Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

EU drafts plan on Russia's media 'misuse'

  • EU parliament media team working on 2014 elections (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

EU institutions aim to counter Russian propaganda with “positive” messages, media funding, and closer regulation, a new action plan says.

The plan, a nine-page paper drafted by the EU foreign service and seen by EUobserver, will be discussed by ministers at a general affairs council on Tuesday (23 June), with a view to adoption by leaders on Thursday.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It notes that Russia’s “use and misuse of communication tools” has “played an important role in the dramatic political, economic, and security-related developments” in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood in the past 18 months.

It calls for “promotion of EU policies” in former Soviet states, support for “independent media”, and “increased public awareness of disinformation activities by external actors”.

It says a new EU foreign service cell, called East StratComTeam, which is to be up-and-running by September, will shepherd activity.

It's to “develop dedicated communication material on priority issues”, which will be “put at the disposal of the EU's political leadership, press services, EU delegations, and EU member states”.

It notes the material, to be circulated in Russian and in local languages, should “allow citizens to easily understand that political and economic reforms promoted by the EU can, over time, have a positive impact on their daily lives”.

It says that “rather than explain the detail of EU policies and programmes, [it] should clearly explain their benefits to the people of the region … in clear language, and based on real-life success stories that will resonate”.

EU institutions will also work with NGOs “to raise awareness of [Russian] disinformation activities amongst the general public”.

They will tap the so-called Open budget line in 2015 to 2020 for “targeted training and capacity building of journalists and media actors” in countries such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

On the regulation front, the EU foreign service notes that “media policy remains primarily a national competence”.

But with some Russian media, such as RT or Sputnik, broadcasting fabrications and hate speech from their bureaus in EU cities, it says “the EU … will work to improve co-operation between national regulators, including through meetings of the European Regulators Group”, an audiovisual body.

It also says the European Commission will “table a new legislative proposal to improve the regulatory environment and take account of current challenges”.

The plan is the fruit of three months’ reflection by the EU diplomatic corps.

It was circulated to EU ambassadors on 16 June.

A diplomat from one northern EU member state described it as a “pragmatic, low-level approach”. He noted that “the action plan is a living document, which can be expanded later”.

Diplomats from former Iron Curtain EU countries, many of which see Russian propaganda as an immediate threat, have ridiculed it.

One contact told EUobserver: “It’s weak. We hope the ministers will strengthen it when they meet on Tuesday”. A second contact said: “It’s a piece of crap”.

UK perspective

By comparison, the UK, in April, created a 1,500-man unit in the British army, the so-called 77th Brigade, to engage in psychological operations.

It will focus on social media, targeting Russian and Islamic State propaganda.

But for his part, Daniel Korski, an advisor to British PM David Cameron, who used to work for the EU foreign service, said effective communication doesn’t need more officials in East StratComTeam.

“It’s much less to do with funding new institutions or schemes. It’s more about rapid reaction by politicians and institutions, so that when a statement is blatantly false, we're quick to debunk it and to say what we stand for”, he told Globsec, a security congress in Slovakia last weekend.

Korski, who worked on British PM David Cameron’s election campaign, noted that EU states already have adequate infrastructure.

“We already have structures which are capable of reacting very quickly to media developments, of debunking negative messages: They’re called political parties”, he said.

Gloves off

Robert Pszczel, Nato’s former spokesman in Moscow, told Globsec the EU should “take off the gloves”.

“We have to talk back. It doesn’t mean we engage with Russian propaganda tit for tat … but we have to talk back because silence is interpreted in the wrong way”.

He said Russian VIPs are prone to self-contradiction and hollow arguments.

“I’d like to see Western media invite more Russian officials on talk shows. I’d like to see them take on people like Chizhov [Russia’s EU ambassador] or Churkin [its UN ambassador] because they’ll win”, he noted.

“They contradict themselves: One minute it’s ‘gay EU’ and ‘Nato is a paper tiger’. The next minute it’s ‘neo-Nazi EU’ and 'Nato is a terrible menace'.”

He gave his own TV clash with Russian nationalist MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky as an example.

“If Mr Zhirinovsky says: ‘We [Russia] have nukes, so, aaargh!’, it’s easy to say: ‘Well, we [Nato countries] have nukes as well’. It made him keep quiet for a while”.

EU warns Turkey over 'threat' to Cyprus

The European Commission called on Ankara to refrain from doing "damage to good neighbourly relations", after Turkish vessels stop a rig from reaching a gas drilling zone.

EU warns Turkey over 'threat' to Cyprus

The European Commission called on Ankara to refrain from doing "damage to good neighbourly relations", after Turkish vessels stop a rig from reaching a gas drilling zone.

News in Brief

  1. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  2. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  3. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012
  4. MEP Andrieu will chair parliament pesticide committee
  5. Juncker's right-hand man warns of 'institutional blockage'
  6. Greek parliament to open probe on PMs and EU commissioner
  7. May gathers Brexit ministers to hammer out UK position
  8. Tajani asks Juncker for all EMA Brexit relocation documents

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  2. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  3. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  4. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  5. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums
  6. Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress
  7. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  8. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission