The fight against radicalisation has so far received the smallest contribution from the EU security budget, despite pledges by European Union leaders to prioritise the issue following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels.
The EU contributed €3.5 million in 2014 to prevent radicalisation and stop youngsters from leaving Europe to fight in conflict zones like Syria, according to European Commission data.
The amount allocated to the issue is smaller than for any other security priorities included in the Internal Security Fund (ISF), the EU pot to finance security projects.
In comparison, the executive allocated €5.17 million to “Law Enforcement Information Exchange”, €5.1 million to “Fighting Cybercrime and Child Sexual Abuse”, and around €6 million to the fight against “Economic and Financial Crime, Corruption and Environmental Crime.”
A ‘key element’ of the fight against terrorism
Foreign fighters have become one of the most pressing challenges to EU security in recent years, with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels coming as brutal reminders of this threat.
But the priority given by member states to addressing this issue has not been mirrored by financial resources at EU level. Looking at ISF priorities for 2015, the European Commission did not include returned foreign fighters among its funding priorities, despite calls by EU leaders to reinforce measures related to the issue.
At their February 2015 meeting which took place just after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, EU heads of state and government underlined that preventing radicalisation is a “key element” of the fight against terrorism. It was one of the three pillars of the EU strategy outlined by EU leaders, together with further law enforcement and judiciary measures to combat terrorist activities and actions to cooperate with international partners.
Instead, the Commission budgeted €40 million to support the implementation of the EU Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Action plan, for transnational initiatives to fight trafficking in drugs and firearms, to support transnational projects in law enforcement training, to address trafficking in human beings, and to facilitate the connection of Passenger Information Units (PIUs) to facilitate the exchange of passenger name record data, among others.
Although the primary responsibility in the fight against terrorism lies with national authorities, “the EU can and should play a supportive role that helps respond to the cross-border nature of the threat”, according to EU authorities.
A European Commission spokesperson told euractiv.com that the executive intends to allocate an additional €5 million for the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Centre of Excellence, as foreseen in the draft Annual Work Programme 2016.
The spokesperson added that the Commission gave €13.6 million to four anti-radicalisation projects between 2007-2013.
The RAN centre, operational since October 2015, is a platform to exchange best practices and facilitate cooperation among all stakeholders involved in this field. In particular, the body supports member states in their efforts to combat radicalisation with specific services, practical tools and policy contributions.
A Belgian project
The €3.5 million financed five projects, some of them bringing together numerous member states. One of the initiatives was led by Belgium’s Interior Ministry, together with organisations from France and the Netherlands.
The project, called Stresaviora II, is aimed at strengthening resilience against violent radicalisation. It was based on 31 interviews with young people living in Brussels and its surroundings.
Youth interviewed for the project talked of experiences of inequality and discrimination based on their origin in education and the labour market. They also lamented the negative image the media creates about Islam. Most boys were also noted to be in contact with violence, or even weapons, almost daily.
However, all in all, youngsters interviewed were very positive regarding their future.
“Some even posed the question: ‘How can you not be positive about your future? A question that reflects the present trust, despite the difficulties (vulnerable neighbourhoods, presence of violence and potential tensions due to multiculturalism) and the experience or perceived injustice,” the study concluded.
The Internal Security Fund Police (ISF Police) aims at supporting actions to address internal security challenges, in line with the relevant strategic objectives set by the EU Internal Security Strategy (ISS) adopted in 2010.
In its 2014 call for proposals to avert the risk of foreign fighters, the Commission looked for projects aiming to prevent the phenomenon of radicalisation and the recruitment of individuals to join armed terrorist groups fighting abroad. It also sought to develop targeted exit programmes enabling radicalised individuals to disengage, reject violence and rehabilitate.
As the European Council notes, the threat posed by Europeans being radicalised, many of whom are also travelling abroad to fight, is likely to persist in the coming years. An effective response to these issues requires a comprehensive approach and long term commitment, the Council said.
- Awarded projects in 2014 for "Preventing Radicalisation to Terrorism and Violent Extremism"
- Internal Security Fund-Police
- Statement by EU leaders on the fight against terrorism (12 Feb. 2015)
- Stresaviora Research Report