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INTERVIEW. NATO Secretary General after launching his annual report: Among European Allies, Romania is taking a step forward and invests heavily in new defence capabilities

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”I want to commend Romania because it invests heavily in new defence capabilities. Romania has announced that it will achieve NATO’s 2% target for military spending in 2018, which reflects the fact that among European Allies Romania is taking a step forward.In 2018, but also in 2017, Romania has invested heavily and increased defence spending significantly. Romania is taking major steps towards strengthening its armed forces. I welcome this, and the investments have long-term effect. The most important is that all Allies, including Romania, meet the capability target”, says Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, in an exclusive interview CaleaEuropeana.ro after publishing the organisation’s annual report.

Dan Cărbunaru: Mr. Secretary General, thank you for accepting this interview for CaleaEuropeana.ro on this special occasion of the annual report release. What are the main elements that indicate the progress NATO has made in the last year to defend its members?

Jens Stoltenberg: The main elements are the fact that we adapt to a challenging security environment with a more assertive Russia. We did this by deploying battle groups in the Baltic countries and Poland, but also by increasing our presence in the Black Sea region, especially in Romania, in what we called the tailored forward presence adapted by the multinational brigade led by Romania. We have stepped up our presence in the Black Sea and have stepped up our forces’ readiness to be deployed quickly if needed. The main point is that we need to be strong, united, but at the same time send a message to Russia that we are willing to engage in a political dialogue, talk to Russia, reduce tensions, because Russia is our neighbour and we do not want a new Cold War.

D.C.: You mentioned in the report presented today that NATO will not enter a new arms race. However, do you think that NATO is ready to prevent all threats that Russia seems willing to show?

J.S.: Yes. NATO is the most powerful Alliance in history. We are by far the strongest military alliance in the world today and we are able to provide credible deterrence and defence. We are capable and ready to defend all our allies against any threat. The reason why NATO is a successful alliance is that we are able to change ourselves as the world changes. Now the world is changing and that is why we are changing NATO. Both through collective defence in Europe and through our efforts to fight terrorism.

D.C.: You mentioned the level of unprecedented cooperation with the European Union. Recently, EU defence ministers have agreed on the first list of 17 PeSCo defence projects, one of them referring to military mobility. NATO also decided to transform its command structure in this regard. What are the next steps for NATO-EU cooperation on this issue?

J.S .: I think one of the most important areas in which we have to work together is the field of military mobility. Let us make sure that we can quickly deploy forces within Europe. This means investing in infrastructure, making sure we have the means of transport and removing the legal barriers that make it difficult to cross borders. We have adopted over 70 concrete measures in cyber, hybrid, maritime and counter-terrorism. We want to make concrete projects and work with the EU. I believe that military mobility is a flagship for NATO and the European Union.

D.C.: You made references to Russia in your report today. How does NATO see Russia’s new strategic weapons announcement and their supposedly untraceable feature by NATO’s defence systems? Also, how do you see the dialogue with Moscow under a new term of Vladimir Putin?

J.S.: I will not comment on the results of the Russian elections before they take place. What I can say is that we will continue with a dual track approach to Russia: strong deterrence and defence, combined with political dialogue. We are looking for a better relationship with Russia. We need to be strong and provide credible deterrence. I want to commend Romania because it invests heavily in new defence capabilities. Romania has announced that it will achieve NATO’s 2% target for military spending in 2018, which reflects the fact that among European Allies Romania is taking a step forward.

D.C.: Romania has begun to modernise its military and defence capabilities by F-16 squadrons, Patriot missile defence systems, HIMARS missiles, armoured conveyors and multifunctional corvettes. Would it be exaggerated to say that this is the most important year for Romania in NATO since its accession?

J.S.: At least 2018 will be an important year. In 2018, but also in 2017, Romania has invested heavily and increased defence spending significantly. Romania is taking major steps towards strengthening its armed forces. I welcome this, and the investments have long-term effect. The most important is that all Allies, including Romania, meet the capability target.

D.C.: Recently, in Bucharest, President Klaus Iohannis had a meeting with NATO Defence Ministers on the Eastern Flank. We will have a summit in Brussels this summer and there is a great expectation from the Eastern countries to have a greater NATO involvement in defending this area.

J.S.: NATO has already decided and is in the process of expanding its presence in the east of the Alliance, the Black Sea region, Poland and the Baltic countries. We have a tailored forward presence , we have battle groups, air police and, most importantly, we increase our ability to move our forces quickly when needed. We’ve tripled the number of our response forces. We have the anti-missile defence system in which Romania is an important part by hosting the NATO anti-missile system.

 

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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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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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