Willy Demeyer: “Security is not down to one policy alone”

A lawyer by background, he began his political career in 1988.

From 2014 until November 2017, Willy Demeyer as a member of the federal parliament was a member of the Commission of the Interior and the Commission of Federal Surveys regarding the «terrorist attacks of 22nd March».

On 8 March 2017, the city of Liège undertook a new participative project, as an extension of the project initiated in 2003.

Being the central city of the district, Liège presides «Liège Metròpole» (District conference of the Mayors of 24 municipalities and of the District Chamber).

Liège also presides the European Forum for Urban Prevention and Security that brings together about 350 European cities to deal with urban security issues.

What do you think of European security? What are the dangers and fears? Is there a correlation?

Over recent years, the world economic context has gone through many upheavals, which have encouraged a return to protectionist theories and the emergence of populisms.

Today’s challenges to Europe are important. One of the most important is undoubtedly polarisation, which amounts to an important risk for our societies.

Other urgent problems are related to this like social and economic inequality that debilitates social cohesion, the radicalisation that leads to violent extremism. The question of migratory flows also deserves better adapted responses in terms of social integration and essential services like housing or education. Finally, the ageing issue must not be overlooked.

Certain elected officials have a huge political responsibility in the way they project Europe. This, in their opinion, is no longer an instrument to protect populations and the States, as it is more a destabilising and authoritarian element. According to them, this interferes with the free choice of the Member States and imposes guidelines on the citizens.

This discourse has important consequences on the perception that citizens have of their lives, their sense of security and their future prospects.

Faced with this phenomenon, progressively, local authorities must make the difference; define policies of prevention and security that respect democratic norms and values, stressing the principle of solidarity.

This is the position of the EFUS Manifesto, adopted in Barcelona in November 2017. It translates these evolutions and proposes a global, holistic vision of urban security.

Can cities cope with today’s security challenges? What should the role of regions and states be?

 Of course not. Security is not the result of a single policy. It is the result of the coherence of all the policies developed at the different stages.

That is why we have presented our Manifesto “Security, Democracy and Cities” to national and European institutions. Indeed, many phenomena are manifest locally, but they are transnational by nature. Therefore, they also require a worldwide response. It is necessary to involve all levels of governance.

The members of Efus present an optimistic view of security, based on respect for human rights and co-production. The Manifesto presents our commitments and recommendations on fifteen topics related to urban security, among others: prevention of violent radicalization, use of technologies in prevention, diversification of security actors …

It is a fundamental document for the Forum. It is a source of inspiration, support and help for local and regional authorities in the design and promotion of their security policy.

Europe is currently very diverse. What is the challenge to maintain urban security? Avoiding policies and situations of discrimination that can lead to violence or, as many are saying, the expulsion or the radical reduction of emigrants?

We are concerned about the persistence of social and economic inequalities. It was a challenge 30 years ago, at the time of the creation of the EFUS but, in recent years, it has become more pronounced.

The causes are multiple: diversity and fluidity of urban populations (especially migrants, tourists and city users by day and at night), as well as a lack of coherence between local, national and European policies at times.

Addressing these inequalities is essential because they spark a resentment that can lead to violence and crime. One of the most disturbing recent manifestations of this resentment is violent extremism, which adopts many forms and can cause a feeling of impotence among public authorities.

In this regard, we consider that it is essential that local and regional authorities refuse to let fear dictate their response. Even if violent extremism can give rise to a sense of urgency, we should not give in to the trap of instantaneousness: instantaneousness as a word, in terms of action and its results.

What is the role of EFUS in European urban security? To facilitate the simple exchange of experiences or promote security policies based on democratic principles and social cohesion? Is there an EFUS security model?

Local and regional authorities benefit from the trust of citizens. Due to their proximity, they have a better understanding of their expectations. They are often more agile than state institutions when it comes to establishing innovative, flexible policies and, above all, adapted to local communities.

We are increasingly recognized by international politicians. Our front-line position in the management of security, crisis situations and our ability to respond are what give us an edge.

It is encouraging but we must draw the necessary conclusions. Our powers are still too limited to fully carry out our missions. It is essential that our role be recognized in official texts. Appropriate financing mechanisms must be established. And we have to participate systematically in the national and European decision-making processes.

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