OSCE explores ways to prevent extremism in the Balkans

28/07/2014

Experts discuss approaches to counter radicalisation of potential terrorists.

By Biljana Lajmanovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 28/07/14

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OSCE and Balkan experts seek new ways to reduce the security threat from returning Islamic extremists fighting in the Middle East. [AFP]

The OSCE and the Balkan countries are working to address political and socio-economic factors that lead to radicalisation and recruitment of terrorists, officials said.

The OSCE organised a seminar in Skopje that brought together 50 security experts, government and civil society representatives.

The recent gathering was part of a series of seminars in the past two years organised by the OSCE's transnational threats department.

In Skopje, participants discussed the broader context of the threat of violent extremism that leads to terrorism, and how public-private partnerships, community policing and regional police co-operation can prevent and combat terrorism.

Police co-operation is crucial to regional security given the threat posed by returning Islamic fighters from the Middle East, said Ralf Breth, head of the OSCE mission to Macedonia.

"Radical groups work jointly and go to training camps in other countries to learn more. It usually ends in terrorist activities. The terrorism often comes back to the country where these people originate from. So our idea is to exchange information on the roots of the problem and create a strategy for how to attack this problem together," Breth said.

Experts also said the new approach should seek to counter the factors leading to radicalisation through providing training and practical tools for police, religious and community leaders as well as government and NGO personnel to design effective anti-radicalisation programmes.

There are two kinds of factors that radicalise returning Islamic fighters, according to Blagoja Markovski, president of the Balkan Security Forum in Skopje.

"First, these people are not ready to be integrated in normal life without proper re-socialisation; they need help from psychologists and psychiatrists. Second, if their number is big, they can organise terrorist activities at home with ease," Markovski told SETimes. Terrorism-related security risks, their specifics and complexity, highlight the need for a careful approach that includes early detection measures as well as preventative measures and effective institutional engagement for their suppression, said Gordana Jankulovska, Macedonia interior minister.

"One of the first measures is exchange of information with other countries that face similar problems," Jankuloska told SETimes.

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Some countries, like Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), have imposed harsh criminal penalties for participants in foreign conflicts in an attempt to prevent citizens to join these radical groups.

But experts suggested that implementing specific economic measures may be a key to preventing radicalisation of extremists and their carrying out of terrorist acts.

"It is hard to get a job and for many of these people, [extremism] is the only chance to secure means of existence. Very likely, the most adequate measure to prevent their leaving to foreign battlefields is to provide employment opportunities or include them in some kind of government social policy," Markovski said.

What can Balkan countries do to stem extremist radicalisation? Share your thoughts in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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