22nd Mar 2018

EU diplomats to get training on 'fake news'

  • "Disinformation is a risk for the EU and we are ready to tackle it", Muresan said (Photo:

The EU will spend €1.1 million on training diplomats to monitor fake news, amid growing alarm on Russian propaganda.

The funds, as well as related measures worth another €3.8 million, will be rubber-stamped by member states on Wednesday (29 November) and by the European Parliament on Thursday as part of next year's EU budget, Siegfried Muresan, the MEP in charge of the file, told EUobserver.

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.

"We've already received a positive evaluation from the European Commission, so I am confident that it's going to be a success," he said.

He said the €1.1 million will be funnelled to the EU foreign service, whose so-called Stratcom unit will use it to train staff in Commission offices in selected member states and in EU embassies in former Soviet countries and in the Western Balkans.

"We need to be able to connect the dots. If a eurosceptic politician is saying something and we see that these were actually talking points on fake news websites two weeks earlier, then we need to be aware of that," Muresan, a centre-right Romanian politician, said.

He said the €1.1 million training budget was part of a "comprehensive package of measures to tackle disinformation, Russian propaganda, and fake news".

The EU foreign service is to get another €800,000 for "strategic communication" in 2018, Muresan said.

The Commission is to receive a further €3 million "for information outreach on external relations", he added.

He told EUobserver he had initially called for €3 million for the Stratcom training programme alone. But he said if the 2018 "preparatory actions" went well, then the training funds would likely go up in 2019 and 2020.

"We have become aware that disinformation is a risk for the EU and we're ready to tackle it," he said.

"Our commitment to tackle disinformation is a long-term goal and we will continue to allocate financial resources for it in the years to come," Muresan added.

Stratcom is a group of 22 diplomats and officials inside the EU foreign service whose main task is to debunk Russian propaganda and to promote positive EU media coverage in the former Soviet bloc.

An EU diplomat said the training budget would be useful.

"It would give the [EU] foreign service a better insight into what's going on out there. If it comes, for instance to monitoring Hungarian-language media, it would be much better if it was being done by someone on the ground in Hungary than in Stratcom's office in Brussels," he said.

Stratcom currently works with volunteers in local NGOs and media, but the new budget would help to "professionalise" the input, he noted.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign service chief, has also said she will ask EU finance ministers for more money for Stratcom in early 2018.

The EU diplomat said this could be spent on data analysis tools to see "what the dozens of thousands of [Russian] sources are talking about".

He said it could also be spent on in-depth reports by outside firms, such as Semantic Visions, a Czech company, on issues such as Russia's portrayal of terrorist attacks inside the EU.

But he was sceptical whether Muresan or Mogherini's requests would lead to more staff for Stratcom's Russia team or a permanent budget line for the unit as a whole.

He said "about one third of member states basically still denies that this problem [of Russian propaganda] exists".

He said that if member states agreed to give more resources, these would probably go to Stratcom South, a Stratcom cell that dealt with Islamist radicalisation, instead of Stratcom East, which dealt with Russia.

"Stratcom might get more staff this time next year, so long as it's for people who don't do anything on Russian disinformation", the EU diplomat said.

Russia warnings

Some EU leaders, such as Britain's Theresa May, spoke out on Russian propaganda at last week's summit in Brussels.

But Russia has quietly warned the EU that if it increased Stratcom's capabilities this could "harm relations".

Andrey Kelin, a senior Russian diplomat, delivered the message to Thomas Mayr-Harting, Mogherini's right-hand man on Russia, on 17 November in Moscow in the margins of a 30th anniversary party for a Russian think tank, the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Maja Kocijancic, Mogherini's spokeswoman, said the Kelin "consultations" had changed nothing, however.

"When it comes to stratcomms, our line is clear," Kocijancic 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.

EU told to create coalition against fake news

After almost two months of talks, a panel of experts set up by the EU commission have issued a series of recommendations on how to fight fake news or what they prefer to term 'disinformation'.


Mitigating the Russian challenge

It is crucial to keep cool when confronting Russian propaganda. The Kremlin's aim is to sow discord within Western politics, not necessarily to achieve a concrete electoral outcome.


Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted Russia's illegal annexation.

News in Brief

  1. EU will be exempted from tariffs, says US minister
  2. Malmstroem: EU 'hopes' for US tariffs exemption
  3. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says
  4. Italy's centre-right set to share top posts with 5-star movement
  5. Brussels condemns tear gas in Kosovo parliament
  6. Finland pays billionaire €400,000 in EU farm subsidies
  7. 44 leaders sign up for Africa free trade area deal
  8. British 'blue' passports to be made in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU summit takes hard look at Russia
  2. Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing
  3. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit
  4. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  5. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  6. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair
  7. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  8. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections