Wednesday

22nd Nov 2017

Mogherini seeks more funds to counter Russian propaganda

  • Mogherini said East and Western Balkans communication cells were too small for their workload (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

An EU request for additional funds to counter Russian propaganda is unlikely to lead to much, diplomats have said.

The scepticism immediately followed EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini's proposal for "additional resources" for her Stratcom counter-propaganda unit at a foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday (13 November).

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.

  • Spain has "proof" of Catalonia meddling from "Russian territory" (Photo: Matthias Oesterle/ZUMA Wire/dpa)

She said the money would primarily be spent on her Western Balkans Stratcom cell and on communicating the EU's "positive agenda" more broadly.

It was "too early to assess" the extent of Russia's influence operations in the Western Balkans, she added, but she said "this is one of the files we will work on the most".

She said the EU had a "powerful" policy to promote in the region - to say that "the future of the region is in the EU" and that Europe "is consistent and coherent" on its enlargement promise.

The EU foreign service contains 14 seconded diplomats and officials tasked with pushing back against Russian disinformation in eastern Europe, two staff on the Western Balkans, and six people working on Islamist radicalisation.

They do not have their own budget to buy tools such as media and big data analysis products.

The temporary unit also has no institutional basis and risks being disbanded at any time.

Mogherini's request for extra money, to be filed to EU finance ministers in early 2018, comes after they rejected a similar proposal last year.

Spanish proof

This time around, it has the open backing of nine member states - Croatia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.

Spain joined the group after Russia allegedly meddled in the Catalan crisis.

Its foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, said in Brussels on Monday his services "have proof" that false Russian social media accounts had tried to foment Catalan separatism.

Spain's defence minister, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, said: "We know … that much of this came from Russian territory".

The Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said Poland would lend Stratcom the use of its new, 1,000-man strong military cyber squad.

The British prime minister, Theresa May, speaking later the same day at an event in London, also pledged "to counter Russian activity" and to "work with our [EU] allies to do likewise".

Referring to Russian information attacks on the UK, US, France, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands as well as Spain, she said "Russian agencies have been attempting to interfere with western politics".

"It [Russia] is seeking to weaponise information, deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories ... in an attempt to sow discord in the West," she said.

Scepticism

Mogherini's latest financial request risks amounting to little despite the appeals, however.

An EU diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous, told EUobserver that 17 member states who spoke out on Russia at Monday's meeting "generally concurred that strategic communications is very important" and "agreed on the need for more resources, human and financial".

The hawkish group is said to include the Netherlands and Estonia.

But commenting on the initial reaction in the room on Monday, Poland's Waszczykowski was less than optimistic.

"It seems today that some member states don't see the Russian threat and want to focus on other areas", he said.

A second EU diplomat told EUobserver that Mogherini, an Italian politician, was uninterested in Stratcom and had filed the proposal just to get the hawkish EU states off her back.

"She must be perfectly aware that EU states would never agree to suddenly pay an extra bill for this," he said.

"Their legitimate argument would be that she already has huge financial resources for communication at her disposal," he added.

He noted that EU institutions were spending €20 million on a communications project in north Africa and the Middle East called the Open Neighbourhood Programme.

"If she was serious about it [Stratcom], she could have easily mobilised sufficient funds within her own institutions," he said.

A third EU diplomat said there was a "very good chance" that EU capitals would reject extra money for Stratcom.

"She [Mogherini] can still hope that the finance ministers will kill any ideas that this issue would actually deserve more resources", the diplomat said.

He said those member states "who understand the gravity of the situation" had to "start becoming vocal about this issue" in order to prompt EU action.

He added that they ought to "attack" the prevailing attitude in EU institutions, which amounted to "let's not make Sergei [Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister] angry".

"I'm afraid they don't have the courage to do that," he said.

EU Commission to target fake news

Mariya Gabriel, the EU digital economy commissioner, announces expert panel and says fake news can be tackled if people are given credible and diverse information.

Opinion

The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik

If, as the EU claims, the Eastern Partnership summit is not a format for conflict resolution, where else will the security issues that hold the region back be resolved?

News in Brief

  1. December euro summit still on, Tusk confirms
  2. EU calls for end to Kenya election crisis
  3. Report: Israeli PM invited to meet EU ministers
  4. French banks close Le Pen accounts
  5. Commission relaxes rules on labelling free range eggs
  6. Commission issues €34m fine over car equipment cartel
  7. Estonian presidency 'delighted' with emissions trading vote
  8. Mladic found guilty of genocide and war crimes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  2. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  3. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  4. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  6. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  7. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  9. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  10. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  11. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  12. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure

Latest News

  1. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  2. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'
  3. Commission warns Italy over high debt level
  4. Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes
  5. Uber may face fines in EU for keeping data breach secret
  6. EU counter-propaganda 'harms' relations, Russia says
  7. The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik
  8. Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  2. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  3. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  4. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  7. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  9. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Step Up Water Management Cooperation
  11. CECEMachinery Industry Calls for Joint EU Approach to Develop Digital Construction Sector
  12. EnelNo ETS Deal Means It Can Still Be Strengthened