Spain’s current National Strategic Plan for the fight against violent radicalization (PEN-LCRV)  is the result of a combination of several factors that shape the Spanish case.
On the one hand, we have the historical legacy and the successful experience of fighting against the domestic terrorist group ETA for more than 60 years. There was an international element in that conflict – Spanish-French cooperation and collaboration was key to defeating the terrorist group.
On the other hand, Spain is a member of the European Union and, consequently, the international dimension has become even broader: cooperation in security matters with European institutions; the mandatory transposition of directives and regulations; implementation of the security policy of the European Union within the Spanish domestic legal order; and, fundamentally, the need to face markedly international jihadist radicalization and terrorist violence.
This last aspect is made clear in the Preface to the National Plan, clearly stating that it is a result of the translation of the European Union Strategy for Combating Terrorism to the national level, along with the subsequent and more concrete European Union Strategy for the Fight against Radicalization and the Recruitment of Terrorists.
A highly significant feature of the new security policy is the paradigmatic change to “security culture” as the underlying principle of the entire National Plan. It draws society into the implementation of security policies, as a responsibility of citizenship, as we will see later.
Without analyzing the Spanish approach in depth, we will quote very briefly, following the structure and functions of the National Plan.
The Plan sets this Objective: “to constitute an effective instrument for early detection and neutralization of outbreaks and foci of violent radicalism, acting in those communities, groups or individuals at risk or vulnerability.”
It also presents Guiding Principles:
• Values of an open society – a plural society, with respect for rights and the principles of the rule of law;
• Transparency – easily understandable policies that are known by citizens;
• Coordination – a multi-agency approach, involving all affected ministries and public-private partnerships;
• Adequacy of resources – the use of existing instruments and means;
• Evaluation, audit and control of means and actions, prioritizing viability and sustainability.
In relation to its structure and its areas of action, the Plan has three dimensions: the internal scope within the borders of Spain; external affairs, mainly focused on collaboration with the EU; and cyberspace, where the task is ensuring that information systems do not become means to facilitate radicalization and the training and indoctrination of terrorists.
The Plan also defines the different functional areas, or methods of implementation of the plan, according to the “degree of development of the processes that define it, (processes of radicalization), differentiating the intervention before the beginning of these processes, during the time of its development or after it has been completed without being deactivated”. Thus, it clearly differentiates three areas of action:
a) Prevention beforehand: the focus is on generating confidence and social legitimization and preventing the propagation of violent radical ideologies that are contrary to democratic principles and values. Only “collective” measures are foreseen within this area, all of them focused on the detection of situations where there is conflict or a lack of social integration and attempts to prevent the emergence of processes of violent radicalization.
Two brief comments should be made in relation to this area. First, focusing on the lack of integration in the context of radicalization is an approach that may not only be wrong, but counterproductive. It could stigmatize members of certain communities just for belonging to them and putting into practice certain religious and cultural customs. Second, the lack of measures or actions on any of the many structural factors and drivers leading to radicalization.
As an example of measures adopted in relation to the area of prevention, the Stop Radicalism website  should be mentioned. It is a place where citizens are invited to communicate any “signs that may lead to radicalization or extremist behavior”. This is a tool previously used by the French government. It had little success and was widely criticized for its counterproductive social polarization effects.
b) The “watch” area, or acting in the “during”: the focus here is on exercising local level functions of observation, monitoring and managing the processes of incipient violent radicalization or the first stages of its evolution.
The measures and actions foreseen are in this case both collective and individual.
Local authorities are responsible for implementation in this field. As of today, only 13 municipalities of a total of 8,000 have implemented the guiding principles of this Plan, developing local strategies and approaches. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the example of the municipality of Málaga  and Hospitalet, with a multi-agency and cross-cutting approach to dealing with this phenomenon. There remains, however, a great challenge ahead as other town councils take on the prevention of radicalization in their local environment as their own task. On the other hand, the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces , a platform that brings together all the municipalities of Spain, is also working on this issue, drafting action guidelines to be adopted by local authorities for the proper implementation of the National Plan.
c) Area of “acting”, focused on the “after”: this involves monitoring and investigation of the groups and / or individuals that legitimize violence or even carry out violent activities or collaborate in them.
The measures applied will be strictly individual and of a coercive or remedial nature.
In relation to civil society, it is worth noting the magnificent work of Spanish think tanks of recognized prestige at an international level, such as the Real Instituto Elcano  , which are leading significant projects in the P/CVE field. They include “MINDb4ACT: Mapping, Identifying and Developing skills and opportunities in operating environments to co-create innovative, ethical and effective Actions to tackle radicalization leading to violent extremism”  and “J-SAFE: Judicial Strategy Against all Forms of Violent Extremism in Prison” .
Meanwhile the Barcelona Center for International Affairs CIDOB  promotes high quality research on P / CVE and reputable forums that encourage the exchange of best practices and knowledge in this field.
Finally, we cannot forget the excellent work that is being developed by other non-profit organizations, such as the Al-Fanar Foundation , with important and successful educational projects and tools for the prevention of radicalization among the youngest.
In any case, as a final reflection, given the long and successful experience of Spain in the fight against terrorism and its membership of the EU since 1986, it seems striking that the country did not adopt a National Plan to fight radicalization earlier.
In fact, there is a gap of almost ten years between the Spanish plan and the plans of other member states, such as the UK, with extensive experience in the fight against terrorism. There is a positive factor here, though, insofar as other European plans and their measures can be models for Spain, including learning from mistakes and modifying approaches and practices that undoubtedly require revision.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.