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SPECIAL INTERVIEW. Eric Povel, NATO Public Diplomacy Division: ”In response to the new hybrid threats, NATO and EU will enhance their cooperation, including the area of Strategic Communications”

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Interview by Robert Lupițu

NATO Public Diplomacy Division (PDD) it is one the most important instruments that the Alliance has in the sensitive and complicated security environment that we experience in Europa, after the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and the enhanced propaganda that comes from Moscow.

At the beginning of August, at the NATO International Summer School, organized by the Euro Atlantic Diplomacy Society, Eric Povel, Programme Officer in the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO, responsible for Afghanistan, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, talked with CaleaEuropeana.ro regarding NATO, its tools in combating Russian propaganda and hybrid warfare, a possible mindset of a new Cold War, the dawn of the current crisis, NATO’s PDD role, defense budget spending and NATO-EU common approaches.

Robert Lupițu (R.L.): It is a fact that we experience difficult, tense and interesting moments at the same time. Would you say that the uncertainty started by the illegal annexation of Crimea and that Russia’s reassert behavior has developed a mindset of a new Cold War?

eric povel2Eric Povel (E.P.): The Cold War ended over 20 years ago. It was characterized by the opposition of two ideological blocs, the presence of massive standing armies in Europe, and the military, political and economic domination by the Soviet Union of almost all its European neighbours.

The end of the Cold War was a victory for the people of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and opened the way to overcoming the division of Europe. At pathbreaking Summit meetings in the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia played its part in building a new, inclusive European security architecture, including the Charter of Paris, the establishment of the OSCE, the creation of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and the NATO-Russia Founding Act.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has introduced sweeping changes to its membership and working practices – changes made clear by its adoption of new Strategic Concepts in 1999 and 2010. Accusations that NATO has retained its Cold War purpose ignore the reality of those changes.

Over the same period, NATO reached out to Russia with a series of partnership initiatives, culminating in the foundation of the NATO-Russia Council in 2002. No other country has such a privileged relationship with NATO.

As stated by NATO heads of state and government at the Wales Summit in September 2014, “the Alliance does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia. But we cannot and will not compromise on the principles on which our Alliance and security in Europe and North America rest.” (The Wales Summit Declaration can be read here).

This is NATO’s official policy, defined and expressed transparently by its highest level of leadership. As an organisation which is accountable to its member nations, NATO is bound to implement this policy.

R.L.: Even tough NATO managed to release a new Strategic Concept in Lisbon (2010), there were many voices that contested the Alliance’s identity and positive role. Is the new security environment a momentum that reaffirms and justifies the Alliance existence and his core purpose? Does the new insecurity framework (both in the East and South) help NATO to overcome an identity crisis and recover itself from several international critics?

E.P.: NATO’s Treaty of 1949 is as relevant today as it was in 1949: NATO still is a club of like-minded, democratic nations that promises to help each other in case of need, an emergency like an armed attack. So, NATO’s purpose is still the same as it was in 1949. What has changed is the security environment and the number of members of NATO that has increased. One of the key characteristics and successes of NATO is that despite these radical changes in Euro-Atlantic and international security, NATO has been able to keep the cohesion amongst its member states while making drastic adaptations in order to meet the demands and challenges of the new security environment.    

R.L.: The dawns of this crisis in Eastern Europe might have started in 2008 when NATO assessed the possibility in offering Georgia and Ukraine a Membership Action Plan (MAP). It would have been possible for the Alliance and for the Western world to prevent this complex geopolitical situation that puts, again, NATO and Russia in opposition?

russia-natoE.P.: In 2008, NATO did not offer Georgia and Ukraine a Membership Action Plan (MAP). At the 2008 Bucharest Summit, Allied leaders agreed that Georgia and Ukraine – which were already engaged in an Intensified Dialogue with NATO – will one day become members of NATO. In December 2008, Georgia and Ukraine were invited to develop Annual National Programmes (ANPs).

NATO’s “open door policy” is based upon Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, which states that membership is open to any “European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area”. The enlargement of the Alliance is an ongoing and dynamic process.  Since the Alliance was created in 1949, its membership has grown from the 12 founding members to today’s 28 members through six rounds of enlargement in 1952, 1955, 1982, 1999, 2004 and 2009.

NATO does not “push” nations to apply for membership, NATO only responds to nations who officially apply for NATO membership. According to Article I of the Helsinki Final Act (here) which established the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1975, every country has the right “to belong or not to belong to international organizations, to be or not to be a party to bilateral or multilateral treaties including the right to be or not to be a party to treaties of alliance.” All the OSCE member states, including Russia, have sworn to uphold those principles.

In line with those principles, Georgia and Ukraine have the right to choose for themselves whether they join any treaty of alliance, including NATO’s founding treaty.

Moreover, when Russia signed the NATO-Russia Founding Act, it pledged to uphold “respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states and their inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security.

Thus Georgia and Ukraine have the right to choose their own alliances, and Russia has, by its own repeated agreement, no right to dictate that choice.

R.L.: Analysts, experts and media fellows consider that we face a new threat, more dangerous, hybrid and diffuse than the Soviet threat. But, actually, aren’t we dealing with a classic and traditional challenge and threat (Russia) but which evolves together with 21st Century conflict means?

E.P.: Yes, hybrid warfare is not an entirely new phenomenon as there are many similar examples of such warfare in military history. But we have seen that Russia has employed a whole range of political, military, economic, financial, communication/propaganda, and cyber policy tools as part of their hybrid warfare campaign against Ukraine and other Euro-Atlantic countries, and at an unprecedented scale and speed, which requires a rethinking and reviewing of some of NATO’s concepts, doctrines, military and other capabilities in order to be able to deter, and if need be to defend its Allies against such hybrid attacks. Also some of the threats we face in the South East and the South have some hybrid traits that we need to adapt to. NATO expects to take relevant decisions in this regard at its next Summit meeting in Warsaw early July 2016.  

R.L.: How does the NATO Public Diplomacy Division (PDD) act and work against an aggressive propaganda and how does it cooperate with member states, especially those from the Eastern flank? How are you collaborating with national instruments in order to develop tools that diminish Russian propaganda and myths generator? Does hybrid warfare weaken just Europe or also, the North American side of the Alliance?

natoaurescuE.P.: It is firstly a national responsibility, for each NATO nation’s political and military leaders, to inform its population about what the national authorities are doing about its communication activities and to counter the Russian propaganda. NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division focuses on complementing the various national communication efforts by using its main communication tools – press operations, via its website and social media, and by face-to-face engagement programmes. They are not focused on counter-propaganda but on setting the record straight and presenting the facts of NATO’s policies, actions and activities.    

R.L.: Were you asked for support from Romania to offer expertise of countering the Russian machine of trolls that use manipulation, misinformation and misperceptions?

E.P.: Like I mentioned before, informing the national audience is firstly a national responsibility. Besides NATO PDD’s usual communication efforts, PDD and other NATO structures regularly organize Communications seminars where experts and personnel from all NATO nations discuss current communications challenges and share their experiences and best practices.  

R.L.: Will the NATO Force Integration Unit from the six Eastern countries (Romania, also) play an important role in containing and countering the propaganda tool in this hybrid warfare?

E.P.: No. These small units (max. 40 staff) will mainly function as small command and control units that will work with host nations to identify logistical networks, transportation routes and supporting infrastructure to ensure NATO’s high-readiness forces can deploy to the region as quickly as possible if needed.

R.L.: The article V of NATO covers military attacks against member states of NATO. How can the Romanian people feel secure in face of destabilizing actions, like these hybrid and asymmetrical methods where the military tool?

E.P.: NATO’s article V pledge is rock solid for all NATO member states. In the run-up to the Warsaw Summit, Allies are currently discussing potential adaptations to NATO’s current concepts and capabilities in order to be able to address also the kind of hybrid threats and warfare that we have seen Russia use in the Ukraine crisis, and that are also being used in the other crises in the South and SouthEast.  

R.L.: In your opinion, the new planning for defense national budgets allocations and spending should or will comprise funds for fighting and combating hybrid threats as propaganda, myths and manipulation?

E.P.: As nations are entirely sovereign in their decision on how much and on what they spend their defense budget money, it is entirely up to them to decide if they also want to spend more on fighting these hybrid threats.

Russia-NATO mythsR.L.: What further actions should be taken against the myths perpetrated by the Russian Federation, like “NATO promised not to expand”, “The Alliance is trying to encircle Russia”, etc.? What kind of attitude should the public opinion for Romania (and other member countries, of course) embrace in order to not become a victim of the hybrid warfare and propaganda tools?

E.P.: Each political and military leader of a NATO nation should inform its population about what the national authorities are doing about its communication activities in order to counter the Russian propaganda. We developed a NATO Factsheet on “the facts of NATO-Russia relations”, showing that neither of the myths are true. We are sharing this information constantly through all communications means and platforms that are available to us.  

CaleaEuropeana.ro analysis: NATO-Russia hybrid war: The Step of interpretation myths and reality

R.L.: In the end, do you believe that the new security threats coming from Russia and terrorist groups are requiring a coherent, cohesive and deepened partnership between NATO and the EU and what will be the results of the Alliance new balancing in a mid-term period?

E.P.: Yes. NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, regularly meets his EU counterpart, High Representative Federica Mogherini, and EU representatives are always invited to attend NATO Summits and Ministerials. We have also intensified NATO-EU staff-to-staff talks to enhance our cooperation, including in the area of Strategic Communications. And in response to the new hybrid threats, NATO and EU will enhance their cooperation as there are areas where each organisation has its strong points and more responsibilities than the other, but where a synchronised and coordinated approach is necessary to counter the various hybrid threats. A more effective, and slowly but gradually increasing NATO-EU cooperation in the area of Strategic Communications will also in the long term help us to inform our populations better about the facts and the appropriateness of NATO’s actions and policies in reaction to Russia’s aggressive behavior and rethoric against NATO Allies and Partners alike. Ultimately, the truth will prevail.   

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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 în cadrul World Economic Forum și este Young Strategic Leader în cadrul inițiativelor The Aspen Institute.

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  1. Pingback: Petr Pavel, liderul Comitetului Militar NATO: Capabilitățile Uniunii Europene sunt complementare eforturilor militare ale Alianței | caleaeuropeana.ro

  2. Pingback: Revista Polis | Dezvoltarea diplomației publice. O analiză comparată între NATO și UE* (The development of public diplomacy: A comparative analysis between NATO and the EU)

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Remove online terrorist content. MEP Ramona Mănescu (EPP): If we want to bring those who promote illegal content to justice, we need clear deadlines and coercive measures

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If we really want those who create, distribute and promote illegal content, inciting to commit terrorist acts in this case, be brought to justice, coercive measures, clear deadlines and the obligation to act are necessary, declared for CaleaEuropeană.ro MEP Ramona Mănescu (EPP).

The Romanian MEP also said that we can no longer rely on voluntary measures ”when we have content with an obvious terrorist character, but also in the case of misinformation campaigns or other forms of illegal or subversive character.”

”There will always be opposition, and many of the arguments of those who oppose any form of censorship are valid in a perfect world. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world and we are obliged to take measures to defend the life, security, values and democracy we enjoy today. The signal given by the European Parliament is clear and it must be as quickly as possible in the legislation and practice of the Member States” said MEP Ramona Mănescu.

European Parliament backed on Wednesday a proposal to tackle the misuse of internet hosting services for terrorist purposes. Companies that systematically and persistently fail to abide by the law may be sanctioned with up to 4% of their global turnover.

Internet companies should remove terrorist content within one hour after receiving an order from the authorities, to combat radicalisation and contribute to public security.

Once an internet company hosting content uploaded by users (like Facebook or YouTube) that offers their services in the EU has received a removal order from the competent national authority, they will have one hour to remove it or disable access to it in all EU member states. However, they will not be generally obliged to monitor the information they transmit or store, nor have to actively seek facts indicating illegal activity.

To help smaller platforms, MEPs decided that, when a company has never received a removal order before, the competent authority should contact it, to provide information on procedures and deadlines, at least 12 hours before issuing the first order to remove content that they are hosting.

If a company has been subject to a substantial number of removal orders, the authorities may request that it implements additional specific measures (e.g. regularly reporting to the authorities, or increasing human resources). MEPs in the Civil Liberties Committee agreed not to impose an obligation to monitor uploaded content nor the use of automated tools.

The legislation targets any material -text, images, sound recordings or videos- that “incites or solicits the commission or contribution to the commission of terrorist offences, provides instructions for the commission of such offences or solicits the participation in activities of a terrorist group”, as well as content providing guidance on how to make and use explosives, firearms and other weapons for terrorist purposes.

Content disseminated for educational, journalistic or research purposes should be protected, according to MEPs. They also make clear that the expression of polemic or controversial views on sensitive political questions should not be considered terrorist content.

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urges the Romanian government to focus on aviation competitiveness as a means to strengthen the economy of Romania

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged the Romanian government to focus on aviation competitiveness as a means to strengthen the economy of Romania. In addition, Romania’s Presidency of the European Union gives it a powerful opportunity to push policies for stronger aviation competitiveness across the whole of the EU.

Air transport is a key enabler of economic activity in Romania, supporting 107,000 jobs and contributing EUR 2.3 billion to the economy. Ten million passengers departed from Romania’s airports in 2017. This figure, however, could rise by 50% by 2037, supporting an additional 23,000 jobs, if Romania enhances the conditions on which its aviation sector can be competitive.

Air Transport Competitiveness in Romania

IATA published a competitiveness report on Romanian aviation which demonstrates a gap between the nation’s competitiveness level (ranked at 4.7) and the overall European average (ranked 5.9). Based on the report findings, IATA highlighted three priority areas:

1. Passenger facilitation

2. Expanded terminal capacity

3. Reduced infrastructure costs.

In addition, airspace modernization is identified as a crucial element to support future growth and efficiency.

Leading an agenda for stronger European aviation

The Romania Aviation Day brought together key stakeholders to hear from leading policy-makers such as Dragos Titea (Romanian Secretary of State for Transport), Henrik Hololei (Director General for Mobility and Transport, European Commission), Armand Petrescu, DG Civil Romanian CA, Catalin Radu (Deputy Director, ICAO Air Navigation Bureau), Maria Magdalena Grigore (Romanian State-Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Mikolaj Wild (State Secretary in Poland Ministry of Infrastructure), and Romanian MEPs Claudia Tapardel and Marian Jean Marinescu.

Minister Cuc’s keynote speech highlighted his country’s priorities for its Presidency of the European Council. Under the motto “Cohesion, a common European Value” he explained how competitiveness, innovation and digitalization, connectivity, climate and sustainability were all lines of action for transport policy under Romania’s Presidency.

In his keynote address, Rafael Schvartzman highlighted the benefits of modernizing European airspace and the important economic and environmental benefits it would create.

His key recommendations included:

· For States, ANSPs and staff associations to look at how air traffic management staff are deployed this summer to avoid some of the significant delays air travelers suffered last year (Air Traffic Management (ATM) delay in Europe doubled in 2018 and is set to get even worse in 2019).

· Europe’s airspace infrastructure to be modernized and investments aligned between Airlines and Service Providers.

· For governments to treat air transport and air traffic management as a truly global business. Europe’s inconsistent ATM Service levels create delays, and haphazard and indirect flight routings, which all lead to wasted time and higher costs for passengers and airlines. The additional fuel burn also generates an unnecessary increase in CO2 emissions.

Airspace modernization

Efficient ATM is a bedrock of a high-performance aviation sector. To complement the long-term aim of a Single European Sky to improve the safety, capacity, efficiency, and environmental performance of European airspace, IATA is working with several air navigation service providers on National Airspace Strategies (NAS).

At the Aviation Day the Romanian government announced that it would support the development of a NAS to support more efficient capacity in Romania and to help deliver Single European Sky objectives.

Romanian Air Traffic Services Administration (ROMATSA) and IATA will strengthen their existing cooperation for this initiative, which is aimed at delivering benefits to the travelling public and the wider aviation community, while supporting the economic growth and competitiveness of the Romanian aviation sector. The main aspects of the strategy cover leadership and a collaborative stakeholder approach, airspace management, and technical modernization of the ATM system.

“This week marks two landmark events for Romanian airspace, that will define our evolution in the decades to come. The new ATM system that became operational on the 8th of April implements new functionalities that increase capacity and flexibility, optimize airspace structure and align us with the latest technological developments”, expained Mircea Bostina, Director General of ROMATSA.

”The collaboration with IATA on developing and implementing a national airspace strategy is a natural and much needed step forward in bringing together all aviation stakeholders in Romania and setting together our priorities in order to meet customer demand, deliver on the SES high level goals and increase the competitiveness of the Romanian aviation sector and of the overall economy. We pride ourselves on having written aviation history in the past, but we are just as committed to embracing the future and rising up to the challenge of serving an ever-growing number of passengers at the highest standards of safety and efficiency.”, said Mircea Bostina.

“Romania has a great opportunity to transform its aviation sector if the right policy levers are pulled. Our recommendations are, first, to promote innovative technology and processes to move passengers quickly. Second, to invest in more capacity at airports and in air traffic management. And third, to ensure infrastructure charges are set in transparent consultation with users. If Romania can take these steps, its economic and social development will gain significantly from enhanced air connectivity”, said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.

”The commitment to develop a national airspace strategy shows that the government is already taking the necessary steps to enhance the nation’s aviation competitiveness. Optimizing Romania’s airspace will not only benefit Romania but the wider European network. We congratulate ROMATSA for its vision, and look forward to working with them to make airspace modernization a success.”, added Schvartzman.

The Romanian National Airspace Strategy will include:

· Enhancement of coordination for more efficient flightpaths;

· Airspace optimization at regional level as well as between regions;

· Increased capacity while ensuring safety levels;

· Improved punctuality of flights;

· Better sharing of information across the European air transport network.

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MEP Ramona Mănescu (EPP): ”Cohesion means uniting forces at European Union level in solidarity to support the less developed EU regions”

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MEP Ramona Mănescu (EPP) has been among the invited guests at the Laude-Reut international diplomatic and global affairs conference, hosted by Israel’s Ambassador to Romania David Saranga and Tova Ben Nun-Cherbis, President of the Laude-Reut Education Complex.

The conference was initiated and organized by the Reut Foundation (the former Ronald S. Lauder Romania Foundation) – the Laude-Reut Educational Complex and is held annually under the auspices of the Parliament of Romania – the Chamber of Deputies, this year being also under the Patronage of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union , with the motto “Cohesion, a common European value”.

”Cohesion means uniting forces at European Union level in solidarity to support the less developed EU regions. The idea is to make use of the available funds with maximum efficiency. But it also means making policies and making decisions together, to the benefit of everyone. I will start from these ideas the discussion about the future and the prospects of the European Union. In Europe, once the leaders’ generations have changed, such as Havel, Kohl, Thatcher, Mitterrand, or Walesa – they have been slowly and dramatically replaced by populist leaders and more and more blind to new realities and challenges. Those who have dedicated their work to European integration are now being replaced by populists. The EU has been built on values such as solidarity”, said Manescu at the event.

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