|Violent Extremism

The unexplored potential of the EU as a mediator of PCVE efforts across its neighbourhood

12 June 2024

This policy paper is fruit of the results gathered through primary data collection but also of a dialogue among researchers, experts, practitioners, state officials, civil society actors and local community representatives within the framework of the Horizon 2020 EU-funded research project CONNEKT (Contexts of Violent Extremism in MENA and Balkan Societies). These conversations have consisted in a continuous exchange of ideas as well as a practical exercise of consensus-building. Throughout this project, the two regions under study, the Middle East and North Africa, on one side, and the Balkans, on the other, have engaged in deep debates and discussions on the understanding of radicalisation and violent extremism, its root-causes, drivers, ways of prevention as well as on the approaches to social transformation. While avoiding being trapped into the “conceptual conundrum” of how to define or understand radicalisation, extremism or terrorism (Torrekens and De Le Vingne, 2020), that has been a constant in PCVE (Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism) studies, the cross-regional approach of the research required common matrices that could provide comparable data across both regions. At the same time, nuances on approaching the phenomenon based on individual or collective identities or values (such as religion, nationalism or ethno-nationalism), promoted the need to build common lines of understanding among all researchers involved, from the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans, with EU researchers facilitating and mediating the triangulation of dialogue and knowledge production. 

While working on both EU neighbouring regions seemed challenging at the beginning due to the differences in geography, demography, democracy levels, political systems and relations with the European Union, the simultaneous investigation across both regions turned out to become a virtue. Researching simultaneously on such distant and disconnected regions, pushed CONNEKT to create standards and methodologies of research that would allow the comparison across regions and the knowledge-transfer. In this way, the EU-funded project became an instrument of the EU to mediate knowledge transfer and exchange across both regions. Besides, comparison across countries allowed research to include broader dimensions of extremism and violent extremism, and overcome the overwhelming focus of the moment on jihadi movements prevailing at the outset of the project in 2020 (Kapidžić, 2021). But above all, it contributed to the enlargement of a cross-regional conversation on radicalisation and violent extremism across EU’s neighbourhood South and East.    

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