Preventing radicalisation and violent extremism in social media platforms in the Western Balkans

Regional Conference:

Preventing radicalisation and violent extremism in social media platforms in the Western Balkans

6-7 June, 2018

Hotel Sirius, Prishtina, Kosovo

 

Within the framework of the IPA Project “Further support to Kosovo institutions in the fight against organized crime, corruption and violent extremism” managed by EU Office in Kosovo, the KCSS together with the B&S Europe have organized the Regional Conference titled “Preventing radicalization and violent extremism in social media platforms in the Western Balkans”. The conference took place in Prishtina from 6 th to 7 th June 2018.

The aim of this conference was to gather institutional stakeholders as well as experts and civil society actors to discuss on how to identify the online sources used by extremist groups to spread their violent content.

The conference has been based on the outcomes of KCSS’s drafted report “New battlegrounds: Extremist groups activity on social networks in Kosovo, Albania and FYROM” launched within the frame of this project in November 2017 which concluded that indeed the internet space operated based on different rules compare to physical space. Respectively, the report noticed that when it comes to online radicalization also in the Western Balkans (WB) this issue cannot be viewed isolated within the frame of national borders. Rather, it is the language which defines the compatibility of this virtual space.

Therefore, since we are living in an ethnically mixed region it is very important for the Western Balkans to work together in dealing with all problems that may potentially affect us regionally.

The conference has been opened by a welcoming speech from Mr. Riccardo Serri, Head of Political, Economic and EU Integration Section - EU Office who highlighted that it is among the priorities of the EU to work together with Governments from WB countries to prevent and counter all sources of violent extremism including the online one. Meantime, prior to leading the ground to the panels also Mr. Ian Mcdonald Team Leader of the OCC - CVE IPA project used his opportunity to elaborate the objectives and the components of the project.

In total the conference contained four panels. The first panel which was moderated by Mr. Florian Qehaja, Executive Director of KCSS, included Mr. Kujtim Bytiqi from National Security Council who is responsible to coordinate Kosovo’s CVE Strategy; Mr. Agron Sojati, Albania National Coordinator of CVE Strategy; and also Mr. Simon Dukic, representing the National Cordinator’s Office from government in Skopje. In addition to it this panel included also Mr. Henry Tuck from Institute from Strategic Dialogue (ISD), UK. The focus of this panel was mainly related to elaborating the achievements and challenges ahead  idenfitied by goverments in Prishtina, Skopje and Tirana when it comes to violent extremism. However, they also elaborated the steps that they have undertaken to prevent online radicalzation too.

The second panel who have been chaired by Mr. Skender Perteshi, Researcher and Coordinator of KCSS’s CVE Programme, included an interesting mixture of experts and rule of law practicionairs, respectively Mr. Blerim Rama, senior officials from Kosovo Police; Mr. Arjan Dyrmishi, Expert from Tirana and Mr. Samet Shabani, CVE Expert from Skopje.

Whereas, the third and last panel of the day one was focused on the Role of donor community in assisting prevention of extremism and radicalisation. This panel was moderated by Mr. Massimiliano Prozzo, Focal Point CVE Cooperation Section - EU Office. The panelists of this panel were Mrs. Ana Hacic-Vlahovic, Political Officer, from US Embassy in Kosovo; Mr. Stuart Taylor, Regional Expert for CVE in Kosovo; and Mr. Dane Koruga, Chief of Media section at OSCE Mission in Kosovo.

The second day of the regional conference included only one panel. This panel was moderated by KCSS Researcher Ms. Rudine Jakupi. Panelists of this final panel were Mr. Zoran Popov, Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) based in Sarajevo; Mrs. Mimoza Hasani Plana, Education Curriculum Expert and P/CVE Focal Point; and Ms. Vesë Kelmendi, KCSS Researcher who have been engaged in researching also the online radicalization content.

The conference ended with close remakrs made by Mr. Massimiliano Prozo Focal Point CVE Cooperation Section - EU Office who highlighted that importance of having coordinated actions on the regional level in preventing the online radicalization content. Likewise, he highlighter that the projects together with KCSS as local sub-conntracted partner will continue to be engaged in this topic both domestically and in the regional level.

The KCSS will continue to organize events, to influence policies, work on awareness raising efforts and contribute with qualitative research work which helps prevention and countering the online and offline radicalization in Kosovo and Western Balkans region. Likewise, it will continue to serve as a connection hub between policy makers and civil society in the region dealing with topic as its goal is to contribute in creating a cooperative and safer enviroment not only in domestic Kosovo leval but also in the regional Western Balkans level.