Thursday

19th Sep 2019

Finnish presidency to war-game hybrid threat response

Finland plans to hold simulations among EU home affairs and finance ministers to better prepare the EU for any hybrid attacks that might be directed towards the bloc.

"We want member states to strengthen their capacities to counter hybrid threats," Finland's foreign minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters in Helsinki on Thursday (27 June).

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"Its aim is to find a way to build resilience and raise awareness in the EU," Finland's interior minister Maria Ohisalo said, adding that the exercise is partly to serve as practice on how EU can make decisions when facing acute hybrid threats.

It also serves as a signal to the EU's enemies that the bloc is preparing for various attacks.

The so-called "scenario based policy discussion" will be held for justice and home affairs ministers in Helsinki on 18 July, and for finance ministers on 13-14 September on how to tackle hybrid threats in the financial sector.

The preliminary outcomes will be discussed at a joint informal meeting of ministers in Helsinki at the end of August.

Finland plans to organise the simulations and draw up the scenarios played out by the ministers at their Helsinki informal meetings to counter hybrid threats, including hostile measures from cyber attacks to disinformation campaigns with the aim of undermining social cohesion.

However, Finnish officials are tight-lipped about the possible scenarios the ministers will have to deal with in the simulations.

The Finnish presidency also wants to set up a permanent council working group, an expert group of member states' representatives, on hybrid threats.

Finland's initiative is part of a wider effort by the EU to counter hostile hybrid attacks from Russia, China and other authoritarian states.

At last week's summit, EU leaders said in their conclusions that "the EU must ensure a coordinated response to hybrid and cyber threats", and to "work on measures to enhance the resilience and improve the security culture of the EU against cyber and hybrid threats from outside the EU".

GPS jamming

Last year Finland experienced a disruption in the GPS signal in its northern airspace during Nato war games held last year. Russia was suspected to be behind the deliberate jamming.

Hybrid threats are aiming to weaken social cohesion, undermine social unity and trust in government and public authorities, Ohisalo pointed out, adding that they target core values such as democracy, openness, free flow of information, freedom of speech and democratic freedom.

Ohisalo highlighted that one way to counter hybrid threats is by strengthening social cohesion.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

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