Zitate/Mention/Interviews März/March 2016

EFD Senior Policy Advisor Alexander Ritzmann is quoted in The Financial Times for his views on the security failures which led to the Brussels attacks on 22 March and what he believes needs to occur to address them. “Whatever the impediments, Europe has to find a way to move to more ‘structured’ co-operation. Member states aren’t obliged to share information,” he said. “We are still on a need-to-know basis; we need to move to a need-to-share basis.”

The article is in English and can be read here.



NRC in the Netherlands writes about the briefing hosted by EFD and the European Policy Centre on 22 March, only hours after the terrorist attacks in Brussels. The article highlights in particular the contributions during the event of EFD Senior Fellow Bakary Sambe and EFD Senior Policy Advisor Alexander Ritzmann.

The article also warns, by using Israel as a prime example, of the dangers of implementing anti-terror legislation which sacrifices human rights and rule of law for supposed insurances of security.

The article is in Dutch and can be read here.

EU Reporter provides an overview of the event, hosted by EFD and the European Policy Centre and supported by the Counter Extremism Project, on 22 March 2016. The article discusses in depth what the speakers discussed during the policy dialogue, including analyses from EFD Executive Director Roberta Bonazzi, EFD Senior Policy Advisor Alexander Ritzmann and EFD Senior Fellow Bakary Sambe. In light of Brussels attacks which occurred only hours before the briefing, many of the speakers questioned the coordination of security agencies in and beyond Belgium. They also highlighted the potency of the pervasive extremist ideology with regards to susceptible individuals and communities.

The article is in English and can be read here.

The Mirror reports on a new wave of raids being launched by police in Molenbeek and throughout Brussels, following the attacks that took place at Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station on 22 March, killing dozens. EFD Senior Policy Advisor Alexander Ritzmann is mentioned in the article for questioning how the network responsible for the attacks was not apprehended and prevented from doing so.

Ritzmann believes that “a network like this should have been prevented by intelligence and security agencies. This is exactly what their purpose is.” Nonetheless, the authors believe that yesterday’s attacks, in terms of their efficiency and ferocity, have “shocked counter-terror experts throughout Europe.”

The article is in English and can be read here.

The Financial Times reports on yesterday’s terror attacks in Brussels that killed over 30 people, while mentioning the European Foundation for Democracy and EFD Senior Policy Advisor Alexander Ritzmann. The article questions whether politicians and security services could have done more to prevent this attack and potential terror attacks in the future.

Ritzmann is quoted in the article as suggesting that “a network like this should have been prevented by intelligence and security agencies; this is exactly what their purpose is.” He also argues that Belgium should increase its security resources to prevent future attacks, but that it also needs to strengthen cooperation with other European security agencies.

The article is in English and can be read here.

#BrusselsAttacks: Attacks ‘show the need’ for improved co-operation between Europe’s intelligence agencies

eureporter – | March 24, 2016

Further contributions came from Alexander Ritzmann, a senior research fellow at the Brandenburg Institute for Security and Society, who also strongly argued against instant reactionary measures.

Ritzmann, who has worked in the area of counter terrorism for many years, also questioned the capacity of the intelligence agencies to address the issues relating to jihadism, religious radicalisation and violent extremism.

He said he was “amazed” that, 15 years after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, the West still “did not seem to understand” that terrorism was merely a “tactic” to achieve a specific objective.

“These people do these things not just to kill people – they want a reaction from us,” he argued.

One aim of terrorist attacks was to push moderate Muslims towards extremism and, in the event of attacks such as those in Istanbul, Brussels and other cities, for the Western powers to then “over react.”

Ritzmann added: “This would then allow the extremists to turn round and say to their recruits, ‘we told you so’.

“ISIS and other extremists want to lure the West into a battle on their territory and that is why they want the Americans to send ground troops to Syria.”

He was particularly keen also to highlight what he sees as current shortcomings in the capacity of some intelligence agencies to adequately deal with the threat to domestic and external security of many countries.

“You have to ask questions about the capabilities of our security and intelligence services and also their openness for co-operation and collaboration.”

“Information gathering and information exchange are the cornerstone of our security,” he asserted.

His comments took on added significance after it emerged that the men behind the Brussels bombings were known to police while the head of Europol has also warned that as many as 5,000 ISIS trained jihadists are wandering free in Europe

Ritzmann, though, said  that despite the apparently bleak outlook there was some room for optimism, adding: “We can deal with these people – we just need to be smarter in doing it.

Another speaker, Bakary Sambe, a Senegal-based senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, reminded the audience that the problem of radicalisation and extremism was not confined to Europe but was also prevalent in Africa

He pointed out that he knew of instances where young Africans had been “trained” at mosques financed and built by ISIS-affiliates in Senegal and then gone on to fight for the group in Syria

“We have this problem in Africa too of course. It is a clash of religious models and a sort of ‘Islamization’ that is taking place.”

While the “ideological dimension” could not be ignored, the university lecturer suggested that the only way to address the issue in the long term was to “invest more” in preventative measures.

In a short Q&A session, some panellists spoke of the ongoing need for an effective alternative, or “counter narrative”, to combat the propaganda that continues to attract young Muslim men and women through a variety of ways to ISIS and such groups.

Ritzmann suggested that the “messenger (s)” of such a counter argument was just as important as the message it sought to convey.

Ritzmann also pointed out that while US-led coalition bombing and other measures had made serious dents in ISIS-held territory and had also badly hit revenue sourced from its oil infrastructure, ISIS still held land “the size of the United Kingdom”.

The article is in English and can be read here



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