Freedom of expression is crucial to democracy but recent terrorist attacks have shown Europe’s vulnerability to radicalisation. Every country is susceptible to violent extremism and the threat of terrorism has no jurisdiction. Under the pressure of these attacks it is clear that cohesion and cooperation has an urgent role in our society. Policy makers and practitioners need support to manage security risks, prevent the emergence of terrorism and protect the public.

France faces terror

French prosecutor says murdered teacher had been target of threats. France’s anti-terror prosecutor has confirmed that the suspect is a Chechen teenager and that the school had received threats prior to the attack. Police shot the suspect dead minutes after 47-year-old history teacher Samuel Paty was brutally murdered in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. President Emmanuel Macron described this attack as an “Islamist terrorist attack“.

EU stands behind its teachers

Decrying an “Islamist terrorist attack“, the French president said the whole country stood united behind its teachers.

A citizen has been murdered today because he was a teacher and because he taught freedom of expression.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France

“Terrorists will not divide France, obscurantism will not prevail,” Macron added near the school where the teacher was killed.

Murdered for teaching freedom of expression

The teacher had earlier this month shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a civics class on freedom of expression, reportedly angering a number of Muslim parents. Parents and teachers paid tribute to the murdered teacher, laying white roses outside the school and holding up placards saying “I am a teacher – Freedom of Speech“.

France flag

Promoting our European way of life

Nowadays, European cities are witnessing unprecedented levels of migration and population change. In an era of super mobility and super diversity, how do people develop the capacity to live with difference?

A Europe that protects must also stand up for justice and for the EU’s core values. Threats to the rule of law challenge the legal, political and economic basis of our Union. President von der Leyen’s vision for a Union of equality, tolerance and social fairness reflects the European rule of law. Rule of law guarantees fundamental rights and values, allows the application of EU law, and supports an investment-friendly business environment. EU protects EU citizens and EU values.

Freedom of expression and information

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This also means respect to the freedom and pluralism of the media. This right is in article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

birds minimal Freedom of Speech

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. The right to conscientious objection is recognised, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of this right. This right is the core of article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

People care about their rights, values and freedoms.

The rule of law is our foundation and can never be compromised. We must ensure that it is respected and upheld everywhere, with every country treated equally. The rule of law helps protect people from the rule of the powerful. It is the guarantor of our most basic of every day rights and freedoms. It allows us to give our opinion and be informed by a free press. We must focus on dialogue and prevention but never hesitate to take all necessary measures. We need experience and engagement.

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President

Ordinary Muslims in European daily life

Headscarves, mosques and halal shops – many EU citizens are Muslims, but visible signs of their faith are often viewed with distrust. What some Europeans see as a right to express their identity, others regard as a threat to societal core values. Controversies surrounding Islam aren’t specific to the city or country where they arise. In the post-migration phase, these public controversies reach across Europe and have gained a transnational dynamic.

The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population. In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.

Courting controversy – Freedom of expression

Europe’s Muslims are not a homogenous group. The controversies around Islam appear not at an abstract level, but in local, physical places such as cities, where citizens interact and assert their differences. Other Europeans, on the whole, feel threatened and invaded as core values of their societies are called into question.

The phenomenon of radicalisation has become a source of grave concern for law-enforcement and security agencies, as well as for the general public. The underlying processes and factors that lead different individuals and groups to adopt radical ideas and commit acts of violence are complex. Combating radicalisation requires a concerted and cooperative effort across a number of domains. EU needs to develop a comprehensive approach to prevent and counter violent radicalisation and extremism.

Fight against terrrorism terror attacks in Europe


Radicalisation is the action or process of causing someone to adopt radical positions on political or social issues. It is often referred to in relation to perpetrators of violent terrorist acts. Understanding the prevalence and the rapidly changing character of radicalisation and extremism is a challenge for academics, professionals and policymakers alike. Special focus need the risks connected with digital violent propaganda. Radicalisation, especially cyber-based radicalisation, is among the most serious threats now facing European society.

Violent left-wing and right-wing, as well as religious ideologies, are all multiple manifestations of violent extremism across the EU. Because of the national and local variations, it is impossible to provide an all-including in-depth study of the phenomenon.

The phenomena of radicalisation has developed at a high speed. From prevention to repression approaches, in looking for the right responses to these violent extremist expressions it is important to keep up with these developments. Understanding the different faces of radicalisation and extremism and the latest developments is a challenge for academics, professionals and policy makers. It demands a continuously updated data and interpretation. The complexity of the underlying processes and factors that lead different individuals and groups to adopt radical ideas and commit acts of violence forms a challenge as well.

Violent Islamist extremism

Violent Islamist extremism” is an umbrella concept for different forms of violencepromoting extremist groups within both Sunni and Shia Islam. There is great variation and manifestation across different EU states. Groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, which is part of the Sunni manifestation, while there are also violent Shia manifestations. Violent Islamist extremists are united in their rejection of democratic rule of law and the expression of individual human rights.

Freedom of expression. United in diversity?

The question is how to go beyond the opposition at the level of everyday life and public life. There were many groups where the attempt failed. Although you have freedom of expression, you also have a duty to behave responsibly and to respect other people’s rights. The law also protects your freedom to receive information from other people by, for example, being part of an audience or reading a magazine.

Article 10 protects your right to hold your own opinions and to express them freely without government interference.

Freedom of expression and information includes the right to express your views aloud (for example through public protest and demonstrations) or through:

  • published articles, books or leaflets
  • television or radio broadcasting
  • works of art
  • the internet and social media

RAN – Europe’s Radicalisation Awareness Network

RAN connects first-line practitioners, field experts, social workers, teachers, NGOs, civil society organisations, victims’ groups, local authorities, law enforcement, academics and others. The consortium dealing with RAN, financed by the European Commission, takes care of logistics, technical and administrative support.


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