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INTERVIEW Ambassador Tacan Ildem, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy: Fake news challenges our resilience. Through communication, NATO is more agile

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© Tacan Ildem/ Twitter

NATO’s centre of gravity and its essential strength is the commitment of its members to stand up for each other. Article 5 in this respect is the core of the North Atlantic Treaty, says Ambassador Tacan Ildem, Assistant of NATO’s Secretary General for Public Diplomacy.

In an interview for CaleaEuropeană.ro, on the sidelines of Bucharest Forum, Ambassador Ildem praised Romania’s efforts to contribute to NATO’s communication and branding campaign, underlining that our country holds a key role on explaining the Alliance’s policy towards the Black Sea and the Western Balkans, while enjoyind a “recognized excellence” in new technologies, both an opportunity and challenge to the nature of warfare.

Ambassador Ildem also referred to NATO’s efforts in countering fake news, drawing attention to the idea that “fake news challenge enduring public support for NATO policies.

“It challenges our resilience as societies. This is why NATO aim to counter this phenomenon calmly but firmly”, said NATO’s high-ranking official.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Seventy years of NATO and especially thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall seem like far moments in history for an ordinary citizen. How do you explain to the general public the need of having the collective defense umbrella provided by NATO?

Ambassador Ildem: Thirty years ago, the Cold War ended, and with it the separation of Europe. In the last three decades, challenges have been different and yet the commitment of Allies to stand as one has endured. Better yet, new Allies have joined, including Romania, and this is illustrative of the benefits provided by membership in NATO. I believe the ordinary citizen understand well that our societies are confronted to many security challenges, both traditional ones, like Russia’s new assertive foreign policy, and less traditional ones, like cyber threats or terrorism. NATO does not replace national efforts towards defense, but it brings them together so that together, the Alliance is greater and stronger than the sum of its parts.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: After the end of Cold War NATO enlarged as a promise for newly born democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. Since 2014, the Alliance faces multiple threats including at its Eastern borders, but some are non-military and use disruptive technologies. What can NATO do more to help new allies, including Romania, to build more resilient societies in dealing with disinformation activities?

Ambassador Ildem: Disinformation is a concern for everyone, because unlike misinformation, which is unintended, disinformation is an attempt to sow error and wrong appreciations of reality intentionally. Resilience is a frame of mind, irrespective of when one joined NATO! It requires that every member of society do its part. At NATO, we consider that resilience includes pro-active communication, to inform the public and the media; reactive communication to correct what we consider partial, incomplete or tendentious reports in the information environment; and frequent face to face meetings with opinion leaders, because direct meetings develop trust, a key component of resilience. But citizens also have a role to play in countering disinformation activities, by diversifying their sources of information and by being mindful of possible political biases. NATO’s public diplomacy is contributing to this effort. 

CaleaEuropeană.ro: NATO’s ongoing process to adapt to a challenging security environment, especially on the hybrid and disinformation challenges, has found a name two years ago: “#WeAreNATO”. What is the story behind this branded communications campaign and why has it surfaced? 

Ambassador Ildem: NATO has always sought to adapt. Even before the 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, public diplomacy was evolving rapidly taking into account the rise of social media and its impact on audiences but also on the tools communicators use. NATO considered these new developments and decided to adapt and adopt new modalities. The method evolves, but the ultimate objective remains unchanged: to reach out to diverse public in our nations. With campaigns, we are more agile, better able to measure the impact of our work, and therefore hopefully more successful as well.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Romania is one of the pioneers of the #WeAreNATO campaign while the public support for our NATO membership raises more than 50% of the population, and these are positive facts. Even so, how can Romania, as an Eastern border of Western world, actively engage to better promote and explain NATO’s profile and measures for deterrence and defense? 

Ambassador Ildem: I am very happy that Romania has contributed so much to our campaign effort to explain NATO policies to home audiences. As your readers may not know, we have three priority publics, of which the first is the successor generation, the future leaders of Romania. We are also reaching out to women specifically. Finally, we seek to ensure that people without higher education have an understanding of Romania’s Alliance contributions. Looking forward, Romania has a role in explaining NATO’s approach to the Black Sea and Western Balkans, but also in explaining the determination of Allies to innovate in the face of disruptive new technologies – technologies that present opportunities, but that will also change the nature of warfare. I think here specifically of big data, artificial intelligence and other disruptive technologies, areas in which Romania enjoys recognized excellence.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: NATO has always been referred to as a collective defense organization guided by the principle engraved under Article 5. To what extent fake news phenomenon is a threat for NATO’s security and ability to defend its members? In this, what would be the role of public diplomacy within the Alliance in countering hybrid warfare?

Ambassador Ildem: Fake news is a complex phenomenon involving both would-be state competitors as well as non-state organizations. Its destructive intent is compounded by the new potential of social media platforms. NATO takes this reality very seriously. We chose to oppose fake news with facts, and do so through proactive press relations, social media engagements, as well as through a dynamic program of public diplomacy activities aimed at different audiences. While it does not directly affect NATO’s ability to defend itself militarily, fake news do contribute to muddying the waters and to confusing publics. Therefore fake news challenge enduring public support for NATO policies. It challenges our resilience as societies. This is why NATO aim to counter this phenomenon calmly but firmly.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: Although our transatlantic cooperation is weakened by geopolitical disruptions and the return of great power politics, NATO is almost unanimously self-considered the most successful military alliance. How are cohesion and “allied strong” approach playing up their role in keeping the West united at a time when we should celebrate three decades since the values on which NATO was founded began to find their ground in Central and Eastern Europe? 

Ambassador Ildem: NATO’s centre of gravity, its essential strength, is the commitment of its members to stand up for each other. Article 5 in this respect is the core of the North Atlantic Treaty. Cohesion among Allies is the Secretary General’s priority at all times, and that of his collaborators. This is why it is important to attend seminars such as the Bucharest Security Forum, which helps to develop a common view of challenges and threats.

CaleaEuropeană.ro: In a few weeks, NATO leaders will gather in London to mark 70 years of the North-Atlantic family. At the same time, many allies celebrate ten, fifteen or twenty years since joining the Euro-Atlantic community. What does the future hold for NATO?

Ambassador Ildem: Citizens and experts alike recognize NATO’s historical capacity to adapt. This is why it has celebrated this year its 70th anniversary. In looking to the future, NATO is again taking the steps to adapt to a changed security environment. It has taken steps to reinforce its defence and deterrence in the biggest effort in a generation, following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. It is busy developing responses to hybrid and cyber challenges and to instability in the South. It seeks to enhance the resilience of its operations, and helps Allies do the same. It works with partners to strengthen their defense establishments. NATO is fully committed to remaining fit for purpose as challenges to security continue to evolve.


Ambassador Tacan Ildem was appointed Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy in March 2016. He advises the Secretary General on public diplomacy issues and directs the Public Diplomacy Division (PDD), which plays a key role in conveying the Alliance’s strategic and political messages to opinion formers and to the public in general. PDD works to raise the Alliance’s profile with audiences world-wide and to build support for Alliance operations and policies.

Robert Lupițu este redactor-șef, specialist în relații internaționale, jurnalist în afaceri europene și doctorand în domeniul reasigurării strategice a NATO. Robert este laureat al concursului ”Reporter și Blogger European” la categoria Editorial și co-autor al volumelor ”România transatlantică” și ”100 de pași pentru o cetățenie europeană activă”. Face parte din Global Shapers Community, o inițiativă World Economic Forum, și este Young Strategic Leader în cadrul inițiativelor The Aspen Institute. Din 2019, Robert este membru al programului #TT27 Leadership Academy organizat de European Political Strategy Center, think tank-ul Comisiei Europene.

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Green Village Resort, the Danube Delta impressive location, opened for tourists under maximum safety measures

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© Anca Duse
Green Village Resort opened its gates on May 15th, in maximum safety for its guests, according to an official announcement on the resort’s Facebook page.
The Danube Delta, which most of it lies within Romania, is one of the continent’s most valuable habitats for wetland wildlife and biodiversity. It is a unique ecosystem in Europe and consists of a labyrinthine network of river channels, shallow bays and hundreds of lakes.
Green Village is a stranded location, divided into 3 accommodation areas, located at a great distance from each other, and the access to the rooms is made from outside, without having to go through common halls. Thus, social distancing is ensured by the hotel’s pavilion-type concept and the surface of over 30.000 m² .
Hygiene procedures are strict and strictly observed, both for guests and hotel staff. Dispensers with disinfectant solutions have been installed at all public entrances, and the cleaning of public spaces and their contact surfaces (handles, support bars, etc.) will be performed with a much higher frequency, using professional disinfectants.
As for the Express Check-In procedure, it has been modified so that the interaction with staff or other guests on the spot is reduced as much as possible.
Also, transport by boat will be carried out in accordance with the rules in force, and the serving of meals and drinks will be carried out according to the provisions of the authorities, in the room, on the terraces of the houses, or on the balconies of the rooms.
Last but not least, Green Village Resort assures future guests that the service staff is and will continue to be thoroughly trained in cleaning and disinfection procedures.

Green Village is naturally isolated with access to immense beaches stretched for kilometres, canals where tourists can make a different trip every day, they can fish, walk in nature, watch birds, without meeting any crowds. 

„Even in a normal period, tourists felt safe and enjoyed a quiet vacation. Romania is a growing destination for foreign tourists. Although slower than we want, Romania attracts foreigners, who come here with moderate expectations, but return home beyond enchanted by the landscapes, people, and security that our country offers”, said Dragoș Anastasiu, owner of Green Village Resort.

Last year, more than 40% of our tourists were foreigners. They enjoyed mostly excursions on the canals, fishing, birdwatching, going to the beach and short trips to nearby cities such as Sulina and Tulcea.

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Romania Remains Attractive As Software Outsourcing Destination in COVID-19 times

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Romania is 1ST IN EUROPE and 6TH IN THE WORLD, in terms of number of certified IT specialists. With an estimated 150,000 in 2020, Romania is moving up the diversity spectrum in terms of outsourcing capabilities. The local talent pool has been a main decision factor for evolving from a cost driven approach to a value driven one, Romanian specialists proving to be very resourceful in operating many complex project assignments.

Romania doesn’t offer lowest prices in the outsourcing business, but it is highly competitive when you take into account the level of technical proficiency and soft skills in the country, “superior to what is typically found in other outsourcing locations,” according to IDC.

Romania also benefits from two political factors—its membership in the European Union, and strong institutional support from the government. This includes several tax incentives and breaks, alongside wages that remain highly competitive within the EU (the average minimum wage is the second lowest in the political union). More importantly, membership in the EU comes with more than just financial and security advantages, one example is access to the Horizon 2020 program for Research and Innovation.

As a member state, Romania’s regulations and compliance laws must fall in line with the broader union, meaning that companies have significantly less startup barriers when setting up BPO or ITO offices. Apart from easier setup, this gives companies a much safer framework and infrastructure for financial transactions, as well as access to many of the same financial services and banks available across the West.

We asked one of the local companies what are their thoughts on the Romanian IT sector future and how is the COVID-19 disrupting their business model:

“This highly competitive industry sometimes forces us to ignore the long-term strategy and focus on the quick opportunities. The biggest risk is that we won’t see a lot of Romanian products competitive at global scale any time soon, but definitely in almost every successful project launched today around the World there is at least one Romanian engineer in the team. We give a lot of attention to our Research and Innovation department and we try to keep the right balance between outsourcing and internal products development (chasing our dreams). Regarding the COVID-19 disrupting our business, we just practiced what we preach, we used our entire digital offering on ourselves and we were able to completely switch into remote work during lunch break” says Anamaria POPA, General Manager of Soft Galaxy.

It is not enough for the professionals out there (in institutes, universities, private companies, innovators and entrepreneurs) to press ahead with their work, they need to stand together and promote the Romanian excellence in research and education.

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Vasile Blaga, MEP: I am convinced that the firm measures adopted by the EP against Covid-19 will not stop here. The EPP Group is already working on a strategy for the rapid recovery of the post-crisis economy

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

Vasile Blaga, MEP (PNL, PPE) told caleaeuropeana.ro that the EPP group in the European Parliament is already working on a “very clear strategy” for managing the current crisis generated by the new coronavirus, but also for the rapid recovery of the post-crisis European economy,

The unanimous vote of the European Parliament last week on proposals from the European Commission for the management of the European health crisis shows that the hesitant response at the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic was an accident, explains MEP Vasile Blaga, adding that “the answer came to correct the rather timid initial reaction of the European executive in the beginning of this challenging crisis for Europe and all the other states around the world ”.

The 37 billion euros  (part of the Corona Initiative) allocated to the Member States through the vote in the European Parliament will be directed towards health systems, local communities, small and medium-sized enterprises and economy sectors seriously affected by this crisis.

“The European Union means, first and foremost, solidarity – for better and for worse, and those who support the opposite are either not aware of what is being done at EU level, or have an interest in destabilising the Union,” says Blaga.

The vote in the European Parliament was also aimed at reallocating 800 million euros from the Cohesion Fund in 2020 to cover emergencies in the medical systems of the EU member state

“I am convinced that the measures will not stop here. The EPP group is already working on a very clear strategy for managing the current crisis, but also for the rapid recovery of the economy once the public health crisis is over. There are countless proposals and projects in progress that will help us all overcome this unprecedented crisis in recent history,” adds Vasile Blaga.

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