Violent or dormant: extremism is a problem for the entire society

Both the violent and the dormant threat of extremism are everyone's problem and therefore require a joint effort. Continued attention is needed from the government, professionals and social organisations. Only in this way can we tackle the threat of extremism. This is stated in the first National Extremism Strategy 2024-2029 that Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius (Justice and Security), Minister De Jonge (Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations) and Minister Van Gennip (Social Affairs and Employment) sent to the House of Representatives.

There have been concerns for some time about the increase in extremism and the threat it poses. Space for criticism, demonstrations and other activism within the boundaries of the law are essential in our society. The limit of that space lies with undermining or threatening the democratic legal order itself. That's what this strategy is about. There is already a solid foundation when it comes to tackling extremism in the Netherlands. The new strategy combines what is already being done to tackle this threat and where this can be done even better. The strategy focuses on three pillars: broad for the entire society with regard to promoting a resilient and open society. And specifically aimed at extremism with regard to protecting the democratic legal order and combating excesses of extremism.

Promoting a resilient open society

A resilient and open society is important to reduce the breeding ground and the susceptibility to extremism and to increase resilience against extremist ideas. The government supports municipalities, professionals and social organisations by providing knowledge and instruments that can protect individuals and groups against radicalisation, polarisation, discrimination and racism. For instance, expertise in the field of conflict management, the right to demonstrate or having difficult talks. Collaboration between education, welfare, healthcare and the safety domain, among others, is crucial. This requires awareness, expertise and a shared language to recognise signals and deal with concerns.

Minister Van Gennip: "A society in which everyone can participate, feels connected and has equal opportunities. To me, that is what constitutes a resilient society. This is not self-evident. It requires hard work from the government, social organisations and, of course, from residents and communities themselves. Look after each other and engage in conversation, even if you disagree. Because within an open society, there's room for differences of opinion, contradiction and criticism. As long as you do so respectfully and continue to consider each other as human beings."

Protecting the democratic legal order against extremist influences

It is important that we continue to protect the democratic legal order in our country against extremist influences. There is a role for society and the government in this. For instance, conducting an open dialogue with each other is part of this. Where needed, we must protect our political office holders and the public debate. Against punishable expressions, but also against content that, although not punishable, is harmful to society. Such as content that normalises extremist ideas or disinformation. We do this by giving people opportunities to verify information and by contradicting disinformation when necessary. Discussions are being held with social media platforms at national and European level about how to combat the frequent spread of disinformation. 

Minister De Jonge: "The democratic rule of law is the basis of our free and open society. We see that in countries around us, this isn't always self-evident. That is why we must continuously protect and renew our democratic rule of law. We do this, among other things, by making our politicians resilient to threats and intimidation. And we provide space for an open debate that is resilient to disinformation. That requires an effort from all of us."

Combating excesses of extremism

To prevent extremist violence or violations of the law, it is necessary to intervene as early as possible, limit the impact and, where necessary, combat these excesses of extremism. Tackling violent extremism is not new. For instance, municipalities conduct multidisciplinary case consultations, take measures where necessary and implement tailor-made interventions. The online environment is increasingly acting as a catalyst for hate speech, extremist messages that can also contribute to the normalisation of extremist ideas. This causes a lot of online insecurity, which is why a lot of effort is being made to tackle extremist expressions. For instance, by holding platforms that do not cooperate accountable through international channels. Extremist speakers who incite hatred and violence are also banned where possible. Their entry into the Netherlands can be refused if there is a danger to public order or national security. Instigators who possibly drive others to violence, incite hatred or spread extremist ideas are also traced and tackled.

Minister Yeşilgöz: "In our open democracy, there must always be room for criticism and demonstrations, but we shouldn't be naive. This should not be misused to spread extremist messages, preach hatred or incite violence. We must always continue to fight that. This must be done in a way that is accessible and achievable also on a local level. That's why we must continue to support municipalities to keep acting strongly on this."  

About the National Extremism Strategy

The National Extremism Strategy was developed under the coordination of the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), in collaboration with several departments and chain partners. It builds on the analysis of extremism by the National Security Analyst Network from October last year.