The President of Malta

Address by His Excellency George Vella, President of Malta, at the opening session of the ‘Public Launch for the IIJ Criminal Justice Practitioners’ Guide for Addressing Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism’.


Executive Secretary, Mr Tom Wuchte

Distinguished Speakers and participants

It is always a pleasure for me to address events and specialised seminars such as this, organised by the International Institute of Justice and Rule of Law.

Personally, it gives me great satisfaction to note how the IIJ membership, partnership and activities expanded since its launch in Malta in 2014, when as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I agreed to host this prestigious Institute in Malta.

I note that despite the setbacks brought about by COVID, the outreach and programme of engagements of the Institute remain very impressive.

Very importantly, the wide-spread geographical representation of IIJ members involves countries and institutions that are direct stakeholders in addressing terrorism.

After all, it is worth reminding that the IIJ in fathered by the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum – an informal, apolitical multilateral counter-terrorism platform that contributes to the international architecture for addressing terrorism in all its aspects.

The subject we are addressing today is both very important and very sensitive to all our countries.

The threat of ethnically motivated violent extremism has become more visible and tangible in our societies, the UN Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee reporting a 320% increase in ‘extreme right-wing terrorism’ globally in the past 5-6 years.

This challenge cannot be addressed effectively and comprehensively if taken in isolation from broader global and political challenges.

Apart from their immediate effect of intensifying violence and tensions across the globe, these ideologies are increasingly threatening the foundations of democratic society and the rule of law.

None of us are immune to this reality and it is therefore incumbent on all of us as peace-loving, democratic counties, to do whatever is in our capacity – individually or collectively – to properly address this rising phenomenon.

Even though locally we have not evidenced the growth of this phenomenon as much as in other countries, Malta is very much engaged with other European countries in the struggle against racially or ethnically-motivated violent extremism.

International experiences and case studies have shown that lone actors are a major source of threat.

Although the vast majority of these attacks are often carried out by individuals with easily accessible weaponry, targeting densely crowded or symbolic places, they seldom act without some outside influence or support, with a number of studies showing that such individuals might have had relations with members of terrorist or extremist groups and might still be influenced by certain ideologies.

Considerable obstacles remain in countering this danger.

Acting in isolation without any communication or interaction with a wider group, lone actors present acute difficulties in detection and disruption. This is further complimented by the fact that traditional indicators of terrorism financing alone,are unlikely to expose the financing activities of lone actors.

In this regard, information-sharing and a culture of cooperation remains essential for solid threat assessment to disrupt any initiative with criminal terroristic intent.

Let me now move on to another aspect of great importance to my country.

National law enforcement agencies in Malta have been monitoring fluctuating tensions attributed mainly to illegal migration, which in turn results in anti-migratory sentiments being expressed by a small section of the population, varying according to the perceived ‘threat’ from migrant arrivals at the time.

These tensions tend to rise when local media reports incidences, such as petty crime or other criminal activity, attributed to irregular migrants, and in turn, social media platforms experience a significant amount of hate speech and racist content.

To counter such incidents, Malta has established a Victim Support Agency offering different types of assistance to service users in order to protect the victims that had been targeted through hate speech and racist content.

Despite the establishment of this Agency, it was reported that a number of victims still hesitated or failed to report such incidents for a number of reasons.

In this regard, national authorities have been actively working with several communities and organisations with the aim of addressing the lack of engagement between the local community and the Agency, as well as curbing further incidents in a quicker process while, at the same time, striving to step up counter-narratives through different ways and means.

For the past few years, through the Prevent Network Malta, entities and departments with safeguarding roles have been working closely together in order to enhance their collaboration and increase their knowledge when it comes to dealing, in their day-to-day work, with individuals who may fall victims for radicalisation and extremism. 

While Malta has not yet experienced extremist scenarios, the authorities and, especially, the Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement remains fully committed to the prevention of, and the fight against, extremism and terrorism.  

In conclusion, Malta will continue to do its part in countering and preventing extremism locally and internationally, especially through the work of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum and the UN more broadly.  

Finally, I share with you my hope that the IIJ will continue to grow steadily and robustly  in its efforts to attract members and partners that are ideally-placed to

share experience and best-practices on countering terrorism and extremism in all their manifestations.

I wish you fruitful deliberations and continued success in your very important work intended to make our countries safer places to live in.

Thank you.

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