Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by expressing our warmest thanks to the Kenyan Government and the UN Office for counterterrorism for organising this conference on the prevention of violent extremism. It could not be a more timely and topical event. It is a great pleasure for me to represent the European Union here today.
As the European Commissioner responsible for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship I can tell you and share with you that I have personally witnessed two key challenges that link the European and African continent: The multiple terrorist attacks in Europe and Africa, AND the crises of human displacement arriving on our shores.
More than ever, Europe and Africa’s prosperity and security are intertwined. We need each other to address these global issues, and this event today is a unique opportunity but also a common challenge and duty to join our forces in fighting in an effective way violent extremism across the African and European continents.
Africa has sadly become another critical frontline for our collective fight against terrorism. From the Horn of Africa to West Africa, conflicts are multiplying. Violent extremism is emerging as a convenient ideology, offering simplistic, nihilistic answers to the challenges our societies are facing.
On the other hand, climate change, technology, demography and human mobility are reinforcing this trend. And while all these drivers are becoming more and more interconnected and mutually reinforcing – our response is not there yet. We are still operating in institutional, geographical or political silos in confronting terrorism.
We saw the attacks in Kenya in January. The attacks in Mali in June. The attacks in Tunisia two weeks ago. Many others before. We see the situation in Libya deteriorating. We cannot effectively cope with these risks if our efforts remain fragmented. Fragmentation makes us all equally vulnerable. This was – believe me - a hard lesson we learnt in Europe. In the beginning, we tried a lot in order first of all to convince our fellow member states within the European Union to start cooperating together, to exchange information and show mutual trust to each other.
No single nation, institution, or organisation can defeat terrorism in Europe, in Africa or anywhere else. Terrorism does not recognise – it negates - borders. The internet is our most important battleground nowadays. Maybe Daesh has been defeated on the ground but not yet on f the internet.
THAT is where I devoted a great deal of attention since day 1 of my mandate as Commissioner. In the year 2015 we took the initiative to create the EU Internet Forum where the biggest, the most important internet platforms were invited and they responded positively. They worked with us, in full trust, and understood the need to act against terrorist content online. When we saw that we needed more companies to sign up, to come on board, we proposed legislation to ensure EVERYBODY in the future acts against terrorist propaganda.
The same challenges appear across the globe: we saw the online propaganda as a catalyst for terrorist attacks in the United States, and recently in New Zealand. This challenge is common also for Kenya and the whole African continent. As citizens become more and more connected, it is the internet that is our most important frontier against radicalisation.
Prevention – not just reaction – should be our priority. Our societies need to be nurtured to become more resilient to violent extremism. Hard security measures are only one side of the coin. Trust is the key word and should translate in practical terms by exchanging more information and intelligence. Societal measures to remove the root causes of violent extremism are equally important.
Investing in education, as Mr. Guterres mentioned it before, is a shield against radicalisation, and a driver in promoting tolerance. National mechanisms for monitoring radicalisation in prisons and after release are indispensable. Also, the fight against nationalism and populism is key – these big threats for our democracies, for our cohesion. DE-radicalisation, RE-habilitation and RE-integration go together to prevent the further spread of terrorist ideology.
The collapse of Daesh increased the risk from the relocation of Foreign Terrorist Fighters. Their dispersion means that the virus of extremism can spread further and wider. I know this issue is of great concern for Kenya with the recruitment of hundreds of young Kenyans in al-Shabab.
Stronger external borders, reinforced information sharing, more trust and closer cooperation between neighbours has been our approach to deal with travelling fighters in Europe.
You, the African countries, are the key players, and our key partners, in the fight against terrorism in this region, and we are ready to share the lessons we learnt and our resources to reinforce your efforts.
Our partnership so far has focussed in particular on the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. These regions have already benefited from EU cooperation programmes – to strengthen the security capabilities capacities of national and regional authorities, but ALSO to help remove the root causes of instability and violent extremism.
Our first counter-radicalisation project outside the EU was here, in Kenya: the projects “STRIVE Horn of Africa” and "STRIVE Kenya" have been reinforcing peace, stability and inclusive economic opportunities for youth in marginalised areas in Kenya. These initiatives CAN make a difference and change things on the ground.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, personally I am a passionate multilateralist. We all know that this is our most important achievement after the Second World War. We have to maintain it and make it stronger and, if you agree, what the Secretary General has been advocating for during the last two years and more. The roles of the African Union and the United Nations are essential, and I want to stress how much I supported and encouraged the initiative of Secretary General Guterres to set up the Office of Counter-Terrorism at the beginning already of his mandate and put security on the top of the global agenda which was not the case before. In April, we signed a cooperation agreement with the office of Under-Secretary General Voronkov and I am very pleased that we have put our collaboration on even stronger footing. This can be a template also for African countries and the African Union. Together, we are larger than the sum of our component parts.
We live in an interconnected world. Effective action against terrorism requires a concerted multilateral and multifaceted response that is global, regional and national, with a focus on impact at the most local level. The EU can be Africa’s closest partner and ally in this effort and not only there. All fields of cooperation are open and invite us to do more together in a spirit of shared responsibility, true partnership and genuine trust. And this is the last and most important term that should prevail in our relations – trust.
Thank you very much for your attention.