Monday

18th Dec 2017

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: europarl.europa.eu)

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.

Opinion

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.

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty

The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives