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International co-operation vital for addressing terrorism during the pandemic, OSCE PA counter-terrorism Chair says in Vienna

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VIENNA, 14 September 2020 – Parliamentarians play a crucial role in promoting international co-operation and championing a whole-of-society approach in countering and preventing terrorism including during the pandemic, Austrian parliamentarian Reinhold Lopatka said at the 2020 OSCE-wide Counter-Terrorism Conference in Vienna today.

Lopatka, who serves as Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, addressed the event following a meeting on the margins with Amb. Igli Hasani, representing the Albanian OSCE Chairmanship.

Not only has COVID-19 greatly affected our everyday lives, Lopatka said in his address, it has shifted attention from threats such as violent extremism and terrorism.

“The pandemic seems to have provided a fertile ground for terrorist groups to boost their online propaganda, call for new attacks, increase recruitment operations, stigmatize minorities, and above all, disseminate false and discriminatory information,” Lopatka said.

He highlighted the timely Parliamentary Web Dialogues the PA has organized in recent months to promote policy exchanges and ensure that counter-terrorism efforts remain high on governments’ agendas during this period.

Among the key OSCE PA findings, Lopatka underlined that with more people spending time online during the pandemic, it is essential to address cybersecurity issues as a matter of priority. It is also urgent to address the negative narratives and disinformation directed towards particular groups, he said.

Another area of priority is to focus on economic difficulties and social unrest, and redirect attention towards the most vulnerable layers of our societies, as well as those who might be more prone to radicalization in the current pandemic context, Lopatka said.

“International co-operation in addressing terrorism is and must remain vital,” concluded Lopatka. “I am confident that there is simply no other way to effectively tackle this threat which, one way or another, affects all our countries.”

The OSCE-wide conference is taking place in Vienna from 14-15 September under the theme, “Effective Partnerships against Terrorism and Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism.” It brings together high-level representatives and practitioners from governments, international organizations, the public and private sector, and civil society to explore ways to strengthen partnerships in the fight against terrorism.

In Lopatka’s meeting with Ambassador Hasani, the sides reiterated the focus on strengthening effective partnerships against terrorism and exploring opportunities to further enhance co-operation. Lopatka stressed that parliamentarians have a key role in countering terrorism by developing legislation and mobilizing resources, ensuring oversight of governments and security bodies, and promoting dialogue between governments, local communities and civil society.