Svilanovic: In five years 1000 individuals from the Balkans have gone to Syria and Iraq

Svilanovic: In five years 1000 individuals from the Balkans have gone to Syria and Iraq
The Second Regional Coordination Conference for Counter-Terrorism (CT) and Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) in South East Europe (SEE), discussing the enhancement of cooperation and coordination of CT and P/CVE programmes and activities in the region, commenced in Brdo near Kranj, Slovenia on Thursday, November 30.

Goran Svilanovic, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretary General, addressed the participants reminding them of the conclusions of the first Regional Conference, that was held in Tirana, Albania in November 2016. That one had examined pressing issues such as early addressing of root causes, the role of local communities and creation of concrete programmes for de-radicalization and reintegration of returnees.

"Our work here is far from over. Terrorism has to be comprehended in order to be defeated, which goes well beyond government and institutional networks and presupposes better understanding of certain societal patterns. To that end the RCC commissioned a study, which finds that in the period 2012-2017, some 1000 individuals from the Western Balkans travelled to Syria and Iraq, about 300 have returned, more than 200 have been killed, and some 400 remain there, although the pace of the departure of citizens from this region slowed down in 2015, and almost completely stopped by mid-2016. At the same time, around 5,000 EU citizens went to fight in Syria and Iraq", stressed Svilanovic.

He concluded that such compelling data "brought us closer to conceiving what should be done", from schools to prisons, in order to defeat violent ideologies leading to the dreadfulness of terrorism.

Bostjan Sefic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs of Slovenia, welcomed the participants pointing out the high importance of the Conference. He said it brought together three different levels of partners: political, strategic and operational.

He emphasized that a safe and stable region was a significant part of the global security, adding that Slovenia was investing a lot in regional cooperation and supporting collaborative approach to combating terrorism, foreign terrorist fighters and any violent extremism, within the EU but in the region as well.

Rajko Kozmelj, Chair of Integrative Internal Security Governance (IISG) reiterated the role of the Western Balkan Counter-Terrorism initiative (WBCTi), a coordinated and needs-based response to radicalization leading to violent extremism and terrorism in the Western Balkans, explaining that, based on its work, the region has recognised and acted upon several new and useful synergies in the solutions they offer in filling the gaps in strategic, policy and operational-level cooperation.

"The WBCTi will thus continue to identify potential new synergies and optimise the added value of all partners' investments, in order to provide sustainable and cost-benefit efficient solutions to arrive to the functioning 'Prevent–Refer–Address' Mechanism (P-R-A) in each WB beneficiary," said Kozmelj.

The Conference boosts mutual understanding of all relevant stakeholders and is envisaged to result in specific conclusions and recommendations on future direction of joint CT and P/CVE efforts in SEE that would streamline cooperation, efficiently engaging the region's limited human and financial resources.

The participants also discussed the current trends and challenges, activities at European, regional, and national level, and the ways of implementing the already agreed "whole of government, whole of society" approach in P-CVE. The activities and results achieved since the last Coordination Conference, held in November 2016 in Tirana will as well be presented at this meeting.

An integral and very important part of the Conference, which is also part of the Western Balkans Counter- Terrorism Initiative (WBCTi), will be the separate sessions of the three specialised regional formats for CT and P/CVE RCC's SEE Group of National Focal Points (NFP) for Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism (NFP Group); Police Cooperation Convention for Southeast Europe (PCC SEE) CT Network; and the Counter-Terrorism Initiative (CTI) Network.

The NFP Group will make a policy overview of trends in violent extremism and radicalization leading to terrorism in South East Europe, as well as programmes, activities, and challenges encountered in prevention and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) at regional, national, and local levels. The participants will discuss and agree on guidelines for further action at regional and national level.

The Conference, organised by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) together with the Slovenian South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Chairmanship-in-Office, in cooperation with the Western Balkans Counter-Terrorism Initiative (WBCTi) and the Police Cooperation Convention for Southeast Europe (PCC SEE), gathers representatives of national governments and international and regional organisations and initiatives active in the field.../IBNA

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