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OSCE: Fighting terrorism at its roots

A comprehensive approach to fighting terrorism is the focus of a two-day OSCE conference. Because to be effective, action has to be taken where the threat of radicalization is especially great.

Since the start of the year, Germany has been at the helm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). With that, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (pictured above) is also the current OSCE chairman. At the end of 2015, Steinmeier said that one of his goals for the German chairmanship would be to strengthen the OSCE's role as a platform for dialogue.

It's against this backdrop that Berlin is currently hosting a two-day OSCE conference through June 1 on anti-terrorism measures. The German Foreign Ministry says participants are discussing not just how to combat terrorism, but how to prevent it. Some countries put all their resources into repressive measures. But fighting terrorism requires a "comprehensive approach," as Steinmeier said in his opening remarks. All levels of terrorism have to be considered, including recruitment methods, causes of radicalization and preventative measures. The fight can only succeed within the framework of international cooperation, Steinmeier said on Tuesday in Berlin.

One example of this is the exchange of airline passenger data. Only 20 of the 57 OSCE states are currently taking part in an OSCE project on this topic - something that needs to change. For that to happen, work has to be done to convince the countries not yet participating.

New: The gender perspective

Over the course of two days, 350 participants from more than 50 countries and 20 international organizations will have the chance to exchange views. One of the focal points is the relatively new phenomenon of female terrorists. Some 20 percent of foreign fighters are now thought to be women, many of whom are said to come from good backgrounds. What motivates them to join forces with violent extremists?

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière revealed some current statistics on the threat. He said that 810 people have left Germany so far to travel to Iraq or Syria to join the so-called "Islamic State" (IS). "If they come back, then they represent a clear threat," he said, in part because the Salafist movement in Germany continues to grow. Many of these people are "highly disaffected and brutalized," the minister said.

Deutschland Berlin Antiterrorismus-Konferenz de Maiziere u. Steinmeier

German Interior Minister de Maiziere (l.) with Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the Berlin conference

Internet not to blame

For a long time, there was an assumption that the internet was increasingly to blame for radicalization, de Maizière said. But now, he pointed out that it's clear that "people are always the trigger." The internet can, however, speed up the radicalization process.

He told the international audience that it's important to look at the environments that produce terrorists in addition to the "tougher measures." Antiterrorism measures need to be repressive and preventative, national and international, at the same time. Repressive measures alone do not work.

The supposedly softer prevention measures have to meld with law enforcement. In four panel discussions, the conference participants will learn about best-practice examples of these strategies. There won't be a common resolution to end the conference; instead the foreign ministry said there would be a summary of the status of the discussion. This will be presented to the Foreign Ministers Council at the start of December in Hamburg; the council will then come up with concrete resolutions on issues such as the exchange of passenger flight data.

Belgien Wiedereröffnung Abflughalle Flughafen Brüssel

It took Belgium 40 days to re-open the Brussels airport after a terrorist attack

Steinmeier against 'apocalyptic atmosphere'

The traditional German-Russian forum "Potsdamer Begegnungen" (Potsdam Meetings) is also taking place now in Berlin. It was also opened by Steinmeier, who used the opportunity to refer to the role of the OSCE.

"Building bridges of cooperation" is one of the mottos Germany set for its OSCE presidency, particularly with regard to conflict management in Crimea and the Ukraine, which continues to put Russo-German relations to the test. Some participants even referred to an "apocalyptic atmosphere."

The "spirit of Helsinki," at the historic meetings of 1975, influenced the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, and the OSCE of today, said Steinmeier. Among the principles in the Helsinki Accords was the inviolability of national frontiers and respect for territorial integrity.

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