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EU backs Anna Lindh Foundation's action on an alternative narrative to extremism

Brussels (19/11/15) - EU Neighbourhood Director Michael Kohler expressed his full support for the Anna Lindh Foundation's work in promoting an alternative narrative in the face of extremism.

In a speech at the bestowing ceremony of the 2015 Euro-Med Dialogue Award, held in Brussels on 19 November, Kohler said: "The Anna Lindh Foundation is a landmark and a reference, and more even so now than in the past, for all of us, for both sides of the Mediterranean." EU Near Director spoke about the synergies of work between the Anna Lindh Foundation and the European Commission in both shores of the Mediterranean. He said: "We in the European Commission are proud to work with you, proud to support the Foundation in its noble objectives since it started in 2005, but even more so in the future."

Director Kohler centred his discourse on the work done in facing radicalisation. "It is for me a special comfort to join you here today on this occasion as a proven renewal of our commitment to mutual understanding in the dialogue among cultures and civilisations and societies", he highlighted. Extremism and radicalisation, he continued, lead to fear and mistrust. "We resist and reject this logic of confrontation and we call for debate, for dialogue, and for recognition consensus".

Kohler also referred to the President of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Élisabeth Guigou, and drew special attention to the common goals "that are a new trajectory together, for bringing people together, for fostering understanding. We cannot invest enough in this". In this regard, EU Near Director expressed his willingness to open up new ways of collaboration: "There are other pathways which I think we need to fully explore together under the umbrella of the Foundation, perhaps also beyond".

In this context, Kohler also stressed the need of having a digital strategy to fight extremisme on the internet and social media: "Why not fill the [online] space ourselves with good messages, with dialogue, with a message of trust and understanding, tolerance?"

The Anna Lindh Foundation and partners are launching a region-wide initiative "Debate to Action" aimed at investing in enhanced communication and media exposure for youth leaders who are standing up to extremism across the Mediterranean. The initiative "Debate to Action" has received backing from the British Foreign Office, and is being run in association with "Young Arab Voices", the flag-ship debate programme of the British Council and Anna Lindh Foundation supported by the European Commission.