This article was published under the 2015-2020 European Committee of the Regions mandate.
The rapporteur and President of the ALDE Group in the Committee of the Regions (ALDE-CoR) Bart Somers presented his report on how to combat radicalisation and prevent violent extremism at the June 2016 CoR Plenary. As Mayor of Mechelen in Belgium, a very diverse city of 130 nationalities, he has firsthand experience on policies that can help local authorities preventing the process of radicalisation
The objective of the report was to help shape the EU’s actions on the prevention of radicalisation and terrorism, as defined by the special agreement of the European Council. This opinion clearly demonstrates how local and regional authorities have the power to deliver some of the EU’s key objectives in the prevention of violent radicalisation and outlines what instruments are required to combat this phenomenon.
Bart Somers discusses living together in diversity in a speech to the regional Parliament in Salzburg, Austria, and exchanges policies with Andrea Klambauer, Regional Minister of Salzburg. Local Press Salzburg 24 covers his visit and mentions that Salzburg wants to take his successful policies as an example.
At the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen, Bart Somers talks about strategies for engaging refugees and immigrants in the shared community, during the “Integration in Diverse Societies: How can we create good conditions for integration, and what do immigrants themselves think?” session.
Flemish newspaper De Morgen publishes an interview with Minister Bart Somers, who says that “We can’t go along with the stories of the populists. This is a battle in which we have to be more brave”.
Following on his ministerial position, Flemish newspaper De Standaard interviews Bart Somers on his portfolio and his views.
Our President Bart Somers was named Minister for Living Together & Interior in the new Flemish government, bringing his experience in successful integration.
22 May Bart Somers hosts and discussed the Mechelen model with a delegation from the city of Oslo, Norway.
15 April Italian radio Radio24 broadcasts the interview taped during the European Committee of the Regions plenary session, discussing integration and managing migration and refugees on the local level. Vatican news / Radio Vaticana went to visit Bart Somers in his city of Mechelen and featured a video summarizing his approach.
10 April Based on his policies in Mechelen Bart Somers delivers a passionate plea for integration at the plenary of the European Committee of the Regions in debate with European Commissioner Avramopolous.
3 April Austrian newspaper Der Standard features an almost full page interview with Bart Somers about how he defines his policies in Mechelen as Mayor, his approach and vision.
2 April US Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gidwitz visits Mechelen as one of his first visits in Belgium, “discussing what makes successful cities like Mechelen work – cities with a diverse population, exciting job opportunities and citizens who care about their town”.
18 March At the invitation of Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Bart Somers described as keynote speaker his inclusive approach in Mechelen at a top conference in the official state residence of Marienborg. He also spoke with Cecilia Lonning-Skovgaard, mayor of employment and integration of Copenhagen.
18 March German regional newspaper Volkstimme interviews Bart Somers in the margins of the Summit of Regions & Cities in Bucharest, discussing what steps he took to shape his city of Mechelen as a example in terms of diversity and integration.
16 – 17 March At the integration Conference in Vienna, Bart Somers shared his approach to integration & discussed this with the Mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig.
14 – 15 March At the Summit of Regions & Cities in Bucharest, VRT, the public broadcaster in Flanders, Belgium, interviews Bart Somers in the margins of the Summit, covering his plea for diversity.
9 March German regional newspaper Volkstimme writes about Somers’ policies and release of his book in German about Living Together: a hopeful strategy against IS.
26 February Building on the expertise of successful cities such as our President Bart Somers’ city of Mechelen, the European Commission and European Committee of the Regions collaborated to foster exchanges among cities to identify effective and transferable approaches. In this context, European Commissioner Julian King supports Bart Somers’ push for a European network of cities for the prevention of radicalisation.
13 February German media Deutschlandfunk covers the successful policies of Mayor Somers in Mechelen.
29 January “Give cities more power” says Bart Somers during an interview with Radio 2 (Belgium). “The 21st century is the century of cities. Societal problems, integration, poverty, innovation, climate change,…if cities do not take the lead, nothing will happen”. More in his radio-interview (Dutch only): http://bit.ly/2WryzBD.
28 January State Secretary for the interior of Berlin, Torsten Akmann, came to Mechelen to study the Mechelen model, showing how Mechelen continues to inspire other major cities and capitals.
25 January Visit of D66 Eindhoven to Mechelen, to discuss polarisation, integration and diveristy.
24 January Bart Somers shows a delegation of the Swedish capital Stockhol, including its Vice-Mayor, around Mechelen, focusing on social services and its unique model.
5 January Bart Somers featured as guest speaker at the Radikale Venstre congress in Denmark, talking about how freedom and diversity are not pitted against each other, they are inseparably connected.
18 October Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad features Mayor Somers after his reelection under the title “the whole of Europe comes to Mechelen to see how the Mayor does it”, highlighting his message of hope.
15 October Mayor Somers is re-elected, smashing historic records for his city with 48% of the vote, winning a never-before seen absolute majority.
28 September Het Laatste Nieuws, the biggest newspaper in Flanders and Belgium, covers Mayor Somers on how he changed a bitter and divided dirty city into a nice city where 138 nationalities mostly live in harmony. “But Mechelen is not a paradise – at least not yet” says Mayor Somers, who continues to work for his city.
17 September Rai 3 Italia dedicates a special programme of Presadiretta to Mechelen and its remarkable turnaround, interviewing Mayor Bart Somers as well as citizens, policemen,…
13 September Dutch Media Trouw covers how “the World’s best Mayor transformed the hell-hole of Mechelen into the pride of Flanders”.
25 July German radio station Radio Bremen has a feature interview with Mayor Bart Somers.
21 June How to convert European cities into a host cities through succesful integration, wonders Spanish newspaper El Pais, citing the remarkable example of Mechelen under its Mayor Bart Somers.
31 May Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant covers how Bart Somers became World Mayor “by doing what is not easy: embracing diversity”.
16 May Mayor of Mechelen Bart Somers in an interview with The Mayor EU: “I find it very important to have structural contact with as most citizens as possible”.
14 May Japanese TV files a report from Mechelen and interviews Mayor Somers on the remarkable turnaround of the city.
3 May European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager visits Mechelen and Mayor Somers, who highlighted his city as an inclusive city and explained some specific projects. Have a look at our video about the visit. Danish media also covered the visit.
24 April During the European Parliament’s special committee on Terrorism hearing “Preventing and countering radicalisation” chaired by ALDE’s Nathalie Griesbeck MEP, Bart Somers shares his best examples in the session “Best practices in preventing and countering radicalization”.
24 April Austrian publication Wiener Zeitung covers the turnaround of Mechelen through Mayor Bart Somers’ policies.
19 April In the Markus Lanz programme on German TV ZDF Bart Somers talks about his recipes against crime and his approach towards integration.
15 April German TV ARD covers Mayor Somers’ achievements in Mechelen, noting that integration is a mutual process that cannot be done only by immigrants and how it is possible through trust to dissolve the ghetto structures.
4 April Bart Somers participates in the RAN – Radicalisation Awareness Network – event “Common PCVE challenges in Western Balkans and European Union” (in collaboration with the Bulgarian Presidency): the first part of the event focuses on effective and sustainable partnership between all actors involved in preventing and countering violent extremism (authorities, agencies, NGOs and communities), the second part highlights the vulnerability of young children (pre-teens) in extremist environments.
25 March German TV ARD covers the remarkable turnaround of the city of Mechelen under Mayor Bart Somers.
23 March Marco Buschmann, first parliamentary secretary of the FDP group in the German Bundestag, spoke about Bart Somer’s book and its key messages on integration in his reaction to the government declaration of the new minister of the interior.
17 March Het Laatste Nieuws, the most-read newspaper in Flanders, Belgium, covers the widespread interest in Mechelen and the successful policies of its Mayor Bart Somers.
8 March The European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions jointly organised the EU Mayors’ Conference on “Building Urban Defences Against Terrorism: Lessons Learned From Recent Attacks“. The conference focused on lessons learned from recent terrorist attacks and the sharing of best practices and useful solutions to enhance protection of public spaces, including the implementation of “security by design” solutions. Bart Somers moderated the panel debate “Cities against radicalization” on experiences and best practices related to local policies aiming at preventing and countering radicalisation.
26 February German TV ZDF highlights the remarkable turnaround of the city of Mechelen under the leadership of Mayor Bart Somers.
14 February Smarter Communities brings the inspiring story of how Mayor Bart Somers embraced diversity, tackled radicalisation and sought to break down segregation.
12 February German media Der Spiegel interviews Bart Somers on the occasion of the release of the German-language version of his book in which he details his successful policies as Mayor of Mechelen, tackling discrimination and improving inclusiveness.
February German radio Deutschlandfunk interviews Bart Somers about his cities’ successful turnaround and the policies involved.
22 January Swedish TV programme Agenda interviews Bart Somers on his succesful integration policies in his city of Mechelen. (from 15.04min. on).
17 September Swedish TV programme “Agenda” interviews Bart Somers on his policies in Mechelen on TV (from about 50 minutes on) and on the website. Flemish TV VTM also covered this appearance on their website.
16 September Interview for the Wiener Zeitung
11 September First meeting of the European Commission’s expert group on radicalisation, where Bart Somers is the European Committee of the Regions high representative. In this group, which wants a more structured and institutionalised exchange on counter-radicalisation, he shares his local experiences and successful policies. The Group is chaired by European Commissioner Julian King and also consists of the European Council counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove.
9 June Sharing best practices across Europe, Bart Somers was in Barcelona yesterday for the seminar “Countering violent Extremism at the local level” of the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs: CIDOB
1 June Bart Somers spoke with Beatriz Becerra MEP of the ALDE Group – Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament to discuss his great work in countering radicalization.
25 May Spanish newspaper El Pais visits Mechelen, covering the policies that make the “Mechelen model” so successful.
24 May Discussed his report with European Council EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove
18 April Bart Somers shared his successful policies and experiences in migration with the IOM – the International Organization for Migration – during their International Dialogue on Migration in New York.
28 February Belgian mayor: ‘Discrimination and racism is anti-western’ – EurActiv.sk
25 February Bart Somers was featured on German TV ZDF about his work in Mechelen.
14 February Awarded 2016 World Mayor Prize – Bart Somers received the Prize as recognition for his outstanding achievements in welcoming refugees during recent years and for the long-term integration of immigrants from different cultures, religions and social backgrounds.
9 February Bart Somers took part in televised discussion on Terzake / VRT (Flemish public Television).
7 February 2017 Bart Somers explains his successful policies on social inclusion from a local perspective at a European Commission Education & Culture expert group, with experts from member states and organisations such as the OECD.
30 January Grenz Echo (BE) the article starts out with the World Mayor Prize as introduction to cover Bart Somers’ track record in Mechelen.
23 January German radio DLF coverage of Bart Somers’ successful approach as Mayor against radicalisation & exclusion.
22 January Belgian paper De Zondag: Bart Somers puts Mechelen on the international map.
3 January l’Espresso, an Italian news magazine identified Mechelen as a miracle of integration.
31 December Huffington Post Deutschland (Germany) reports about his positive narrative to let 128 different nationalities live together in his town, of which 20% are Muslim, and why having such a diverse population is a good thing.
25 December Die Zeit reports on Mechelen as a place of tolerance and multiculturalism.
3 December New York Times focuses positively on Mayor Somer’s policies of inclusiveness.
20 November Spanish newspaper El Pais interviews Bart Somers who advocates his integration model.
7 October the EU Security Union Commissioner Julian King visited the Belgian city of Mechelen as part of the Commission’s commitment to step up its work in tackling radicalisation. He met Mechelen Mayor Bart Somers to discuss what has become known as the “Mechelen approach” in fighting radicalisation. Commissioner King met a wide range of local experts, including the Council’s Radicalisation Officer and the Head of the Mechelen Police. Mr. Somers and Commissioner King spoke with victims of terrorism and families directly affected by terrorism and exchanged views with frontline workers – such as youth and social workers, as well as activists involved in a variety of grassroots initiatives including sports and art projects.
29 September Bart Somers and EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova, discussed cooperation in combating radicalisation and increasing joint efforts for more inclusive societies.
22 August during a Conference of The Slovak Presidency on “Totalitarian Regimes” Bart Somers made specific suggestions to the Slovak Presidency on how to prevent radicalisation.
16 May Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia interviews Bart Somers on his policies to combine social inclusion and security as key success elements.
20 April Spanish media El Espanol interviews Bart Somers about the key to countering radicalisation in a long format interview.
25 February the fact finding mission to Mechelen took place on 25th February, on the invitation of Mr. Bart Somers (mayor of Mechelen and rapporteur of the CoR opinion on Combatting Radicalisation). The experience and preventive approach of local authorities in fighting radicalisation was presented by speakers from Mechelen, Vilvoorde and Antwerp. The second part of the mission included a testimonial of a mother who lost her son in fights in Syria and two field workers of Mechelen and Vilvoorde.
Congratulations to our President @BartSomers (@openvld), who becomes Flemish Minister for Living Together & Interior in the new Flemish government, bringing his experience in successful integration. He’ll also be Vice Minister-President: https://t.co/4IGYp5VjCL. pic.twitter.com/xsZKNVQjme
— Renew Europe CoR (@RenewEuropeCoR) October 2, 2019
The @ALDEParty is very proud that Bart Somers – current Open VLD Mayor of Mechelen and @RenewEuropeCoR President – has been appointed as Flemish Deputy Minister-President! Congratulations @BartSomers ! 👍🏻👍🏻 https://t.co/hDb77c5koP
— Hans van Baalen (@hansvanbaalen) October 2, 2019
La città di Mechelen @StadMechelen è un caso di integrazione delle minoranze in Belgio. Come ci sono riusciti e perché? Può essere un esempio nel resto d’Europa? @BartSomers @EU_CoR #migranti #Regions4Integration pic.twitter.com/eQUWoLjt0o
— Radio Vaticana Italia (@Rvaticanaitalia) 15 April 2019
Amazing @BartSomers, mayor in impressive, very diverse @StadMechelen BE, tells us about the city turnaround: Every citizen is counted in! And at the same time we are different from one another and have so much in common. pic.twitter.com/gBDbMJ4XMS
— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) 5 January 2019
— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) 3 May 2018
Very honored of having EU-Commissioner @Vestager in #Mechelen, talking about how we can make cities more inclusive. “United in diversity” is an ambition we share with Europe ! pic.twitter.com/6EfW2e6E5N
— Bart Somers (@BartSomers) 3 May 2018
“We need a new paradigm where fighting crime & building an inclusive society are two sides of the same coin. Investing in security, preventing ghettos brings people together and builds trust.” @BartSomers at @Europarl_EN hearing on #radicalisation chaired by @Nat_GRIESBECK. pic.twitter.com/IMaqTvzHvh
— ALDE-CoR (@ALDE_CoR) 24 April 2018