European ‘melting pot’ could combat extremism, Biden says

US VP Joe Biden speaks during the opening session of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.
US VP Joe Biden speaks during the opening session of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. Saul Loeb, AFP

US Vice President Joe Biden kicked off a three-day White House summit on countering violent extremism by lauding the American “melting pot” approach to assimilating immigrants, a model the administration believes Europe needs to emulate more closely.


The summit, which started Tuesday and brings together local officials from across the country and ministers from around the world, follows recent shootings in Copenhagen and Paris that have galvanized Western resolve against such extremist attacks.

Sixty nations are set to discuss the global threat of violent extremism posed by the Islamic State organisation, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Somali Al Shabaab and others. Emphasis will be placed on fighting radicalisation a discussion whose importance is underlined by the fact that almost 3,000 Westerners have joined jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. The phenomenon is also affecting Arab nations Tunisia and Jordan, for example, have the largest number of nationals in Syria.

“We have to ... engage our communities and engage those who might be susceptible to being radicalized because they are marginalized,” Biden said.

“Societies have to provide an affirmative alternative for immigrant communities, a sense of opportunity, a sense of belonging that discredits the terrorists' appeal to fear, isolation, hatred, resentment,” he said.

The White House believes Europe is especially vulnerable to such attacks because immigrants are often less integrated into societies there.

“I’m not suggesting ... that I think America has all the answers here. We just have a lot more experience,” Biden said. “Inclusion counts.”

The conference is designed to share best practices and emerging strategies to prevent extremists from carrying out violent acts.

“When I say we have to be able to see one another, I’m not talking about surveillance, I’m not talking about cameras,” Biden said, calling for US cities to treat immigrant communities with respect. “Technology cannot replace contact.”

President Barack Obama will address the summit on Wednesday and Thursday.


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning