Combatting Radicalisation and Violent Extremism: Prevention mechanisms at local and regional level

This article was published under the 2015-2020 European Committee of the Regions mandate.

Summary

CIVEX-VI/010

Last updated 19 November 2019.

Adopted 15/06/2016

Objective

The rapporteur and President of the ALDE Group in the Committee of the Regions (ALDE-CoR) Bart Somers recently presented his report on how to combat radicalisation and prevent violent extremism. As Mayor of Mechelen in Belgium, a very diverse city of 130 nationalities, he has firsthand experience on policies that can help local authorities preventing the process of radicalisation

The objective of the report was to help shape the EU’s actions on the prevention of radicalisation and terrorism, as defined by the special agreement of the European Council. This opinion clearly demonstrates how local and regional authorities have the power to deliver some of the EU’s key objectives in the prevention of violent radicalisation and outlines what instruments are required to combat this phenomenon.

Impact

18 October Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad features Mayor Somers after his reelection under the title “the whole of Europe comes to Mechelen to see how the Mayor does it”, highlighting his message of hope.

15 October Mayor Somers is re-elected, smashing historic records for his city with 48% of the vote, winning a never-before seen absolute majority.

28 September Het Laatste Nieuws, the biggest newspaper in Flanders and Belgium, covers Mayor Somers on how he changed a bitter and divided dirty city into a nice city where 138 nationalities mostly live in harmony. “But Mechelen is not a paradise – at least not yet” says Mayor Somers, who continues to work for his city.

17 September Rai 3 Italia dedicates a special programme of Presadiretta to Mechelen and its remarkable turnaround, interviewing Mayor Bart Somers as well as citizens, policemen,…

13 September Dutch Media Trouw covers how “the World’s best Mayor transformed the hell-hole of Mechelen into the pride of Flanders”.

25 July German radio station Radio Bremen has a feature interview with Mayor Bart Somers.

21 June How to convert European cities into a host cities through succesful integration, wonders Spanish newspaper El  Paisciting the remarkable example of Mechelen under its Mayor Bart Somers.

31 May Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant covers how Bart Somers became World Mayor “by doing what is not easy: embracing diversity”.

14 May Japanese TV files a report from Mechelen and interviews Mayor Somers on the remarkable turnaround of the city.

3 May European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager visits Mechelen and Mayor Somers, who highlighted his city as an inclusive city and explained some specific projects. Have a look at our video about the visit. Danish media also covered the visit.

Politico’s Ryan Heath covered the visit in an article for Politico and for his Podcast series “EU Confidential”.

24 April During the European Parliament’s special committee on Terrorism hearing “Preventing and countering radicalisation” chaired by ALDE’s Nathalie Griesbeck MEP, Bart Somers shares his best examples in the session “Best practices in preventing and countering radicalization”.

24 April Austrian publication Wiener Zeitung covers the turnaround of Mechelen through Mayor Bart Somers’ policies.

19 April In the Markus Lanz programme on German TV ZDF Bart Somers talks about his recipes against crime and his approach towards integration.

15 April German TV ARD covers Mayor Somers’ achievements in Mechelen, noting that integration is a mutual process that cannot be done only by immigrants and how it is possible through trust to dissolve the ghetto structures.

4 April Bart Somers participates in the RAN – Radicalisation Awareness Network – event “Common PCVE challenges in Western Balkans and European Union” (in collaboration with the Bulgarian Presidency): the first part of the event focuses on effective and sustainable partnership between all actors involved in preventing and countering violent extremism (authorities, agencies, NGOs and communities), the second part highlights the vulnerability of young children (pre-teens) in extremist environments.

25 March German TV ARD covers the remarkable turnaround of the city of Mechelen under Mayor Bart Somers.

23 March Marco Buschmann, first parliamentary secretary of the FDP group in the German Bundestag, spoke about Bart Somer’s book and its key messages on integration in his reaction to the government declaration of the new minister of the interior.

17 March Het Laatste Nieuws, the most-read newspaper in Flanders, Belgium, covers the widespread interest in Mechelen and the successful policies of its Mayor Bart Somers.

8 March The European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions jointly organised the EU Mayors’ Conference on “Building Urban Defences Against Terrorism: Lessons Learned From Recent Attacks“. The conference focused on lessons learned from recent terrorist attacks and the sharing of best practices and useful solutions to enhance protection of public spaces, including the implementation of “security by design” solutions. Bart Somers moderated the panel debate “Cities against radicalizationon experiences and best practices related to local policies aiming at preventing and countering radicalisation.

26 February German TV ZDF highlights the remarkable turnaround of the city of Mechelen under the leadership of Mayor Bart Somers.

14 February Smarter Communities brings the inspiring story of how Mayor Bart Somers embraced diversity, tackled radicalisation and sought to break down segregation.

12 February German media Der Spiegel interviews Bart Somers on the occasion of the release of the German-language version of his book in which he details his successful policies as Mayor of Mechelen, tackling discrimination and improving inclusiveness.

February German radio Deutschlandfunk interviews Bart Somers about his cities’ successful turnaround and the policies involved.

22 January Swedish TV programme Agenda interviews Bart Somers on his succesful integration policies in his city of Mechelen. (from 15.04min. on).

17 September Swedish TV programme “Agenda” interviews Bart Somers on his policies in Mechelen on TV (from about 50 minutes on) and on the website. Flemish TV VTM also covered this appearance on their website.

16 September Interview for the Wiener Zeitung

11 September First meeting of the European Commission’s expert group on radicalisation, where Bart Somers is the European Committee of the Regions high representative. In this group, which wants a more structured and institutionalised exchange on counter-radicalisation, he shares his local experiences and successful policies. The Group is chaired by European Commissioner Julian King and also consists of the European Council counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove.

18 June The Journal (Ireland): “Countering radicalisation: ‘Tell people if you work hard, you can have a better future”

15 June Irish Times: Bart Somers: Eight ways to stop the spread of radical Islam in Irish cities

14 June The Guardian: “My Belgian city has shown we are not defenceless against terror”

9 June Sharing best practices across Europe, Bart Somers was in Barcelona yesterday for the seminar “Countering violent Extremism at the local level” of the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs: CIDOB

1 June Bart Somers spoke with Beatriz Becerra MEP of the ALDE Group – Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament to discuss his great work in countering radicalization.

25 May Spanish newspaper El Pais visits Mechelen, covering the policies that make the “Mechelen model” so successful.

24 May Discussed his report with European Council EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove

5 May Interview with TV network Al Arabiya

18 April Bart Somers shared his successful  policies and experiences in migration with the IOM – the International Organization for Migration – during their International Dialogue on Migration in New York.

28 February Belgian mayor: ‘Discrimination and racism is anti-western’ – EurActiv.sk

25 February Bart Somers was featured on German TV ZDF about his work in Mechelen.

14 February Awarded 2016 World Mayor Prize – Bart Somers received the Prize as recognition for his outstanding achievements in welcoming refugees during recent years and for the long-term integration of immigrants from different cultures, religions and social backgrounds.

9 February Bart Somers took part in televised discussion on Terzake / VRT (Flemish public Television).

7 February 2017 Bart Somers explains his successful policies on social inclusion from a local perspective at a European Commission Education & Culture expert group, with experts from member states and organisations such as the OECD.

30 January Grenz Echo (BE) the article starts out with the World Mayor Prize as introduction to cover Bart Somers’ track record in Mechelen.

23 January German radio DLF coverage of Bart Somers’ successful approach as Mayor against radicalisation & exclusion.

22 January Belgian paper De Zondag: Bart Somers puts Mechelen on the international map.

3 January l’Espresso, an Italian news magazine identified Mechelen as a miracle of integration.

31 December Huffington Post Deutschland (Germany) reports about his positive narrative to let 128 different nationalities live together in his town, of which 20% are Muslim, and why having such a diverse population is a good thing.

25 December Die Zeit reports on Mechelen as a place of tolerance and multiculturalism.

3 December New York Times focuses positively on Mayor Somer’s policies of inclusiveness.

20 November Spanish newspaper El Pais interviews Bart Somers who advocates his integration model.

15 November Mayor Somers spoke at a forum about terrorism in Madrid at the Real Instituto Elcano.

7 October the EU Security Union Commissioner Julian King visited the Belgian city of Mechelen as part of the Commission’s commitment to step up its work in tackling radicalisation. He met Mechelen Mayor Bart Somers to discuss what has become known as the “Mechelen approach” in fighting radicalisation. Commissioner King met a wide range of local experts, including the Council’s Radicalisation Officer and the Head of the Mechelen Police. Mr. Somers and Commissioner King spoke with victims of terrorism and families directly affected by terrorism and exchanged views with frontline workers – such as youth and social workers, as well as activists involved in a variety of grassroots initiatives including sports and art projects.

29 September Bart Somers and EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova, discussed cooperation in combating radicalisation and increasing joint efforts for more inclusive societies.

22 August during a Conference of The Slovak Presidency on “Totalitarian Regimes” Bart Somers made specific suggestions to the Slovak Presidency on how to prevent radicalisation.

16 May Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia interviews Bart Somers on his policies to combine social inclusion and security as key success elements.

20 April Spanish media El Espanol interviews Bart Somers about the key to countering radicalisation in a long format interview.

25 February the fact finding mission to Mechelen took place on 25th February, on the invitation of Mr. Bart Somers (mayor of Mechelen and rapporteur of the CoR opinion on Combatting Radicalisation). The experience and preventive approach of local authorities in fighting radicalisation was presented by speakers from Mechelen, Vilvoorde and Antwerp. The second part of the mission included a testimonial of a mother who lost her son in fights in Syria and two field workers of Mechelen and Vilvoorde.

Bart SOMERS

Rapporteur

Media corner