Security is about trust.
Trust in society. Trust in our institutions to protect us.
And you are the trust builders.
You work at trust in the streets, in the schools, in the neighbourhoods, in the towns, of Europe. Building trust, with our young people.
You do a very important job.
You keep our societies safe.
In counter terrorism we have two approaches. The strong arm of the law. And the outstretched arms of prevention. And deradicalisation.
We need both. We need police intervention to track down terrorists plotting atrocities. To stop attacks as they happen. To arrest perpetrators and put them in jail.
We also need strategies to prevent radicalisation. Because it’s always better to prevent than to cure. Because there is a limit to how many anti-terror squads we can deploy. And sooner or later we need to re-integrate radicals, back into society.
But how do you measure results?
With police anti-terror operations it’s clear. Police raid a bomb factory. Roll up a terrorist cell.
Make arrests for terrorist financing or jihadi propaganda.
There you get headlines. Rolling news coverage. Opening of the prime time news.
And there are clear numbers:
So many bombs found. So many guns.
So many suspects arrested. So many prosecutions. So many convictions.
You add up the numbers. You see the results on the news.
But how do you measure bombings that do not happen? Atrocities that are not committed? Murders that do are not taking place?
When you are successful, when you succeed in disengaging someone from the path of violence. There’s usually no journalists with news cameras and microphones around.
No big headlines in the newspapers or items in the TV news.
Maybe that’s because good news isn’t seen as news. Or your patient work doesn’t fit in today’s fast paced news cycle.
But your work is at least as important, the results as least as spectacular, as least as essential, too keep Europe safe.
As Commissioner I have a lot of information about policies, projects, current and future threats.
But what I am interested in is you. How you do your daily work. How you help former radicals and extremists, to re-join society.
I’ve heard inspiring examples.
One counter terrorist expert I heard of sat around the table with five former neo Nazis. One of these former Nazis had even planned an attack on him. During his contact with these people he learnt some lessons.
That it was not true that “once an extremist, always an extremist”. Or “once a Nazi always a Nazi”. That given time, effort and trust people can break with their views.
You need patience, commitment and determination. Because radicals don’t just need to break with an ideology. They need to break with friends, a sense of identity. And then they fall into a hole. So they need to build a new life, find a new purpose.
That’s difficult. But the good thing is, it is possible. And you make that possible.
For example a woman in Sweden. Who was part of a group who planned five waves of terrorist attacks. And she was caught while committing the first wave. She decided to break with the past. And worked through her past experiences, to build new ones.
Another example: a Nazi terrorist who bombed a mosque. He showed no remorse during the trial. But in prison he changed and renounced his views. After prison, he rebuilt his life, and went around schools to warn against extremism and Nazism.
And also for Islamist terrorists, it is possible to return to society.
One young man who wanted to die as a martyr started to study philosophy in jail, in the high security terrorist wing. Now he is warning others, not to follow his example.
It’s your work that makes this possible.
Without you these people would maybe still be a threat to society.
And some of you have made that journey yourselves.
So you know, how people start on this road.
A child is insecure. Maybe bullied. Someone offers an escape. An ideology. Something even stronger than that – A home. A family.
Jihadi recruiters very deliberately target those with little left to lose. Teenagers who have a criminal record. For who the step towards violence is smaller. Who know nothing of religion. So they can be very easily fooled, in following a message of hate.
But whether they are far right or jihadi, terrorists all offer the same. Belonging. To an elite. Who know the truth. And are superior. Because of race. Faith or politics. Who see the world in black and white. “Them” and “us”.
We should not make that same mistake.
We must say: there is no “them”. There is only “us.”
Which is why I soon will present an action plan on Integration and inclusion. To make sure that everyone can become part of society.
I know that’s something you are working on too every day, in practice. Talking to teenagers, to parents, to prisoners. In a respectful way. Showing you see them as people. Showing there’s an alternative. Showing what society has to offer.
And you are achieving real results.
When you work in a neighbourhood, and the people in the street tell you how much things have improved. That’s a result.
When you learn an extremist wants to leave the scene and gets in touch with you. That’s a result.
When you see they are serious. That they are working on it. Trying to develop new interests. Find new friends. That’s a result.
When you see “a former” living a normal life. A meaningful life. That’s a result.
Results one step at a time. But lasting results.
Not on the front pages of newspapers, but in the middle of society.
Real results that make a difference. That help people and keep Europe safe.
But sometimes events happen that overshadow everything.
Today, France commemorates Samuel Paty. The teacher murdered by a terrorist last week.
This murder affected me very deeply. I am a teacher myself. I’m a teacher in math, I used to work with teenagers. And my experience that teaching them mathematics is not the only thing you do as a math teacher.
You also teach teenagers other things. About society, about life about how you deal with difficulties and conflicts and bad experiences. You have to talk to them. And also to listen to them. Help them find out, who they are.
And I know this attack is a terrible blow to you.
Here is someone like you. Someone in the middle of society.
Who tried to teach teenagers about dialogue. About the freedom of expression. Of why you need to talk about your differences. About rejecting violence.
That someone who seeks dialogue and understanding is murdered, that is extra hard to swallow.
It’s not only very shocking. Some of you may be worried about your own safety. Extremists don’t like your work. They don’t like it what you do.
I know some of you also receive threats. Serious threats. Death threats.
And that’s totally unacceptable: you must be able to do your important work in safety
I am angry, that Samuel Paty was killed for teaching about the freedom of expression.
I am angry that someone filled a teenager with such hate, that he could travel 80 kilometres and commit such a horrible crime.
And it strengthens my resolve to act against terror.
We must clean the Internet of terrorist propaganda. Thanks to Europol’s Internet Referral Unit, Internet companies could quickly remove the pictures posted by the attacker.
I’ll continue to work hard with Member States and Parliament to get an agreement on our Terrorist Content Online proposals.
And your work remains crucial as ever.
The threat of terror remains.
Islamist terrorism is still a threat – as we’ve seen last week.
Far right terrorism is on the rise, as the attacks in Halle and Hanau show.
And corona-related conspiracy theories offer a new potential for violent action. 5g – transmitters are being vandalised. Politicians threatened. Attacks against people could be only a matter of time.
You are closest to society. We will rely on you, to tell us what is going on.
And we need you to continue your work.
Dealing with returning foreign fighters.
Helping to rehabilitate terrorist offenders.
Developing counter terrorist narratives. And all that in difficult corona conditions.
As individuals you already make a massive difference in the world. Thank you for that
And when you get together, here, you make that difference a hundred, a thousand times over.
So I strongly support your work. And encourage you to continue.
What we must work on now most of all is social cohesion.
Terrorists offer vulnerable teenagers something attractive: an identity.
And the only thing that can compete with an identity, is a sense of belonging.
Terrorists offer a home. A home full of hate.
So we must offer something better: a return home. Home to society.
We must show people: you are part of “us”, not “them”.
So let’s make that our mission.