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INTERVIEW Jorge Domecq, Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, ahead of a major conference in Bucharest: Our objective is to make the European Union a security provider in a more complex security environment

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Romania has a big responsibility this year in taking forward all the different EU defence initiatives, says Jorge Domecq, the chief executive of EU body for defence – the European Defence Agency – before a paramount conference in Bucharest dedicated to research and innovation in the defence sector.

In an exclusive interview for CaleaEuropeană.ro ahead of the Conference that will take place at the Palace of Parliament on Tuesday, Mr. Domecq pointed out that the event aims to take ”stock of where we stand in defence research in Europe” and highlighted to role Romania plays in this framework.

Moreover, the chief of EDA pointed out that in a world where threats are complex and the model of war is changing, Europe needs to do more together on disruptive technologies and, especially, in artificial intelligence.

Teodora Ion: Together with the Romanian EU Council Presidency, EDA is organizing a conference in Bucharest focused on “Capability-Driven Defence Research and Innovation”. What is your main aim and objective with this event?

Jorge Domecq:  The main aim of the conference is to take stock of where we stand in defence research in Europe. In particular, we are looking at three main aspects. One, to look into the state of cooperative defence research in Europe and specifically the efforts the Agency is doing to prioritise research in Europe with through the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA). The second aim is to highlight the role of EDA as the main forum for cooperative defence research at the European level, with an important portfolio of research programmes. And the third, is to look into funding instruments that the European Commission is bringing to the table to promote the competitiveness of the European defence technological industrial base in the research domain.

Teodora Ion: Since 2016 the EU has started to float several flagship initiatives under the EU defence dream: PESCO, CARD, the European Defence Fund (EDF) or the European Defence Industrial Development Program (EDIDP). How are these initiatives linked together and how can we understand better how they work to bring forward the progress and achievements the EU defence has reached so far?

Jorge Domecq: The starting point for improved European defence came with the endorsement of the EU Global Strategy by heads of state and governments in 2016. The different initiatives you mentioned all lead to the same objective: to make the European Union a security provider in a more complex security environment. The different elements  are important. The Capability Development Plan and OSRA, which I mentioned before, set common priorities, they tell us ‘what needs to be done’. The Coordinated Annual Review on Defence looks at the European capability landscape as it stands today and indicates next steps; finally, PESCO, or the Permanent Structured Cooperation, which allows Member States to together plan and implement those cooperative opportunities that were identified by CARD. Finally, the European Defence Fund as a very important financial incentive for European cooperation, including by promoting cooperation across borders of defence industries. That is the objective of these initiatives which now have to be embedded in national defence planning processes.

Teodora Ion: Coming back to the main theme of the Conference in Bucharest – on research and innovation in defence. One of the main purposes of the event will be to address the positive impact of a fusion on research priorities between the national and the European level. How will you tackle this issue?

Jorge Domecq: The first objective now that defence budgets in Europe are growing should be investment. We need to devote an important amount to research and technologies, because we need to provide our armed forces with the capabilities they will need in the future. We have to reverse the decreasing trend in research and technology investment. The second important point of the conference is prioritisation. We need first to set our priorities in the defence research domain and then in a second step, decide which of them can be tackled on the European level and which can be tackled among groups of Member States or at the national level. The Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) will help us to identify the technologies that will need to be addressed – if possible on the European level, with a European added- value.

Teodora Ion: On the same page, the first research project financed by the European Defence Fund was Pythia, a project that put together seven stakeholders from six EU members, including Romania. The project is underway and aims to deliver a methodology for improving civil and defence technology foresight. What are the main achievements such a cooperation has brought to the EU efforts on research in defence?

Jorge Domecq: The Preparatory Action (PADR) has already demonstrated that it is a catalyst for cooperation among industries and research centers across Europe. It is of clear benefit to European defence. The National Defence University of Romania  has brought its renowned defence expertise to Pythia, which is a big advantage for the project. However, it is still too early to speak about the impact of the project. The final deliverables will be on the table this summer but as far as I’m informed, the project is advancing well and will give us a tool in which we will be able to scout for new technologies that might have an impact for defence research in the future.

Teodora Ion: When referring to the EU Defence many speak about an EU Army, people fighting under the EU flag and so on. But from an innovative stance, we live in a world where artificial intelligence grows indispensably and where non-EU companies drive forward the breakthroughs. Therefore, what does the EU aim with research in Future Disruptive Defence Technologies and what should we do to be a global player?

Jorge Domecq: There is a triple need to address technologies which are called disruptive, but more specifically Artificial Intelligence. In the first case, we need to dramatically increase the level of investment. Just to give you an example: in 2017, the entire research and technologies effort at the European level was of 8.8 billion euros. In Artificial Intelligence only, the United States is investing during the same year, 7.4 billion dollars. So, it is a question of size first and of speed second. We need to really start looking at Artificial Intelligence as well as other domains. What applications will these technologies have in defence? How will they affect defence, what opportunities and what vulnerabilities will they bring to other defence systems. This will affect how we will organise our own forces, and how we organise our work at the European Defence Agency. And the third aspect, which I think is very important: cooperation in defence is indispensable. We cannot think in national categories only, especially if we look at new threats.

Teodora Ion: Romania is one of the founding members of PESCO, participant country to several PESCO projects and also the holding EU Council Presidency. Although we know the EU defence is a CFSP/CSPD matter under the coordination of High Representative Federica Mogherini, how do you appreciate Romania’s impetus on the further development of EU defence?

Jorge Domecq: Romania has a big responsibility this year in taking forward all the different EU defence initiatives. For example, in CARD we have just had a workshop in Bucharest this week to discuss the future methodology we are going to apply for the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence which will start its first full cycle this fall. For PESCO, during this first semester we will have the first report ever of the High Representative on the 20 PESCO commitments on the basis of national implementation plans of the different Member States. The Agency also recently just launched the third call of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research; the finalisation of the European Defence Fund regulations and the launching of the first EDIDP calls are imminent. All that is happening as we talk and the Romanian leadership is going to be paramount. Romania is a very active member of the Agency in several domains. It is involved in EDA research projects and programmes together with other Member States of a value of more than 60 millions euros, and  it has been a pleasure to be able to count on the Presidency to take forward this challenging agenda.

The conference Capability-Driven Defence Research and Innovation Conference will take place on 26 March 2019 at the Palace of the Parliament venue in Bucharest, under the auspices of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The conference is organised by the Armaments Department of the Romanian Ministry of National Defence, in cooperation with the European Defence Agency (EDA), and will welcome representatives from Ministries of Defence, defence research centres, industry and other European institutions.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) is an intergovernmental agency of the Council of the European Union. The Agency falls under the authority of the Council of the EU, to which it reports and from which it receives guidelines. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union is the Head of the EDA, while the body is also run by a Chief Executive appointed by the member states.

 

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EC Communication chief warns: Disinformation is a real threat to public health during COVID-19 crisis

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Disinformation has presented itself as a real threat to public health during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, the head of the DG Communication of the European Commission, said on Wednesday.

During the conference “Communicating Europe: corona, recovery and beyond”  the director of CaleaEuropeană.ro platform, Dan Cărbunaru, asked the Director-General of DG Communication of the European Executive, regarding the European Union instruments used in the hybrid warfare, but also how the European Commission intends to act through its expertise against misinformation and to protect the citizens against fears.

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, as Director-General DG Communication, explained to CaleaEuropeană.ro the steps that the European executive has taken, in order to take effective measures against disinformation and mitigate the real threat to public health.

 

Dan Cărbunaru: ”As you finished your presentation, initially, talking about misinformation, I would like to ask you something about it, because each crisis that hit Europe was treated as an opportunity usually to develop new tools for providing an increased European approach in solving European citizens problems. And in the last years, we saw the pressure, we felt the pressure heavily put by the propaganda and the tools of hybrid war. And my question for you is, as we know that we have some tools; EU is stuck on the task force, for instance, do you intend does the Commission intend to protect the public’s fears, using this expertise, this kind of expertise already, let’s say tested in combat, and which is on the European Union, the major risk identified so far in terms of hybrid war in Europe.”

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen: Thank you very much for this very important question.

”Of course indeed as you also stressed there are several actors in this at the institutional level in the European Union. You are right,  that it’s absolutely something that has grown very rapidly since the beginning of the crisis, and it has continued to spread, as we saw the crisis the coronavirus crisis, playout and indeed, it has been playing very much on people’s fears, in relation to this particular crisis and, and the increased use of social media. And it has, in the context of the coronavirus crisis, it has really even presented a real threat to public health, as well as, indeed, and that’s not new. Those who have propagated this information have taken advantage of the situation to sometimes push political agendas. As far as the action that we have been taken. We have definitely reverted also in this crisis many myths, a lot of misinformation because there’s misinformation and then there’s disinformation this deliberate malign attempt to manipulate opinion and information, but I mentioned, everything that has been circulating about the health aspects of the disease, of course, or the, the disease itself or the treatments or the vaccines I referred to it already, as well as also. And there are, indeed, some foreign actors have come in as well. When it comes to the perceived lack of EU response or perceived lack of solidarity.

Our president was very conscious of this from an early moment and asked us to have as part of this website that she asked us to create, to communicate what Europe is doing to fight the coronavirus crisis. She also asked us to have a disinformation section there.

So that we actually in all languages, and in a format that makes it very easy also to share these stories setting the record straight if you like on social media.

This is one part of the, of the strategy, it is of course to provide the stories, and the facts in a very accessible way also when it comes to the crisis but in a broader frame when it comes to dealing with this information it’s also about informing and educating the public about this disinformation itself, how it works as a phenomenon, and indeed the danger that it poses in this case both to public health, and to democracy, and this is something that this commission is also very concerned about, you will have heard our vice president Jurova also in addition to the president herself and other members of the college have been very strongly voicing their concern in this area. So, communicating actually very actively and regularly, about how you actually identify disinformation, and how a typical online user can protect himself from disinformation is also part of the response. So, without having the time to go into all the details, a very multifaceted approach is needed. Also involving working with platforms as we do and we have done for some time now, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and since this month, also Tick Tock on developing standards to maintain the online information environment clean from harmful misinformation and disinformation.

And then we have our code of practice which is actually the first of its kind of a self-regulatory effort in this area which is definitely called upon to grow even more important and ambitious as we as we go along, and we will see to which extent, it needs to be complemented with with with regulation.

We also need to fund, and that’s what we’re doing, we’re funding researchers and civil society organizations that are dedicated to studying also the phenomenon of disinformation and to finding solutions and, and fact-checking is also very independent fact-checking of course it’s not something we do, but we support it, as well as developing new technologies we will also be able to be helped by artificial intelligence in this respect, definitely. And therefore, and then also protecting elections and public information to do this.

You refer to the EEAS and it’s true that the EEAS has played a truly a crucial role in fighting disinformation as a foreign policy threat, you refer to that and that has expanded to now, including more teams that are focusing on different regions outside the EU, where this information might originate, and you will find in relation to the corona crisis, which quite comprehensive information on where we are stepping up the action, and this includes also doing more on social media in the debate and the Member States.

On the 10th of June when we published a document on how we intend to step up the action and learn the lessons, from the coronavirus crisis when it comes to disinformation. But by the end of the day, it’s also about building trust in institutions having a strong communications environment, and this support to independent media that I mentioned, in addition to because it happens, it starts with ourselves and how do we actually explain things that we know to our friends and families and how do we think about sharing social media posts that we see, this is something that all of us have to pay very much attention to. So, checking your sources and thinking before sharing I think is also the part of the reflex that everyone needs to embrace so promoting that is very important as well.”


OpenEUDebate is a Jean Monnet network of academic institutions (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain; the National University of Political and Administrative Studies – SNSPA, Romania; Institut d’études européennes de l’Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; The Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium and Agenda Pública, Spain.
”We intend to create a self-sustainable network of experts of varying degrees of seniority working as mediators with national communities of beneficiaries and users that will influence the public debate. The OpenEUdebate community will address two types of fragmentation: between the local-national and the European public sphere, and between specialized knowledge and public debate.”
OpenEUDebate ”will be an accessible and inclusive community where issues are debated critically with a wide range of views. It will “translate” expert knowledge (about contents and procedures) into relevant information for public debate; it will explain the terms of its politicization (above partisan lines); and will enhance the level of public deliberation about it.”
Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen sits at the meeting point of EU communications and policy. She has been Director-General of DG Communication (COMM) since March 2019 and has been overseeing the communication around the European Commission’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Previous roles have included Deputy Secretary-General of the European Commission and Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission. She holds a Master of Science in International Business Administration and Modern Languages, Copenhagen Business School, with a dissertation on European Identity.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The place of Romania is in Europe, so in Schengen

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MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) welcomes the European Parliament’s resolution on the Schengen area in the context of the crisis triggered by COVID-19 and stresses that “the rapid and complete restoration of free cross-border movement is necessary.”

In the statement offered exclusively for Caleaeuropeană.ro, the Romanian MEP mentioned that it is essential that the Council’s effort regarding the integration of Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen area to be intensified.

According to the Liberal MEP, every day that passes with Romania and Bulgaria outside the Schengen area contradicts the fundamental values ​​of the EU: “The place of Romania and Bulgaria is in Europe, so in Schengen. We are Europeans, equal in rights, in solidarity, and every day that passes with Romania and Bulgaria outside the Schengen area contradicts these fundamental values ​​on the basis of which the European Union was built. ”

At the same time, Vasile Blaga reminds us that the pressures from the European Parliament, for Romania’s full integration into the European Union to become a reality, will not stop.

Last week, the European Parliament voted on a resolution calling on the Member States and the Council of the European Union to take the necessary measures to admit Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia into the Schengen area.

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MEP Vasile Blaga welcomes the European Commission’s plan for post-pandemic economic recovery: Romania on the 6th place in Union in budget size

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MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) welcomes the European Commission’s 750 billion euro plan for post-pandemic economic recovery: “The level of sums allocated to Romania for economic recovery shows that our place in the EU has strengthened. We are on the 6th place in the union in the size of the recovery budget after the COVID-19 crisis ”.

According to the MEP, this amount of 740 billion euros is “welcome for the recovery of the economies affected by the pandemic crisis.”

“The allocation of 750 billion EUR  is a good signal that proves that European solidarity is not just a word in the wind that feeds the chorus of Eurosceptics. We also welcome the allocation to Romania of over 30 billion euros for economic recovery, an amount that puts us in sixth place in the top of budgets allocated post-pandemic “, he added.

Vasile Blaga emphasizes that out of the total of 750 billion EUR, 33 billion euros are allocated to Romania, approximately 19 billion EUR represent non-reimbursable grants: “In the next stage it is extremely important to develop the programs that make this budget an engine of the relaunch of the Romanian economy. There are major problems in the sectors that were automatically closed during the emergency and alert period – here we must work with priority “, the MEP noted.

For Romania to have a balanced reconstruction of the economy, Vasile Blaga claims that “the money must be spent in full.”

“Romania has the chance to restart large sectors – such as infrastructure – which may themselves be the spearheads to pull the economy in the coming years,” he said.

At the same time, Vasile Blaga hopes that the plan proposed by the European Commission will be accepted, even if there are different opinions among the 27 states of the Union regarding this ambitious economic recovery plan: “I bet, however, on a unanimous political agreement, which follows to be initialed at the next European summit, which will most likely t

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