EU anti-radicalisation programmes not fullfilling potential: ECA report
An EU-funded scheme designed to help combat radicalisation is “not fulfilling its potential,” according to a report published by the European Court of Auditors on Tuesday.
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The report also says there are “some shortfalls in coordination and evaluation” in other EU-backed anti-radicalisation schemes.
“The European Commission cannot demonstrate how effective its individual actions actually are,” states the report.
Details of a study on the issue by the Court were released at a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday.
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The auditors singled out two initiatives, including the Radicalisation Awareness Network, which connects psychologists, teachers, social workers, police, prison and probation officers across Europe working with those vulnerable to radicalisation.
The Court said this “was not used to its full potential”, adding that “its achievements were often measured in terms of activity, for example, meetings which are held or documents produced rather than effectiveness, for example, knowledge acquired and the impact on participants’ work.”
The EU Internet Referral Unit managed by Europol is another scheme which was highlighted. It flags online terrorist content and alerts service providers such as YouTube, Google, Facebook and Twitter.
However, the auditors said that EU statistics do not show the impact of EU action on the prevalence of terrorist propaganda on the internet. Sometimes, propaganda material that had been removed is simply uploaded again or moved to other platforms, known as the “whack-a-mole” effect.
Speaking at the launch of the study, Jan Gregor, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report, said that some of the findings gave “cause for concern.”
“The Commission has coordinated support across its different departments and developed a number of synergies. But there is scope for improvement. It has no complete overview of EU-funded actions and the EU funds used do not have indicators or targets to measure success in addressing radicalisation.”
He said one of the issues the Court wanted to raise was that the EU “fails to set out the full cost” of its various anti radicalisation plans.
The benefit of doing so, says the Court, is that it would provide for a better assessment of the effectiveness of a radicalisation programme.
The study also highlighted the “need to strengthen EU exit policies” for foreign fighters who return from conflict zones like Syria.
As part of the study, called “Tackling radicalisation that leads to terrorism,” the auditors visited national authorities in Belgium and France to assess the relevance and added-value of the support they receive.
The report says that while the results are generally positive it concludes, “The Commission cannot demonstrate how effective EU-funded counter-radicalisation actions actually are which means there is a risk of lessons not being learned for the future.”
Member states, the Court points out, are responsible for their own national security, including the fight against terrorism. They are in charge of designing and implementing measures to tackle radicalisation, where people embrace extremist ideologies and behaviour that could lead them to commit acts of terrorism. The majority of suspects involved in the recent terrorist attacks in Europe were European citizens who had been radicalised.
The Commission supports the member states in their efforts and helps to ensure the exchange of good practice.
EU support for countries in their fight against radicalisation is financed by various funds, such as the Internal Security Fund, the Horizon 2020 Programme, the Justice Programme, Erasmus+ and the European Social Fund.
“The Commission has coordinated support across its different departments and developed a number of synergies. But there is scope for improvement,” added Gregor, “It has no complete overview of EU-funded actions and the EU funds used do not have indicators or targets to measure success in addressing radicalisation.”
He said, “This is a sensitive topic and a slight departure for the Court but this is of vital importance to the public because, of course, the fight against terrorism is not something that is going to go away for quite some time.”
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