Dear President Lambertz,
ladies and gentlemen,
It is a particular pleasure for me to welcome you to the first - ever EU Mayors Conference on Terrorism.
Your cities, your municipalities, You as Mayors and elected representatives, are in the frontline of the two most pressing global issues of the day: migration and security.
As Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, I have been dealing with these parallel crises, day and night since 2014.
But today, here, I speak to you also as the former Mayor of Athens.
I have seen these realities on the ground.
I have lived first-hand the security challenges that cities face across Europe.
And from those experiences, I am convinced that without your active involvement, our efforts to combat terrorism will not be successful.
Terrorism is a global challenge that we can only overcome through close cooperation across all levels – from Brussels to the smallest town in the EU.
I am therefore very pleased, that the Mayors and representatives from Brussels, Manchester, Nice, Oslo, Marseille, Berlin, London, Barcelona and New York are with us today.
Your cities have suffered enormously from terrorism, and have learned important lessons – in the same way we have.
The most important lesson we learnt was that our support to you needs to become more concrete, more operational, more tangible.
Brussels cannot erect physical barriers to protect your public squares.
The Commission cannot tell YOU how to protect stadiums and concert halls.
You are best placed to decide how to do that. Our support comes in other ways.
By making funding available to build infrastructure against terrorism.
By creating connections between you so you can learn from each other.
By drawing the lessons from gatherings such as today's and distilling them into clear and practical guidelines, which you can use on a daily basis to better protect our citizens.
In October last year, we presented a very concrete package of measures for this purpose, which we are now rapidly putting into action.
We made almost 120 million euro available to you for 2018, to reinforce the protection of your public spaces.
A call for proposals has already been launched, and 35 proposals were received.
We are developing guidance material to help you:
Strengthen the physical protection of buildings;
Enhance the protection of specific events, like major sports occasions, and places, like airports;
Reinforce the design and planning of public spaces in order to make them more secure;
Expand the use of reliable detection methods, including cutting-edge detection technologies, but also the old-fashioned police dog;
To encourage you to work on this collaboratively with the private sector.
All of these elements are encapsulated in one key principle. "Security by design".
This should become our mantra to make public spaces more secure while preserving their open and public nature.
Beyond these immediate operational measures, we all need to join forces to tackle the long-term, structural and societal challenge of radicalisation.
Once again here, you are the closest to the problem, and the best solutions can only come from you.
For a number of years now, our Radicalisation Awareness Network has been working with experts in your cities to address radicalisation and its root causes.
But what is key here, is to neutralise the breeding ground in our cities and to enhance the resilience of our youth.
This is why, we have invested heavily on fighting radicalisation on the internet – the most critical battleground for this cause.
Since 2015, when I convened the EU Internet Forum, we have been working with internet companies, to make sure that terrorist propaganda is quickly removed but also that alternative narratives are produced by civil society.
Both online and offline, this work will now be stepped up.
Online, to make companies commit more to fighting terrorism.
And offline, to make our work, and our support to you more concrete, more visible, and more impactful.
Security is a shared responsibility, and a basic right for our citizens.
We cannot contemplate more victims in our cities, but we know that it is a reality we will probably have to face for years to come.
Tomorrow, I will meet families and representatives of victims of the tragic attacks in Europe, to remember the lives we lost.
Our citizens are counting on us to take action against terrorism.
We must act now; no time can be lost.Let this first Mayors conference be the beginning,of a strong pan-European alliance to fight terrorism.