Friday

13th Dec 2019

EU advisor roasted over Russian media interview

  • Nathalie Tocci (r) with EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels in March (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The EU foreign service has distanced itself from a "special advisor" over her interview in Russian media.

"I can simply say Miss Tocci gave her interview in her personal capacity, not representing the EU, and that our policy ... on disinformation is very well known," the EU diplomatic service's spokeswoman, Maja Kocjiancic, said in Brussels on Wednesday (19 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

She spoke after Nathalie Tocci, a 42-year old Italian academic and a special advisor to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, appeared on Russian state broadcaster RT on Monday, prompting criticism.

RT played up Tocci's EU credentials with the headline: "If I were Iran, I would want to pull out of the JCPOA as well - Mogherini's adviser".

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the name of an Iran nuclear arms control deal, part-negotiated by the EU.

But the headline twisted Tocci's remarks to make it sound like the EU was trying to provoke its ally, the US, in an ongoing dispute on Iran.

The RT interviewer, a celebrity correspondent called Sophie Shevardnadze, also played up internal EU divisions in the half-hour segment.

She asked question after question on whether far-right parties were gaining power, if Brexit would end in disaster, and if Hungary and Poland would block EU integration, forcing Tocci on the defensive.

And Mogherini's advisor said nothing on Russia's war in Ukraine or the Kremlin's anti-EU propaganda campaign.

Tocci spoke on RT just three days after the European Commission, of which Mogherini is a vice-president, published a report accusing Russia of "sustained disinformation activity ... aiming to suppress turnout and influence voter preferences" in last month's European Parliament elections.

"There was a consistent trend of malicious actors using disinformation to promote extreme views," the commission said.

The EU foreign service also has dozens of entries for RT in its Russian propaganda database, posing questions on Tocci's wisdom in taking up Shevardnadze's invitation.

"We're shocked [that she did it], given the problem of propaganda and disinformation from the Kremlin side," an EU official told Polish Radio on Wednesday.

Tocci's interview was "a betrayal" and RT was "a Kremlin propaganda tube", Jakub Janda, a Czech expert on Russia at the European Values think-tank in Prague, also said.

Special advisors are paid by EU institutions and "work on a short-term basis for a very limited number of days per year", according to commission literature.

Some EU commissioners have several of them, but Mogherini has only Tocci, whose brief was to assist her on "the implementation of the European Union global strategy ... supporting global governance and the United Nations".

Tocci is director of a Rome-based think-tank called the International Affairs Institute and was once spoken of as a potential foreign minister by the Russia-friendly 5 Star Movement party in Italy.

She stayed quiet on her Twitter account regarding the RT controversy this week.

But for some, the RT incident epitomised Mogherini's own weak handling of Russia in her past five years in office, despite the EU foreign service's comment on Tocci's "personal" status.

"Nathalie Tocci's interview with Russian propaganda outlet RT constitutes a symptomatic summary of Mogherini's term - very little clue about Russia," Daniel Szeligowski, from the Polish Institute of International Affairs, a think-tank in Warsaw, said.

News in Brief

  1. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  2. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  3. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality
  4. Czech PM: nuclear energy needed for climate neutrality
  5. Hungary: Climate target is burden, EU should help
  6. Malta PM urged to step down ahead of EU summit
  7. France rolls out new pension scheme amid protests
  8. Germany accused of aiding war crimes in Yemen

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  2. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  3. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks
  4. Europe needs to make mind up on relations with Africa
  5. Leaders face crucial EU summit for climate action
  6. Leaders to battle on climate target and money at summit
  7. Von der Leyen: 'Green Deal is our man-on-moon moment'
  8. North Atlantic mini states in geopolitical turbulence

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us