#ReaCT2023, n.4, Anno 4

#ReaCt2023, n. 4, Year 4: the annual report on radicalization and terrorism

As Director of the Observatory on Radicalization and Counterterrorism in Europe (ReaCT), I am pleased to introduce our fourth annual Report – #ReaCT2023, which provides a comprehensive analysis of the evolving threat represented by terrorism in Europe.

This report is conceived as a unique combination of both a scientific journal and a book, with contributions from various authors and researchers who devoted their time, expertise, and insights into making this report a reality. I am grateful to all of them for their important contributions and tireless efforts.

I also want to thank the Italian Ministry of Defense, for their esteem and renewed trust in the Observatory I lead, and for granting their sponsorship on the occasion of the official presentation of this report, and the Centre for Defense Higher Studies – Centro Alti Studi per la Difesa (CASD) in Rome. My gratitude also extends to the Italian Ministry of the Interior which, thanks to the contribution of the Central Directorate for Prevention Police – Direzione Centrale della Polizia di Prevenzione (DCPP) to this publication, allowed us to add further insight into the comprehension and definition of the contemporary threat that ideological radicalisation and violent terrorism represent at the moment.

In Europe there were 50 attacks in 2022, compared to 73 in 2021 – including in the UK and in Switzerland. Over the past three years, from a quantitative perspective, the frequency of terrorist attacks remained linear. According to GTI 2023, Europe is ranked as the third region most hit by terrorism, following Russia and Eurasia, and Central America and the Caribbean.

The report highlights the ever-changing nature of Jihadism which, while spreading and radicalizing, has undergone multiple transformations since its inception in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Al Qa’ida was the embodiment of the globalized and radicalized movement until the so-called Islamic State terror group surfaced in 2014, espousing a more extreme approach. The defeat of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria in 2017-18 marked the first tangible defeat for the jihadist movement. National jihadist movements, mostly nurtured by global jihadists, are now back in fashion, with the Sahel region at the epicenter of Jihadism.

The report also highlights the threat represented by right-wing extremism, left-wing and anarchist terrorism, disinformation, conspiracy theories and white supremacism, which requires urgent attention; developing risk assessment tools that take into account vetting practices in extreme right-wing radicalization processes is crucial.

In light of a changing world and of the conflict playing out on the threshold of Europe, it is essential that we adapt our interpretative paradigms of the threat, and that we question the definition of terrorism, the approach to countering radicalization processes, and the relocation of terrorism itself in the new conflict scenario. Crisis management in the 21st century presents unique challenges due to interconnected and interdependent contexts, making prediction difficult.

The report also highlights the danger of jihadist terrorism in the Balkan region, which remains a threat to Italian and European security. Italy has implemented various initiatives to counter this threat, particularly at the level of international peacekeeping missions. Civil society organizations play a crucial role in preventing and countering violent extremism, but they also face sensitive challenges in their relationships with counter-terrorism actors.

Finally, I would like to draw attention to a recent publication which looks at “where the fight against radicalisation and international terrorism by means of criminal law is going”, and a research project which offers “an empirical study of Spanish jurisprudence dealing with jihadist terrorism over the past 21 years”. The project, focused on the Spanish system, offers constructive proposals aimed at combining the challenges posed by this criminal phenomenon with the granting of fundamental human rights and explores the potential of Restorative Justice.

In conclusion, this year’s report is a testament to the strength and dedication of our community of scholars and practitioners within the ongoing fight against radicalisation and terrorism. I hope that the insights presented in this report will contribute to a better understanding of the evolving threat of terrorism in Europe and serve as a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to prevent and counter violent extremism.

Thank you again to all the authors who, with their commendable work, have once again contributed to the realization of #ReaCT2023. A special thanks goes to the Chapman University (CA), Università della Svizzera italiana – USI, and furthermore, as usual, to the Editor – START InSight for making this publication a reality and for contributing to its international distribution.

Claudio Bertolotti

Observatory ReaCt – The executive Director