The Arab states of the Persian Gulf are facing an unprecedented regional crisis. On Monday, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen and Egypt announced a diplomatic break with Qatar. They cut air, sea and land links and ordered Qatari officials and nationals stationed in their countries to return home.
Qatar, known on the world stage because of its great wealth of oil and natural gas, is being acused of supporting terrorist groups.
Countries in the Gulf are key to the US-led coalition against ISIS, with Qatar hosting the Al Udeid Air Base, the US military’s main regional center for daily air missions and coordination of all air operations. So there are higher stakes to be considered, not only the regional effects.
In an analysis headed” Qatar crisis: when patriotic hackers and fake news destabilize a whole region”, EPP MEP Ramona Mănescu argues that in an already troubled region, ”more instability is the least what people need”.
Full article signed by Ramona Mănescu, EPP MEP:
”Qatar crisis: when patriotic hackers and fake news destabilize a whole region
In the last three days, the whole world witnessed in bewilderment how a whole region, involving 14 countries, from Egypt to Maldives Islands, suddenly shifted to the brink of war.
In a much-unexpected move, between 5 and 6 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Yemen, Egypt, the Maldives, and Bahrain all separately announced that they were cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar, imposing trade and travel bans. The Libyan interim government, which is based in eastern Libya and is one of Libya’s three rival governments, also cut off ties. All involved countries ordered their citizens out of Qatar.
Three Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain) gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries. The foreign ministries of Bahrain and Egypt gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave their countries. This, of course, created some dramatic situations when mix-nationalities families got separated because of the travel ban.
Other measures involved Qatar being expelled from the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, shut down the local office of Al Jazeera Media Network in Saudi Arabia, interdiction for Qatari vessels or ships owned by Qatari companies or individuals in Saudi Arabia and the UAE ports, border shutdown of Saudi Arabia – Qatar border, bank restrictions and airspace restriction to Qatar Airways over Saudi Arabia (and this last measure, taken overnight, brought havoc all over the region with global implications and huge uncertainties about the future of Chicago Convention and the Transit Agreement which assure open skies for everyone).
As a detail, I must say that Hamad Saif al-Shamsi, the Attorney-General of the UAE, announced on 7th of June that publishing expressions of sympathy towards Qatar through social media or any type of written, visual or verbal form is considered illegal under UAE’s Federal Penal Code and the Federal Law on Combating Information Technology Crimes. Violators of this offense face between 3 to 15 years imprisonment, a fine of up to 500,000 Emirati dirhams ($136,000) or both.
All of these look like the whole region is preparing for war because, in diplomatic terms, there is little left to show more aggression than what was already done and said.
In a troubled region, neighboured by several warm conflicts (Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen) and some of the poorest and most unstable countries (Eritrea, Sudan or Somalia), more instability is the least of what people need.
What startled all this diplomatic earthquake?
If someone looks at the general picture in the Gulf area, how it was till days ago, can notice a couple of muffled tensions between the Saudi Arabia and the much smaller neighbor – Qatar. These tensions date back to 2014 when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain temporarily pulled their ambassadors out of Qatar because of its support for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
But it is not only about the Muslim Brotherhood. It is also about Saudi Arabia which tries to impose its position over all the GCC countries, about Qatar which tries to project a much bigger shadow, or about the regional clash between Iran and Saudi Arabia for the control of the world largest natural gas deposit which is shared by Qatar and Iran.
None of these could predict what it is happening now.
It all started on 24th of May just three days after President Trump visit to Riyadh with a hacking of Qatar State News Agency and subsequently carrying of “false statements” on sensitive regional topics attributed to the country’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. Amid an apparent wide-scale security breach it was also reported that the agency’s official Twitter account had also been hacked and “fake” reports that Qatar was withdrawing ambassadors from several countries in the region appeared online.
Among the issues allegedly addressed by the Qatari ruler in the statement were the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, strategic relations with Iran, and comments about Hamas. There were also alleged negative remarks about Qatar’s relationship with the new administration of US President Donald Trump (and this despite President Trump’s declarations in Riyadh, just three days before, which were saying that “Qatar, which hosts the U.S. Central Command, is a crucial strategic partner”).
Despite Government Communications Office statement which said that “The Qatar News Agency website has been hacked by an unknown entity” and “a false statement attributed to His Highness has been published”, the remarks on QNA were picked up and reported by broadcasters in the region, including some in the United Arab Emirates.
What it is really interesting are the early findings of an FBI investigation, called in by Qatar’s authorities, onto the security breach. Intelligence gathered by the US security agencies indicates that Russian hackers were behind the intrusion. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told CNN the FBI has confirmed the hack and the planting of fake news.
If this statement will be confirmed by the final report, we can all say that it is for the first time in history when a cyber-attack combined with fake news creates a real regional crisis.
What is equally interesting is the link between some Russian hackers and very well targeted fake news insertion into a State News Agency. There is no money ransom, no database theft, no “this site was hacked by…”. Actually, it is difficult, if not impossible to believe that hackers (no matter their nationality or how patriotic they are) will conduct such an attack otherwise than at the request and guidance of a state actor. In this case Russia.
In police investigations, the leading line is “follow the money”. In geopolitics, we can say “cui prodest”.
Who would benefit from a fractured GCC and a weaken alliance with the United States
Syria? Bashar al-Assad regime is in no way capable of conducting such an organized attack.
Iran? Iran benefits more from today’s certain nuclear deal than from an unclear future of a tougher conflict with Saudi Arabia and most of the other Arab countries.
There is only one state actor, present in the region, capable of orchestrating such a plot, that would cash in the effects of a fractured GCC, a weaker US in the Middle East and even a higher uncertainty on the oil and gas market. This is Russia!
No lucid analyst can buy the theory which says that all this trouble is because of the many accusations, pointing towards Qatar, saying that the Gulf state is a major sponsor of various terrorist organizations.
These accusations are not new, they are circulating around for years and even if now is the time to clarify them, they don’t justify the huge regional crisis we are witnessing.
Also, similar accusations, even more, serious ones, like the yet unpublished UK government report about terror funding in the UK, are pointing to Saudi Arabia.
There is no need to even mention Iran and its proven links with Hamas and Hezbollah.
If all of these are about cutting ties with terrorism and its funding there is no better moment. The international community has never been more determined to tackle this problem in such a way it will not bounce back in just a year. But destabilizing a whole region is not solving problems is just bringing new ones.
I believe that instead of rushed actions it is time for calm, diplomacy and vision.
The future of the Gulf countries is together, cooperating as a strong alliance and a reliable partner for both US and EU. Everyone needs a strong Arab countries alliance in the Gulf area, from their citizens to the countries in the neighborhood.
It is also time for the UN to step in and tackle the issue of state actors accused of sponsoring terrorism. This cannot limit to only one country and it must cover all the accusations that are floating around.
Last but even more important, it is time for the international community to acknowledge the urgency of criminalizing the cyberwarfare, cyberterrorism, and cybercrime in such a manner they can be prosecuted in a credible way. Countries that are still blocking this process must understand that nobody and no one is fenced when we talk about cyber threats and any aggressor can become a victim.”
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
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.
Diana Zaim, photojournalist of CaleaEuropeană.ro, won the #EYE2020 Public Prize Photo Contest
Diana Zaim, the photojournalist of CaleaEuropeană.ro, is the winner of the Public Prize in the photo competition European Youth Event 2020, the largest event for young people in Europe, organized by the European Parliament.
Diana Zaim’s picture, with the theme “The future is now for the young generation”, has a greater number of views (over 120,000), as well as appreciations (over 4,000).
For Diana “The future is now for the YOUNG GENERATION because we represent a point of reference in the future of our Union. We want to grow up and live through European values, that unite us and never gonna divide us again”. .
The picture was taken during the manifesto “Everyone for Europe”, an event organized on May 19, 2019 in Bucharest, which aimed to motivate the citizens to go to vote in the European elections on May 26.
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#EYE2020: “The future is now for ________!” 📷 @dianazaaim has been shortlisted for the “public prize winner” award. During the contest, we will regram some of the best shots. Then we will award the public prize winner from the photos which receive the most likes ❤ on our pages before 02 March 2020, at noon CET! Thanks for participating in our contest and good luck! . For Diana “The future is now for the YOUNG GENERATION because we represent a point of reference in the future of our Union. We want to grow up and live through European values, that unite us and never gonna divide us again”. . Show us what matters to YOU and what Europe should tackle NOW. You could WIN a trip to the European Parliament to take part in the European Youth Event and influence Europe’s decision makers! . 🏆 We will award 4️ jury prize winners and 1️ public prize winner. All five winners will be invited to EYE2020 in Strasbourg! . 📸 Take part by using the hashtag #eye2020 on a photo about one of these topics “The future is now for 📚 Education 🌱 Environment 😷 Health 🚀 Innovation 🙋♂️ 🙋♀️ Participation or 👩👨👩 Young People”. Or you can go out of the 📦 box by creating your own! . 📣 All you need to do is complete the following sentence in the caption or comments of your post: “The future is now for ________!” ⏩ We are looking forward to receiving your ideas! . 📌 RULES: ✔ Use the hashtag #EYE2020. ✔ Tag @europeanparliament & @ep_eye. ✔ Live in an EU country. ✔ Be at least 18 years old. ✔ Have full copyrights of the photo you shared. ✔ Post your photo(s) before 2 March at noon CET . ✔ Be ready to travel to Strasbourg on 29-30 May, 2020 . ✔ Your account needs to be public in order for your entry to be visible. . 🔍 The @europeanparliament and @ep_eye photo #contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, @instagram .
Every two years, the European Youth Event (EYE) brings together at the European Parliament in Strasbourg thousands of young people from all over the European Union and beyond to shape and share their ideas on the future of Europe. It is a unique opportunity for 16 to 30 years olds to meet and inspire each other and exchange their views with experts, activists, influencers and decision-makers right in the heart of European democracy.
The fourth edition will take place at the European Parliament’s seat in Strasbourg on 29-30 May 2020.
The entire list of the winners:
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📷 Our #EYE2020 contest is over and it’s time to announce the winners and to congratulate all of you for the beautiful photos we have received! . Thanks for showing what matters to YOU and what Europe should tackle NOW! . 🏆 The public prize winner is: @dianazaaim 🔎 “The future is now for the young generation!” . And our four jury prize winners are: 🥇 @olv_r (@dreamingmoria) 🔎 “The future is now for humanity!” . 🥇 @martinellisphoto 🔎 “The future is now to prevent nuclear war!” . 🥇 @mqmaj 🔎 “The future is now for education!” . 🥇 @sophiasophiasophia3 🔎 “The future is now for opportunities!” . A special thanks to @rares_gheorghiu who was part of the jury for the contest!
Following the event, the ideas, concerns, and hopes from young people are presented in a report distributed to all Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Some participants will also be able to further develop the most impactful ideas and present these directly to the MEPs in the parliamentary committees during “Youth Hearings”.
The EYE strives to promote equality, inclusiveness and sustainability with a strong commitment to accessibility for everyone. Our aim is to accommodate the needs of all participants, including persons with disabilities, and to implement actions that make the event more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
EPP MEP Vasile Blaga about Green Deal: ”At the European Parliament level the ecological radicalism is quite strong”
The Green Deal is the main topic discussed in the EU, especially in the Member States where a transitional period is needed, in order to have a green economy.
MEP Vasile Blaga stated to CaleaEuropeana.ro that “Romania’s high-stake is that nuclear energy and gas to be accepted in the transition to a green economy”.
We all know that the Green Deal requires some changes. For example, the First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, believes that nuclear energy will no longer be economically feasible. But this is not the case for all Member States.
Vasile Blaga mentioned that “for rational political groups, such as the PPE, gas and nuclear energy are mandatory in the energy mix of the future. We need to be realistic and we have to understand that the Member States will have to produce several times more energy than they do today to cover the future needs of the economy”.
According to the MEP, there must be a “rational” approach to implement the Green Deal
“A rational approach is mandatory, but at the European Parliament level the ecological radicalism is quite strong.”
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