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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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CaleaEuropeana.ro became member of OpenEUDebate, a European network that will be launched in Madrid by academic institutions and experts in EU politics

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CaleaEuropeana.ro became member of OpenEUDebate, 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), practitioners and experts in EU politics and policies that marks its lauch in Madrid by organizing debates on the future of Europe, on 21-22 January, in the context of the next Elections to the European Parliament, that are expected to be held in 23-26 May 2019.

Foto: OpenEUdebate/ Facebook

The upcoming May 2019 EU elections will determine to a great extent the direction of the European project. The struggle for the soul of Europe is not only between nationalists and pro-Europeans, but also between different European projects with different public policy proposals on issues such as climate change, inequality or migration.

Rather than an abstract debate on Europe per se, citizens need to hear and engage in a conversation on this set of public policy proposals in order to have a meaningful vote.

Tackling issues of EU citizens’ common concerns requires an open public debate, the first round of which, between Spanish MPs and MEPs, will take place on Monday, 21st January 2019, from 19:00 – 21.00 h.

The venue of the event is the office of the European Parliament in Madrid (Paseo de la Castellana 46), and the debate will be livestreamed in Spanish and English.

The event launches the public activities of the Jean Monnet network OpenEUdebate, which will put EU expertise at the service of journalists, civil society and political actors to improve public debates about Europe. OpenEUDebate is not yet another EU discussion outlet from the “Brussels bubble”.

It follows a bottom-up approach to match EU’s policies with politics at the national level. OpenEUDebate will launch an online platform that will connect the debate in the EU institutions and transnational civil society platforms with national publics.

The event on Monday, 21st January, from 19:00 – 21.00 h features a keynote speech by former EU Commissioner Laaszlo Andor on the challenges of the social union and a Eurozone unemployment benefit scheme, and a debate on the future of Europe with MP Melisa Rodríguez (Ciudadanos, ALDE), MEPs Jonás Fernández (Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, PSOE) and Ernest Urtasun (European Greens/European Free Alliance, Catalunya en Comú), and a representative of Partido Popular (European People’s Party). Journalist Claudi Pérez (El País) will moderate the debate. The livestreaming will be available in Spanish and English.

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EPP MEP Adina Vălean: ”COP24 – a modest outcome, but the Paris Agreement remains on track”

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Katowice climate conference fell short of ambition but delivered on the essentials to implement the Paris Agreement, MEPs said on Sunday, according to a news release from the European Parliament.

“This is a modest result for a COP located in Europe, as ambition has suffered from a difficult political context and the will of some delegations to bring the IPCC report under the carpet” said EP delegation Chair Adina-Ioana Valean (EPP, RO).

“The question of the functioning of carbon markets has also been postponed because of the stubbornness of a few in wanting a free ride. However, the Katowice agreement delivers on what we believe is the essential at this stage: a clear rulebook for the implementation of the Paris agreement” she said.

“Ambitious objectives are nothing if the implementing rules contain loopholes. Europeans had to defend the “spirit of Paris” tooth and nail, and I salute the European Commission and the Austrian Presidency of the Council for their work. In a climate negotiation, leadership is not a question of posture, but of the ability to help others to overcome their disagreements”.

“As key elements had to be postponed to the next COP in Chile, Europe will have to move forward in revising its objectives, but also be intractable in defending the integrity of the multilateral system. The Katowice agreement is modest, but those who work to undermine multilateralism have so far failed: the Paris agreement remains on track” she added.

A parliamentary delegation took part in UN climate talks in Poland last week.

In a resolution adopted in October, MEPs agreed on recommendations to EU institutions and countries ahead of the COP24 meeting. MEPs say that while the agreement reached between the Parliament and the Council to raise targets for renewables and energy efficiency will result in a reduction of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions of more than 45% by 2030, the EU should aim for a reduction of 55%.

Parliament also called for a dedicated and automatic EU public finance mechanism providing additional and adequate support towards the EU’s fair share in the delivery of the 100 billion dollar international climate finance goal.

 

 

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European Committee of the Regions, Sibiu County Council and Calea Europeană organise “Local engagement for the Future of Europe” citizens’ dialogue (LIVE, 20th of December, 10:00)

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CaleaEuropeană.ro, together with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the Romanian National Delegation to CoR organise, with the support of Sibiu County Council and in partnership with the European Parliament Office in Romania, a local dialogue conceived as a part of the reflecting process on the Future of Europe, a main theme of Romania’s upcoming EU Council Presidency and the key subject of the EU heads of state and government summit in Sibiu, on May 9th 2019, on Europe Day.

The event, entitled ”Local engagement for the Future of Europe takes place on Thursday 20 of December, at the County Council in Arad, starting at 10:00. The event will be broadcast live on CaleaEuropeană.ro

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In dialogue with citizens will engage Daniela Cîmpean, President of the Sibiu County Council, alternate member of the Romanian National Delegation to the European Committee of the Regions (EPP, RO), Robert Negoiță, President of the Romanian National Delegation to the European Committee of the Regions (PES, RO) and Christophe Rouillon, Mayor of Coulaines, member of the French National Delegation to the European Committee of the Regions (PES, FR).

The debate is part of CoR’s ”Future of Europe” new initiative and aims to pave the way for the CoR’s 8th European Summit of Regions and Cities, scheduled for 14-15 of March 2019, in Bucharest, ahead of the European Council Summit in Sibiu on 9 of May 2019 and during Romania’s EU Council Presidency. This local dialogue subscribes also to the awareness campaign for the European elections from 23-26 of May 2019 (www.thistimeimvoting.eu), at the 40th anniversary since the first European Parliament elections.

This local dialogue will be the second event of its kind after the #SOTREG 2018, State of the Union: the view of Regions and Cities address, a speech held on October 9th by the President of the European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz within the European Week of Regions and Cities frame, which has also marked the approval of CoR opinion on the Future of Europe, entitled „Reflecting on Europe: the voice of local and regional authorities to rebuild trust in the European Union”.

”Future of Europe” campaign in a nutshell

In 2016 the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, asked the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – as the voice of cities and regions – to submit its recommendations on the future of Europe. Subsequently, the CoR launched its “Reflecting on Europe” campaign whereby members held local events with citizens in their regions and cities to hear their views. Now, the opinion and speech mentioned above form the basis of the CoR’s efforts to contribute to the debate on the ”Future of Europe” ahead of the meeting of the EU leaders in Sibiu on 9 May and the European elections on 23-26 May 2019.

The ”Future of Europe” campaign is an initiative of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) providing a platform for regions, cities and their citizens’ engagement in the debate on the future of Europe.

Over 40.000 citizens in more than 180 local debates organised across Europe already shared their views, concerns and ideas. The CoR is committed to ensuring that the voice of regional and local authorities and their citizens is heard within the EU, in an effort to make the European project more transparent and democratic and develop new forms of participative democracy.

The European Committee of the Regions invite Romanian citizens to share their view on the future of Europe (Fill the survey by clicking the image below)

Moreover, in the context of the “Reflecting on Europe” initiative, the European Committee of the Regions launched a survey in 2016 on the main issues that people identify in the city or the region they live in.

At both European Union and Romanian level, unemployment, youth policies and mobility and public transport are considered the three main issues at local and regional level.

In Romania, the three mentioned problems have been classified by citizens as followed: 28% of them consider that mobility and public transportation is the main problem at local and regional level, while for 25% the main challenge is represented by youth policies and 24% see unemployment as the main issue.

 

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