The Jihadi Threat in Europe: Insights from Belgium

Fri, 24 February, 2017 10:45am
An image of the audience at The Jihadi Threat in Europe: Insights from Belgium panel.


One year after the Brussels terrorist attacks, a number of measures have been adopted by the Belgian government to improve national security. Yet, Belgium remains one of the most affected countries in Europe by the problems of radicalization and terrorism as its intelligence services continue to face the dual and related challenges of returning foreign fighters and homegrown jihadists. On February 24, 2017, the Program on Extremism hosted a discussion in partnership with the Embassy of Belgium in the United States on this topic with three experts who highlighted the main challenges confronted by Belgium and Europe more widely and then discussed the responses that have been developed so far. The discussion was moderated by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, Research Director at the Program on Extremism, and featured:

  • Professor Thomas Renard a Senior Research Fellow at the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations, a Brussels-based think tank, and an Adjunct Professor at Vesalius College. He recently published Counterterrorism in Belgium: Key Challenges and Policy Options and is currently leading a research project on returning foreign fighters in Europe. 
  • Matthew Levitt the Fromer-Wexler Fellow and Director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. From 2005 to early 2007, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Previously, he served as a counterterrorism intelligence analyst at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) where he provided tactical and strategic analytical support for counterterrorism operations, focusing on fundraising and logistical support networks for Middle Eastern terrorist groups. He has also served as a State Department counterterrorism advisor to the special envoy for Middle East regional security (SEMERS).  Levitt has written and lectured extensively on countering violent extremism (CVE) and contending with foreign terrorist fighters and is a frequent visitor to European capitals on these issues.
  • Cedric Janssens de Bisthoven the Minister-Counselor at the Embassy of Belgium in the United States of America. A career diplomat since 1991, he served in several postings overseas including Ottawa, Tunis, Zagreb, Vienna (UN), and Geneva (UN).  Before arriving in Washington, D.C., where he leads the political section of the Belgian Embassy, he was the Legal Adviser to the Permanent Mission of Belgium to the United Nations in New York.


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