomorrow, on the 29th of January, Justice and Home Affairs Ministers from several EU countries will join our discussions. The aim of the network is to improve our exchange of experiences across borders. Eight working groups are working since a year back with concrete recommendations, to give EU members better tools for preventing and fighting violent extremism.
Among the policy proposals that we have discussed today are to set up exit strategies or de-radicalisation programmes in all EU countries, to help individuals leave violent extremist groups. Local police all over Europe should also be trained in how to spot signs of radicalisation among suspects, and we aim to make it easier for the mental health care sector to sound the alarm if they receive credible terror threats. We have also discussed how defectors as well as terror victims can contribute by deglorifying the armed struggle.
Our discussions today have also revolved around how violent extremism is fuelled by a growing wave of xenophobia in many EU countries. Today, extremism is crawling into the mainstream. The growing right-wing extremist and xenophobic movements in Europe are a springboard for violence, but around the EU there are countries who do not take this development as seriously as they should. Now, we bring together policymakers with those who work in the field – because we want to effect real change.