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Counter-Terrorism Coordinator wants EU to target right-wing extremism and terrorism
19.9.19

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The EU's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC) has distributed two papers to national delegations in the Council's Terrorism Working Party calling attention to the threat of right-wing extremism and terrorism: "Attacks in Western countries such as Norway, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and New Zealand, as well as foiled attacks in France, have shown that there is a need to further strengthen the EU approach in tackling right-wing extremist violence."

See: NOTE from: EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to: Delegations: Right-wing violent extremism and terrorism in the European Union: discussion paper (11756/19, LIMITE, 30 August 2019, pdf) and: background information (11756/19 ADD 1, pdf)

The CTC (since 2007 a Belgian official, Gilles de Kerchove) underlines that "right-wing extremism is a problem in Europe" - not exactly news, but it is now deemed urgent to address the issue at EU level.

A number of recommendations are made on how this could be done:

  • Development and sharing of good practices, including through:
    • the Radicalisation Awareness Network (funded by the Commission);
    • the sharing of experiences amongst national officials and others working with "radicalized persons"; and
    • by mapping "national legal and policy frameworks and practices based on which Member States can ban symbols or texts";
  • Further research looking at, for example:
    • "potential audience vulnerable to violent right-wing extremist online content" or "ideological sources of right-wing violent extremism and terrorism"; and
    • analysis of the "social and political grievances" that are exploited by right-wing violent extremists and terrorists, whilst ensuring that "all types of violent extremism and terrorism" are tackled;
  • Europol and Eurojust support:
    • sharing more information through Europol (such as through its Analysis Project Dolphin) or through Eurojust's Judicial counter-terrorism register;
    • inviting Europol to "identify links of right-wing violent extremist and terrorist groups across the EU"; and
    • improving data collection on right-wing extremist violence across the EU;
  • Promoting European values:
    • "It is important to promote European values to counter the right-wing violent extremist and terrorist threat";
  • Online sphere:
    • more extensive cooperation with online platforms and social media companies to detect and removal illegal right-wing content; and
    • "the collection of data sets to map vulnerable audiences";
  • Cooperation with traditional media:
    • "The Member States and the Commission could consider promoting a dialogue with traditional media and helping to raise awareness of news reporting after attacks and around high-profile investigations or trials to avoid further polarisation in society";
  • Counter-terrorist financing:
    • Europol could be invited "to assess the financing of right-wing violent extremist and terrorist groups";
  • Cooperation with third countries:
    • the EU "could explore how to support Western Balkans partners to counter right-wing terrorism and violent extremism"; and
    • "dialogues with strategic partners such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand" could be launched on how to strengthen cooperation on the issue.

The CTC's proposal to "promote European values" may raise some eyebrows, given that the recent creation of a new Commission post for 'protecting our European way of life' has been roundly condemned for being a sop to the far-right.

It is also notable that amongst the potential "strategic partners" for further discussions on the issue is the United States, where President Trump has routinely pandered to far-right prejudices and tropes - not to mention saying that violent white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, one of whom murdered the anti-fascist Heather Heyer, included "some very fine people".

It also seems that the CTC is aware he may be swimming in dangerous waters politically, given that some of the national delegations within the Council report to governments that many would consider to be on the fringes of the far-right, if not quite within it - Hungary, Poland, Austria and, until recently, Italy. The document makes clear that:

"It is important to underline that this paper does NOT address or provide a value judgment about political parties or political views that are present in the context of democracy, for example in parliaments of EU Member States. It is crucial to highlight that freedom of speech, opinion and expression must be respected and that dissent can be expressed freely. However, violence is unlawful and freedom of speech is not unlimited: the EU legal framework, in particular the EU CT [counter-terrorism] directive and the EU Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia 2008/913/JHA, needs to be respected." (emphasis in original)

See: NOTE from: EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to: Delegations: Right-wing violent extremism and terrorism in the European Union: discussion paper (11756/19, LIMITE, 30 August 2019, pdf) and: background information (11756/19 ADD 1, pdf)

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