A spotlight on the terrorist profile(s), incitement techniques, vulnerable targets and potential impact of COVID-19.
Our society continues to be confronted with an unprecedented level of diversified, constantly evolving risks and threats to international peace and security as well as to economic development and financial integrity. The outbreak of COVID-19 has clearly, dramatically, exacerbated existing vulnerabilities.
Although recent developments and, notably, the pandemic outbreak, seem to have temporary shifted the focus of the international community and of the media in general mainly towards health-related issues, terrorism, in all its manifestations – and its underlying ideology – remains one of the most crucial threats. An absence of public attention has not made these problems go away, rather it has allowed them to fester.
Furthermore, a widespread lack of opportunity and employment, increasing distrust in the government, social isolation and a generalised sense of anxiety and uncertainty – all exacerbated by the pandemic – have allowed false information and misrepresentation, including from violent extremist actors, to thrive.
On 21 and 22 April 2021, UNICRI and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator’s Office jointly held a Virtual expert-level meeting on “Emerging trends and recent evolution of the threat posed by ISIL/Al-Qaida inspired terrorism in Europe: a spotlight on the terrorist profile(s), incitement techniques, vulnerable targets and potential impact of COVID-19”. The event was attended by over 200 participants ranging from government institutions from in and outside Europe, academia, international organizations and civil society. Speakers included representatives from UN entities, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), EU institutions as well as selected regional and national counter-terrorism experts.
The meeting took stock of the recent evolution and potentially emerging trends of the threat posed by ISIL/Al-Qaida inspired terrorism in Europe in light of the spike of attacks throughout 2020 and against the backdrop of COVID-19. It also provided the opportunity to analyse the newly adopted EU Security Union Strategy and the four-pillar Counter-terrorism Agenda.
This report presents a summary of the presentations of experts as well as of relevant challenges and issues flagged by participants at the two-day event.