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 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?
E.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?
E.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.
R.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.
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.
INTERVIEW with Marian Nechifor, Transparent Design CEO, one of the biggest glass pane manufacturers in South-East Europe: We are going to open a new dealership in Brussels
After they invested over five million euros in new technologies, obtaining ISO European certification, one of the biggest glass pane manufacturers in South-East Europe, Transparent Design, is preparing to extend its activity in the heart of the European Union. In the interview given after his return from the Conference on the industrial future of Europe, organized by the Permanent Representation of Romania to the EU, during the mandate of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Marian Nechifor, the company CEO, announced that he had decided to open an office in Brussels.
CaleaEuropeană: Today, CaleaEuropeana.ro is at the headquarters of one of the largest glass pane manufacturing companies in South-East Europe. We have with us the CEO of this firm “Transparent Design”, Mr. Adrian Nechifor, who recently returned from Brussels where he attended a business event. Thank you for having us.
Marian Nechifor: During the previous week I have participated in a conference, in Brussels, on industrial policies for the next 10 years and after. I came back with the idea of promoting Transparent Design in Europe. We wish to further take part in such conferences with the occasion of the Romanian EU Council Presidency. It was a conference in which we made ourselves known to certain organizations, the CEOs of specific companies in Europe.
CaleaEuropeană: How are Romanian businessmen received? How did you integrate in that atmosphere and how relevant is what is happening here, in Bucharest, where you have this factory, for your European partners?
M.N.: They were successfully received. There is no difference when coming from South-East Europe. Regarding what is happening in Bucharest, the European Union should acknowldge it more. There are good things happening. We are developing at a faster pace than them.
Massive investments in the increase of quality and capacity of production
CaleaEuropeană: How did you start? We can see at the back many modern machines. How did Transparent Design start and what is the level reached by now?
M.N.: In accordance with a Romanian proverb, not to put all your eggs in one basket, in the first years of business, having a company for automotive commerce and a business in public consultancy, I considered that a business in production can be more durable than a business in commerce. I have invested my soul in it. The first steps were taken in January 2006, by purchasing several second hand machines from EU. Unfortunately for us, the recession hit in 2008. It was pretty rough. I did not stop fighting, I very much believed in the business and in the year 2012-2013, when the business came around, I focused on extremely big investments which I have carried out and still do. And, during the course of this year, we have approximately 1 million euro at our disposal for increasing productivity, quality and, of course, for entering the European markets with our products.
CaleaEuropeană: You talked about big investments. What is the sum of all investment made at Transparent Design?
M.N.: At the moment, the investments made for Transparent Design are around 5 million euros. We also have, for next year, an investment of approximately 1 million euro to increase production capacity and quality of our products.
CaleaEuropeană: Did you use European funds?
M.N.: I did not manage to use European funds because the moment I decided to apply for European funds, in Bucharest-Ilfov region, the last train had already gone. I had to borrow from several banks.
CaleaEuropeană: Do intend to use such funding solutions in the next years?
M.N.: I intend to use such funding solutions. However, I don’t know if for future projects there will be any European funds for Bucharest and for developed cities in Romania.
CaleaEuropeană: You were for the first time in Brussels, at this meeting with business people from the European Union. Will you continue to participate in this kind of meetings in order to connect with the European Union?
M.N.: Yes, I wish to participate in next events and I’ve already asked to be informed about upcoming conferences.
CaleaEuropeană: Thank you very much! We have with us the members of your team. I invite Mr. Adrian Badici, the executive director of the company. I’ve talked earlier with Mr. Nechifor about the sum of all investments here, about plans for development. Besides the fact that you indeed use new technology here and that you have large scale production , what makes you different from other companies?
Adrian Bădici: Not only is it new, but it is also the best technology on the market, we use the best brands of machinery in the industry, all made in Europe, we offer European certification for our products. Our goal is to always supervise the quality of products delivered to our customers and, in general, to improve every aspect of production, the relationship with the client and the respect towards workers and employees of the company.
CaleaEuropeană: What are you producing here?
A.B.: In general, products made of plain glass, lamination, high quality enamelling, both ceramic and organic, cutting, milling, the whole range of manufacturing available.
CaleaEuropeană: What kind of clients do you have? From the industry, household consumers? What are your products used for?
A.B.: We have clients from the industry and from households, all kinds. We’re working really hard to head towards industrial because things are more clear and the serial products can be better handled.
CaleaEuropeană: Thank you! We have with us the technical director, the one who manages the installation of the products, Mr. Bogdan Turcu. What is your role? How do you involve yourself in their assembling?
Bogdan Turcu: We go to the respective locations. From taking measurements, together with the architects involved in this project, we put the finished products in action. We use the best materials, from hardware to adhesives, whatever the application of coloured glass on the walls needs. Architects are required for everything that means office buildings and assembling luxurious residential areas and we try to collaborate on design, to adjust to their demands and to give them the needed products and support for each project, meaning assembling teams, logistics for delivery.
CaleaEuropeană: Do you work only in Bucharest or do you also travel across the country and abroad?
B.T.: We will go anywhere we are needed.
CaleaEuropeană: Can you give us some examples of places in Romania where you did this kind of work?
B.T.: We did work for offices in Iași, Constanța and residential areas in Constanța. We also have projects in the Danube Delta, a 5 star hotel. In Bucharest we have the Bluerose residential complex, the Renault offices, which use a new concept in Romania, Bridge 2, an ensemble of 3 office buildings, out of which 2 are finished and we are starting the third phase. We also work in residential areas in Pipera, which is developing luxurious buildings.
Marian Nechifor: Moreover, we have worked in setting up many malls in different parts of the country, such as Satu Mare, Baia Mare, Sibiu and some in Bucharest: Vitan, Plaza Romania, Afi.
Western customers, impressed by the quality of the glass produced in Bucharest
CaleaEuropeană: Do your clients sometimes come to see what kind of technology you are using, and how these things are produced?
M.N.: It happens sometimes and they are very impressed, but the most impressed are the ones coming from Europe. It seems they stopped at a development stage 20 years behind and they remain impressed when they enter our factory. They cannot believe their eyes.
CaleaEuropeană: Because we are talking about the way in which you promote your products, we have Mrs. Luana Liciu, marketing director of Transparent Design. I have talked with the CEO and with the directors of the company about production, how they get to clients, so most of the time, your role is to convince them that what is happening here is high quality and that it is worth working with you. What feedback do you receive from them?
Luana Liciu: We would say that a very good feedback; there are small issues which we can improve, but we are working on it every day.
CaleaEuropeană: Does it help, as marketing director, the fact that you use new technology and that you have an extremely well prepared staff?
L.L.: It is our strength, the machinery and the staff part. First of all, the deadlines are respected, and we have a delivery time shorter than the competition and, of course, the quality. This was our target from the beginning, the quality side, not the quantity, and then we focused on this and it worked, if I may say so, successfully, considering the clients’ feedback after receiving and installing the merchandise.
CaleaEuropeană: Do you plan to head towards the European markets? Because in Romania, I found out, you have many important clients, various areas, from malls to other type of buildings which are in need of your services. Do you intend to also test the European market also, have you entered other countries?
L.L.: Yes, we also had exports and in the following period we have to increase the amount of exported product especially because we have a very large production capacity and we don’t have to worry about quality. The most important thing when you are exporting is to maintain a high standard and not to have problems with the transport or other expenses and negative feedback.
M.N.: We intend to open an office in Brussels this year and hire a Belgian citizen who can represent us. We considered Belgium to be located well with regard to the surrounding countires and we hope to finalize the opening by the end of this year.
A third of the production will be exported to other EU member states
CaleaEuropeană: Until now, comparing overall Romanian exports to yours, about 80% from what Romania produces goes to the EU market. If we refer to export, what is your target for the next period?
M.N.: At the moment we have a very small percentage related to export, around 5% and 10%, but we intend to increase it around 30-40% because the majority of raw material is imported from Europe and we want to bring the products to them.
CaleaEuropeană: Thank you very much. With us, because we spoke of promotion, is the director for Promotion of Transparent Design, Mrs. Alina Nechifor. Will you adapt the promoting strategy for the expansion in Brussels?
Alina Nechifor: At the moment, we are trying to do it online because it is a trend and our clients know us on the market as we are trying to do this promotion on the external market. We have a company with which we are collaborating.
CaleaEuropeană: In order to get into those markets you firstly have to make yourselves known. That would be the first challenge. Participating in trade fairs or business conferences in Europe can help you connect and, finally, to understand how things work. You were saying earlier that all the technology you use is of European standards. Are there any certificates for this, what can you tell us?
A.N.: All the equipment in our factory is imported from the EU, same as the raw materials we use, we are ISO certified and all the products we use are backed by certifcates and this is why I don’t think it will be hard for us to go on the EU market which includes 28 countries and 500 million people; it is a big market for all of us and I hope we can make it.
A.N.: Of course, it is also about the range of products. Because the tendency now is to use bigger and bigger windows, we purchase machinery with which we process the windows until 5 m. Furthermore, in the enamelling line, we make ceramic varnished glass and, lastly, we will purchase the biggest printer which is used for making screen printing and prints on glass from 3m to 6m. It will the the biggest line of production in Romania or even in South-East Europe.
CaleaEuropeană: Can you tell us some numbers regarding the employees, the turnover, that will somehow make sense of the magnitude at which you work here?
M.N: The number of employees is around 60 people. The turnover has grown every year with a percentage of 20- 30%. We had a big growth in 2018 compared to 2017, with approximately 50% and we believe this year we’ll surpass the turnover of 2018 with approximately 30%.
CaleaEuropeană: We will stop here. Transparent Design is a company which has grown, unfortunately without European funds, but, who knows, maybe the future will smile upon you in this area as well. A company like many others in Romania which offers and wishes to enter the 1400 billion euros European free market, compared to the 200 billion euros which Romania produces, having a very high potential. This can also happen in our industry which has plenty of successful initiatives. We will be back to see what will happen.
Sibiu County Council and the platform Advisory Hub organise the Summit for the Simplification of Accessing Structural Funds
Sibiu County Council and the platform Advisory Hub, with support of the National Union of County Councils (UNCJR), the Association of Municipalities (AM), The Association of Towns (AOR) and the Association of Villages (ACoR) in Romania, in the framework of the Romanian presidency of the Council of Europe, organize the Summit for the Simplification of Accessing Structural Funds. The event will take place in the ASTRA Museum, the same location that hosted the EPP Summit on the 9th May this year. The purpose of the event is to round up the work of the AdvisoryHub experts started in 2015, aiming to simplify the procedures for accessing and implementing structural funds at both European and national level, with a debate on the legislative proposal for simplification measures necessary.
“European funds are Romania’s chance to make up for the delays in social-economic development and to become competitive at European level. However, although we should be cashing in on this opportunity by now, the poor absorption and inefficient use of the European money is preventing us from making the most of it. The legislative proposal for the simplification of accessing European funds is a solution we would like to launch on the 28th of June from Sibiu” stated Daniela Cîmpean, the President of Sibiu County Council.
The simplification of national rules and regulations related to European structural and investment funds needs to be a top priority for Romania in order to speed up the development of infrastructure, shorten the timeframe between project submission and approval, in order to ensure a timely disbursement of the funding to applicants. Starting with 2014-2020, the EU regulations have laid the basis of simplification, but unfortunately this did not translate into simplified procedures at national level in Romania. On the contrary: the complexity of management and control has increased, and this led to the decrease of the efficiency and impact of structural funds.
“First of all, simplification needs to be achieved for the beneficiaries in the public and private sectors so that they can focus on the quality of the project implementation and not to be spending excessive time and resources on administrative issues. Secondly, the need for simplification should be understood in the context of a drive for increasing performance, efficiency and impact of European funding. Last but not least, the investment objectives need to be simplified to be in line with the real development needs of the country, of the local communities and the SMEs and microbusiness, combining wherever possible grants with other financial instruments. I would like to thank both Mrs. Daniela Cîmpean, the president of Sibiu County Council for the support and the partnership in organizing this event, but also our partners in the public organizations, the local and private decision makers who have contributed to turning into a legislative proposal the need for simplification of accessing funds in Romania” said Bogdan Rogin, the initiator of the AdvisoryHub platform.
Besides the representatives of UNCJR, AMR, AOR și ACoR, the event includes as guest speakers the former Ministry for European Affairs in Ireland, Dick Roche (Ireland being the country with the best absorption rate of EU Funds who initiated the simplification procedures, the former president of the well-known global organization PMI (Project Management Institute) Antonio Nieto, the president of the National Council of SMEs Florin Jianu, Dumitru Fornea – member of the European Economic and Social Committee, representatives of the European Bank of Investments, Alexandru Potor – the president of the Association of Local Action Groups in Romania, Dan Vlădescu – the president of the Authority for Audit and Cătălin Lungu – the vice-president of the Engineers’Association in Romania, as well as other state institutions directly involved in the process.
The key topics debated will be the legislative proposal for simplification of several pieces of legislation, the necessary measures that need to be adopted by management authorities and ministries that administrate European funding, additional sources of funding at local and county level through financial instruments, as well as a new approach to funding industrial and mining areas in transition. All of these are aimed to initiate the Citizens’ Initiative in support of adopting legislation for simplification as well as to launch the Sibiu Declaration for Simplification.
Considering the complexity of the subject, as well as the diversity of the beneficiaries, Sibiu County Council launches a public call for all those with experience in accessing European funding to contribute with suggestions to the simplification of accessing funds, using an online form available on the website of Sibiu County Council.
Also, questions can be sent to the following link – click here– and they will be raised during the discussion with experts at the Summit on the 28th of June in Sibiu. Further information is available on www.cjsibiu.ro.
EPP MEP Adina Vălean discussed EU’s relations with China and the US with a group of 30 students
EPP MEP and ENVI Chair Adina Vălean met in the European Parliament and discussed with a group of several students from from the University of Applied Studies in Munich about EU’s input in a changing world.
In a post on her Instagram account, Vălean wrote: ”This morning I discussed with 30 students from the University of Applied Studies in Munich about EU and international digital market, trade, how do I see the future talks within this newly elected Parliament and the relations with China and the US”.
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This morning I discussed with 30 students from the University of Applied Studies in Munich about EU and international digital market, trade, how do I see the future talks within this newly elected Parliament and the relations with China and the US. With thanks to my colleague Angelika Niebler for the invitation and opportunity. #youth #future #priority #europeanparliament
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