Fighting Terrorism & Radicalization In Europe’s Neighborhood: How To Scale Up EU Efforts

Analysis 3 December 2018
Fighting Terrorism & Radicalization In Europe’s Neighborhood: How To Scale Up EU Efforts

The think tank Institute for Strategic Analyses starts publication of a research project “Fighting terrorism & radicalization in Europe’s neighborhood: How to scale up EU efforts” by the European Policy Centre (EPC) and the Friedrich‑Ebert‑Stiftung (FES) EU Office to keep our English-language readers informed of new trends, developments and methods of fighting terrorism.


Terrorism and radicalization are difficult topics for social democrats to deal with. They represent the dark side of diverse societies which progressives want to see flourish. They also represent the failure of state institutions that should reduce inequality and provide social security for their citizens. These phenomena are challenging to deal with inside the European Union, and all the more so in increasingly fragile neighboring states.

As a progressive foundation, the Friedrich‑Ebert‑Stiftung is committed to finding durable solutions to the socio‑economic problems that cause terrorism and radicalization all over the world. This book is one of our efforts to promote peace and prosperity by strengthening democratic societies. It is the result of a very fruitful cooperation with the European Policy Centre and contributing authors, who provided the necessary expertise to carry out and publish this research project.

The urgent need for the EU and its neighborhood to counter terrorism and radicalization in all its forms should be self‑evident, but the strategies to do so may not be. We hope that readers will find the following chapters enlightening and that decision‑makers use them to inform their policies.

The recommendations described herein are only valuable if they are discussed, debated, perhaps modified and finally turned into action. Words on a page will not suffice to address these serious issues.

This book can thus be seen as an impulse for further work to be done in this regard. As tough as the challenges may be, solutions can nevertheless be identified. This book lays no claim to provide all of the answers, but they are at the very least a starting point for further deliberation on how to tackle terrorism and radicalization in the European Union’s neighborhood.

Tackling the root causes and impacts of terrorism and radicalization in Europe’s neighborhood: What role for the European Union?

Radicalization leading to violent extremism and terrorism is not a new phenomenon. However, the process is now developing at a worrying speed and affecting a growing number of individuals and communities across Europe and beyond.

The fight against terrorism and radicalization is a crucial challenge for the European Union, its member states and the countries in its neighborhood.

The internationalization of the response to radicalization and the involvement of the EU gained momentum after a series of terrorist attacks across Europe and elsewhere in early 2015, and after thousands of citizens from Europe, North Africa and other parts of the world left their home countries to fight for the so‑called Islamic State (ISIS).

Addressing the complex roots of radicalization – encompassing socio‑economic, cultural and geopolitical aspects – is a policy priority for the European Union. Strengthened cooperation with international partners has become a vital element of the Union’s counter‑terrorism policy.

Since the adoption in 2005 of the EU counter‑terrorism strategy “to fight terrorism globally and make Europe safer”, the EU has developed targeted policies through a comprehensive approach. The need to prevent radicalization started to gain prominence in 2008 when the Council of the European Union adopted a strategy for “combating radicalization and recruitment to terrorism”.

The latter was revised in 2014 in light of evolving trends, such as lone‑actor terrorism, foreign fighters, and the use of social media by terrorists. In 2014, the Council of the EU recognized the need for an effective counter‑terrorism policy integrating both internal and external aspects. In 2015, it adopted conclusions “on EU external action on counter‑terrorism”, which it further revised in 2017.

The June 2017 European Council conclusions emphasized the need to reinforce the EU’s counter‑terrorism structures, embed the internal‑external nexus in EU policies, and strengthen cooperation with affected countries around Europe and with strategic partners. The conclusions also called for increasing the Union’s own response in key thematic areas including, among others, prevention, online recruitment, and the links between terrorism and organized crime.


At the same time, on the foreign policy level, the European Union’s Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (2016) highlighted the importance of counter‑terrorism and radicalization leading to violent extremism for Europe’s security. The strategy also called for enhancing the role of the EU in these policy areas as part of its on‑going and future effort to increase resilience in its neighborhood.

In 2016, EU leaders agreed to the appointment of several counter‑terrorism experts in some EU Delegations, including in North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, the Western Balkans, Sub‑Saharan Africa and South‑East Asia, as a way for the EU to gain stronger leverage on the fight against terrorism in third countries. Involved in the programming of EU support and the local coordination of member states’ individual counter‑terrorism cooperation with partner countries, these experts have been deployed to liaise with local authorities and contribute to joint counter‑terrorism efforts.

The decision to create and subsequently expand the network of experts came with an intensification of counter‑terrorism projects and financial support for counter‑terrorism programmes in the countries studied in this book.

In this context, this book, jointly published by the European Policy Centre and the Friedrich‑Ebert‑Stiftung, highlights the new prominence of counter‑terrorism and the prevention of radicalization in EU foreign and neighborhood policies. It assesses the overall effectiveness of the EU in helping address the root causes of radicalization and terrorism in five key countries in its vicinity: Albania, Bosnia‑Herzegovina, Kosovo, Lebanon, and Tunisia.


The Western Balkans and the Southern neighborhood are considered priority regions not only in the fight against terrorism, but also – and foremost – for developing closer relations with the EU and fostering peace and resilience at the state and societal level. By addressing the policies and programmes designed and implemented with EU support, alongside other measures, this collection of case studies identifies lessons learnt and best practices as well as failures and room for improvement.

The researchers involved in the selected third countries have analyses the local and regional drivers of radicalization and terrorism, and their understanding by local authorities and EU bodies (i.e. EU Delegations, the European Commission, the European External Action Service, and the EU Counter‑Terrorism Coordinator). At the same time, the case studies assess the level of cooperation and dialogue in these policy areas between the EU and national and local public institutions, civil society representatives and community leaders in the affected countries.

Ultimately, each chapter evaluates the overall effectiveness of the activities addressing radicalization and terrorism in these third countries and how the EU could help in shaping a more comprehensive response to the root causes of such challenges. The book also provides a conclusion with a set of recommendations for the EU drawn from the main arguments outlined in each of the case studies.