Government approves comprehensive strategic plan to combat violent radicalisation

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Friday 30 January 2015

According to the Vice-President of the Government, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, the National Strategic Plan to Combat Violent Radicalisation "is a framework plan for the different public authorities to detect and act against potential outbreaks of radicalisation, in a timely and coordinated fashion".

The Minister for Home Affairs, Jorge Fernández Díaz, asserted that the main risk in this area at present comes from Jihadi terrorism. Jorge Fernández Díaz highlighted the efforts being made to combat this threat at an international level, quoting the recent examples of the summit called by the French Home Affairs Minister following the attacks in Paris and the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of the EU held on Thursday in Riga (Latvia).

At a national level, the minister mentioned the agreement "reached with the PSOE [Spanish Socialist Workers' Party] that is pending formalisation" to provide the democratic State and rule of law with the legal instruments necessary to combat this type of terrorism. "Our current Criminal Code enabled us to provide our judges, public prosecutors and law enforcement agencies with the instruments necessary to defeat ETA and Grapo terrorism; and now we need to provide them with others to combat different forms of terrorism, such as Jihadi terrorism, which is of a different nature and with other characteristics", he explained.

Prevent radicalisation

According to Jorge Fernández Díaz, the plan approved on Friday, following two years of work, will be "a key instrument in terms of prevention", with the aim of "avoiding the emergence and, as the case may be, the development of violent and extremist radicalisation processes and their potential evolution towards terrorism, through early detection and subsequent neutralisation". The Minister for Home Affairs recalled that, between 1992 and 2012, seven out of ten individuals sentenced for Jihadi activism in our country had been either totally or partially radicalised in Spain.

Sáenz de Santamaría, Fernández Díaz, José Ignacio WertPool MoncloaJorge Fernández Díaz underlined that this is a global and comprehensive initiative; it has been drawn up by an inter-ministerial work group with the participation of civil society and vulnerable groups and those at risk of radicalisation with the involvement of different public powers and social institutions. Moreover, it is a national and strategic plan - it establishes a general framework that will be built up in successive annual plans - and falls within the security and counter-terrorism strategies of the European Union and of Spain.

In terms of areas of action, the plan distinguishes between internal, external and cyberspace, "fundamentally over the Internet through open sources", specified the minister. Jorge Fernández Díaz pointed out that since 2012, 80% of radicalisation processes have taken place over the Internet and the aim is to now generate a "counter-narrative" that counteracts the radical messages principally being spread in this way.

The plan establishes a unique national structure, coordinated by the National Group to Combat Violent Radicalisation, under the Ministry of Home Affairs and which will comprise various ministerial departments, the National Intelligence Centre, the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces, as well as other institutions, bodies and associations. This group will coordinate with those located in each municipality. Moreover, the plan contains a specific section to combat radicalisation in correctional facilities.

By doing this, "the necessary structures and work plan to detect and intervene in pockets of potential radicalisation are created, with the aim of breaking up the chain of transmission of radicalisation that makes individuals take the decision to become violent and, in the worst-case scenario, become terrorists", pointed out the minister.

Length of Bachelor's and Master's degrees

The Council of Ministers approved a Royal Decree organising official university subjects. The text established that those universities that so wish can make their Bachelor's and Master's degrees more flexible, with the former becoming three years long instead of four and the latter from one to two years.

The Minister for Culture, José Ignacio Wert, explained that the present structure of university degrees is a "rigid system" because it only allows Bachelor's degree courses of 240 ETCS credits (four years) and Master's degree courses of 60 ECTS credits (one year) compared with the possibilities offered by the model employed by the majority of countries in the European Space, which consists of an average of between three and four years for Bachelor's degrees and between one and two years for Master's degrees. José Ignacio Wert highlighted that only eight out of 48 countries opted for the same model as Spain.

José Ignacio WertPool MoncloaAccording to the minister, the present system "has made the internationalisation of our university system incredibly difficult", because the 180 ECTS credit university degree held by those foreign students that came to Spain was not recognised and some Spanish students that wished to study a doctorate in another country were unable to do so because their Master's degree was not considered valid.

José Antonio Wert underlined that it will now be the universities themselves rather than central government or the regional governments that decide to present 180 ETCS credit degree courses for approval. "There is no imposition or automatic transfer to the 180 ECTS credit formula or deadlines for carrying this out. It will be the universities themselves that will decide how and when to introduce this". Furthermore, he pointed out that students will not be obliged to study a Master's degree and those that choose to do so may choose between a one-year and a two-year course.

On this point, he clarified that the Royal Decree will not affect the so-called 'enabling Master's degrees' or the regulated professions, such as "the majority of Health Sciences, Engineering and Architecture". In these cases, "the integrated Bachelor's and Master's degree processes will continue to be governed by their own special rules, which implies governmental intervention for the authorisation of the number of ECTS credits and congruency with specific EU legislation", stated José Ignacio Wert. Furthermore, the cost of each Bachelor's degree and Master's degree ECTS credit must be the same, in other words, it will not be more expensive for students to move from the former to the latter.

The minister also specified that those students that wish to study a doctorate to then go into teaching or research activities will need a total of 300 ECTS credits from their Bachelor's and Master's degrees.

Savings for households

The measure, according to the minister, seeks "to align our university system with that of our peer countries", and will result in significant savings for families in the case of the new Bachelor's degrees with 180 ETCS credits. With the present matriculation figures, the saving for families just in terms of fees will come to around 150 million euros".

José Ignacio Wert argued that the figures show that, aside from those students included in the field of regulated professions, the proportion of students that step up from a Bachelor's degree to a Master's degree is 20%. Hence, when Bachelor's degrees change from 240 to 180 ETCS credits, families will make a saving and graduates will join the job market a year earlier.

He also stated that both in terms of private employment and public employment, the requisite qualification for joining the job market is a Bachelor's degree. "That does not mean that a Master's degree is not a useful educational addition for joining the job market", he concluded.

Reuse of public information

Soraya Sáenz de SantamaríaPool MoncloaWithin the framework of the reform of the public administration services, the government agreed to amend the law on the reuse of public sector information. Reuse allows individuals and legal entities to use documents in the hands of the public administration services and public sector bodies.

The Vice-President of the Government, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, pointed out that among the new features introduced, noteworthy is the extension of the reuse of information by libraries, archives and museums. It also establishes that if a tariff is applied to the reuse of documents this must be limited to the marginal costs incurred for copying, availability and dissemination. Furthermore, the Sociological Research Centre (Spanish acronym: CIS) is included in the process for the reuse of information, with a specific data bank in the event of carrying our quantitative surveys.

Single electronic document

The Council of Ministers approved a Royal Decree to allow the use of the Single Electronic Document (Spanish acronym: DUE) for the incorporation of new forms of companies, such as cooperatives, civil companies, partnerships, labour limited companies and limited liability entrepreneurs.

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría recalled that this measure is in addition to those pushed through by the government during this term of office to simplify and facilitate the creation of companies. She also pointed out that in 2014, electronic "paperwork" increased by 50% on 2013.

Elimination of administrative burdens

The government also agreed to measures on strengthening oversight of the application of the principle of offsetting administrative burdens. Under this principle, for each new administrative burden created by the public administration services, at least one existing burden with an equivalent cost must be eliminated.

Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría announced that between the start of 2008 and 31 December 2014, the saving in this regard has amounted to 18.82 billion euros.

State subsidies for political parties

Council of Ministers 30-1-2015Pool MoncloaThe Council of Ministers authorised the concession of annual State subsidies for political parties to be distributed according to the number of seats and votes obtained by each party in the previous elections to the Lower House of Parliament. The government will approve those subsidies in excess of 12 million euros, while the rest will be approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Vice-President of the Government reported that, from 2011 to 2015, ordinary party financing has fallen from 82.3 million euros to 52.7 million euros. "This is a contribution to austerity by political parties that is worthy of mention".

Current affairs

The Vice-President of the Government started her speech by highlighting the GDP growth figure for 2014, announced on Friday, which is a one-tenth of a point increase in the government's forecast to 1.4%. She stated that this means, if we make an annual comparison, that we have grown at a rate in excess of 2% in the last quarter, "in line with the government's forecasts and expectations". She added that this also shows that "the efforts made in these last two years have borne fruit in the form of growth in wealth and lower unemployment, which is the main objective of our economic policy".

Council of Ministers 30-1-2015Pool MoncloaThe GDP figure, together with another figure also announced on Friday, the Consumer Price Index brought forward to January, of -1.4%, means that our citizens can increasingly feel this "economic improvement thanks to the creation of jobs, lower taxes and increased purchasing power", pointed out Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría.

She recalled that in 2014, 433,000 jobs were created, or 1,200 a day. This progress "means we are on the way to creating one million jobs between 2014 and 2015", and shows that the government's forecast is "absolutely realistic".

As regards the conversation on Friday between the President of the Government, Mariano Rajoy, and the General Secretary of the PSOE, Pedro Sánchez, on the agreement to fight Jihadi terrorism, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría remarked that this conversation brought us a "step closer" to reaching an agreement. This pact, she specified, is "already at a very advanced stage, pending the closing of the final technical aspects", and comes within a framework of "increased unity in the fight against Jihadism", which is necessary to provide a response to a challenge that affects us all.