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The European Union at 60 [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

60 Years EU

© lukas555 / Fotolia

Heads of State or Government of the EU-27 marked the 60th anniversary of the European Union’s founding Treaty of Rome on 25 March 2017, with pledges to seek closer unity, improve internal and external security, boost economic growth and employment, reduce social inequalities and bolster the bloc’s global role. Their Rome Declaration outlines principles to help re-launch the Union after its recent economic and migration crises, last year’s Brexit vote, and the shock effect of Donald Trump’s election as US President.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the EU and possible reforms. Earlier studies on the challenges facing the EU can be found in a February edition of ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking.’

The Rome Declaration: An imperfect display of unity
European Policy Centre, March 2017

The long road to peace: Europe at 60
European Council on Foreign Policy, March 2017

What future for Europe at its anniversary?
German Marshall Fund, March 2017

60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome: What now for the EU?
Bertelsmann Stiftung, March 2017

60 years after Rome: How is the EU really doing?
Friends of Europe, March 2017

Can core Europe move forward without a core?
German Marshall Fund, March 2017

EU60 La pédagogie de l’interdépendance
Confrontations Europe, March 2017

The awakening
Friends of Europe, March 2017

Sixty years later European integration has benefited EU countries
Rand Corporation, March 2017

L’Europe dont nous avons besoin
Institut Montaigne, March 2017

The closing of the European mind, and how to reopen it
Carnegie Europe, March 2017

Brexit and a multi-speed Europe: A lawyer’s perspective

Bertelsmann Stiftung, Jacques Delors Institute Berlin, March 2017

Something is moving in the EU (at various speeds)
Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, March 2017

What future for Europe?
Bruegel, March 2017

As the U.K. prepares to leave, is Europe disintegrating after 60 Years?
German Marshall Fund, March 2017

A Franco-German defence deal for Europe
Carnegie Europe, March 2017

What a Le Pen win would look like for France and the EU
Chatham House, March 2017

Rome’s reality check: The next 60 years will be an uphill struggle
Friends of Europe, March 2017

European spring: Trust in the EU and democracy is recovering
Bruegel, March 2017

European identity and the economic crisis
Bruegel, March 2017

Europe: Looking back, looking forward
Carnegie Europe, March 2017

Differentiated integration: A way forward for Europe
Instituto Affari Internazionali, March 2017

Differentiated integration and the EU: A variable geometry legitimacy
Instituto Affari Internazionali, March 2017

Differentiation in CFSP: Potential and limits
Instituto Affari Internazionali, March 2017

Police and border controls cooperation at the EU level: Dilemmas, opportunities and challenges of a differentiated approach
Instituto Affari Internazionali, March 2017

Juncker’s White Paper has the answers, and that is the great tragedy
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, March 2017

EU at a crossroads: European Commission lays out 5 scenarios for the Union’s future
Polish Institute for International Affairs, March 2017

A more powerful European Council: Old and new trends
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, March 2017

Trump needs a strong European partner
Atlantic Council, March 2017

A message to Europe: Let’s stick together
Atlantic Council, March 2017

Regroup and reform: Ideas for a more responsive and effective European Union
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2017

The lessons of 60 years of ‘Rome’ and 25 years of ‘Maastricht’
Clingendael, February 2017

More Union in European Union
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2017

La UE ante uno de sus años más difíciles
Fundacion Real Instituto Elcano, February 2017

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/07/the-european-union-at-60-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

From Bratislava to Rome

Written by Ralf Drachenberg,

From Bratislava to Rome: Has the European Council Delivered?

From Bratislava to Rome: Has the European Council Delivered?

On the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties, the EU leaders’ Rome Declaration of 25 March 2017 proclaimed that ‘the European Union is facing unprecedented challenges, both global and domestic: regional conflicts, terrorism, growing migratory pressures, protectionism and social and economic inequalities. Together, we are determined to address the challenges of a rapidly changing world and to offer to our citizens both security and new opportunities.’ While the Declaration was forward-looking in nature, it marked the end of a process that began following the June 2016 United Kingdom referendum on EU membership, when the other 27 EU leaders saw a need to reassess and re-evaluate how to move forward.

Before leaders could determine what the policy priorities should be in the short- to medium-term, a diagnosis was necessary as to what is ailing the EU and causing people throughout the continent to turn towards euroscepticism and extremism. The first major step was taken in the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap, which resulted from the meeting of 27 Heads of State or Government in mid-September 2016. In this document EU leaders focused on the future of the EU at 27, stressing their determination to make a success of the EU with 27 Member States. In addition, they addressed the key policy priorities of migration, security, and the economy, which, according to recent surveys, are EU citizens’ main concerns. By doing this, leaders hoped to counter the disconnection between the people and their political elites.

But how well has the European Council done in fulfilling the ambitious goals set out in the Bratislava Roadmap, and how will it proceed in the wake of the UK’s departure? While the European Council is neither a legislative nor an executive body, its role is to define ‘the EU’s overall political direction and priorities’, therefore its ability to work closely with the Parliament and other institutions is crucial to achieving these goals. Bearing this in mind, which of the Parliament’s priorities were taken on board in the development of the Roadmap and the Rome Declaration? These challenging questions are the topic of an event organised by the European Council Oversight Unit (ECOS) of the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) on Tuesday 25 April 2017 at 13:30, ‘From Bratislava to Rome: Has the European Council Delivered?’, to be held in the Library of the European Parliament on the fifth floor of the ASP building. The European Council Oversight Unit (ECOS) will also release an in-depth analysis on the subject for discussion at the event.

The publication assesses the outcomes of the EU-27 and European Council meetings in the period between the Bratislava and Rome meetings in relation to the objectives laid out in the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap. The analysis illustrates that the Bratislava commitments were largely fulfilled for all three policy priorities listed therein. It also reflects how the Rome Declaration and Bratislava process were shaped by the overall context of the growing concerns of EU citizens and their attitude towards the EU, and demonstrates how the views of the different EU institutions and the various Member States converged during the process, leading to a consensual Rome Declaration.

The event will be moderated by Joséphine Rebecca Vanden Broucke. Panellists will include

Richard Corbett (S&D, United Kingdom), and, presenting the academic perspective, Jean-Monnet Chair Dr Wolfgang Wessels, along with the discussant Miguel Papí Boucher, author of ‘The European Council: Between law and political reality’.

If you do not have an access badge to the European Parliament and are interested in attending the event, it is essential to register by
Tuesday  18 April, using this link.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/07/from-bratislava-to-rome/

International Roma Day

Written by Anita Orav,

International Roma Day

© markobe / Fotolia

Since 1990, 8 April has been marked every year as International Roma Day, providing an opportunity both to discuss the situation of Roma, and to celebrate Romani culture.

Roma population in Europe

With an estimated population of 10 to 12 million, the Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe. Around 6 million Roma live in the European Union, with Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary the Member States with the highest percentages in their populations. The Roma are one of the most marginalised communities in Europe, as some 80 % are estimated to live below their country’s at-risk-of-poverty threshold. In addition to material deprivation, Roma face multiple factors of marginalisation such as inadequate housing, low educational levels, high unemployment, poor health, discrimination and prejudice.

The Council of Europe uses the term ‘Roma and Travellers‘ to encompass various groups, including, on one hand Roma, Sinti/Manush, Calé, Kaale, Romanichals, Boyash/Rudari; Balkan Egyptians (Egyptians and Ashkali); and Eastern groups (Dom, Lom and Abdal); and, on the other, groups such as Travellers, Yenish, and the populations designated under the administrative term Gens du voyage; as well as persons who identify themselves as Gypsies.

The EU Roma framework

Member States have the competence to define their policies in this area, while the EU acts as coordinator. The general framework is set by the Racial Equality Directive prohibiting discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 21). A more focused approach came in 2011 with the European Commission communication on an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020, calling on Member States to adopt national strategies following common targets in four key areas for inclusion: education, employment, healthcare and housing. The national strategies were assessed by the Commission in 2012, and have been monitored yearly thereafter. A 2016 communication also reviewed, for the first time, the implementation of the European Council’s 2013 recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in the Member States.

The EU supports national inclusion initiatives through its cohesion policy, with the 2014-2020 package focusing more on support for marginalised communities than in the previous programming periods. The Commission has encouraged Member States to deploy structural funds in their national strategies, as well as to make full use of the national Roma contact points to ensure that the funding actually reaches Roma.

Moreover, the Commission organises regular Roma Summits to provide a high-level forum to discuss Roma issues among the representatives of EU institutions, national governments and civil society organisations.

European Parliament resolutions

In 2005, the European Parliament was the first institution to use the term ‘anti-gypsyism’ in an official EU document, calling on the Council, Commission, Member States and candidate countries to help combat this discrimination in all its forms. In its 2013 resolution on progress made in the implementation of the national Roma integration strategies, Parliament condemned the ethnic profiling and illegal expulsions, police abuse and human rights violations against Roma in EU Member States, asking the Commission to set up an EU-wide monitoring mechanism. In a separate resolution, Parliament deplored the discrimination faced by Roma women, and urged Member States to focus on empowering Roma women in their national strategies. In its resolution of 15 April 2015, Parliament expressed its deep concern at the rise of anti-gypsyism, and demanded greater efforts to end discrimination, hate crime, and hate speech against Roma. It proposed that 2 August be recognised as European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, dedicated to commemorating the victims of the genocide during World War II. On 31 July 2015, the Commission supported the proposal, and expressed hope that the Member States would also soon recognise it.

Read this ‘At a glance’ publication on ‘International Roma Day‘ in PDF.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/07/international-roma-day/

World Health Day 2017 – ‘Depression: Let’s talk’

Written by Nicole Scholz,

World Health Day 2017 – Depression

An official campaign poster by the WHO for World Health Day 2017

7 April each year is ‘World Health Day’, marking the anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO), founded in 1948. World Health Day is one of the WHO’s eight official health days for raising awareness and mobilising people to act. This year’s focus is on depression. The WHO campaign has three main goals: that the general public is better informed about what depression is and how it can be prevented and treated; that people with depression seek help; and that family, friends and colleagues of those living with depression are able to provide support.

Depression causes mental anguish, hindering a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks

Depression is a common illness. Over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. More women are affected than men. According to the WHO, depression is characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that a person normally enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for a period of at least two weeks. In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following: loss of energy; change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Depression can be mild, moderate or severe, and – especially when long-lasting and of moderate or severe intensity – may become a serious health condition. Depression can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at home, school or work, with negative consequences for relationships with family and friends and their ability to earn a living. At worst, depression can lead to suicide.

Depression stems from a complex interaction of factors, and it can be prevented and treated

As the WHO points out, depression results from a combination of social, psychological and biological factors. People who have gone through adverse life events, such as bereavement, divorce, job loss, or psychological trauma, are more likely to develop depression. In turn, depression can increase stress and worsen the affected person’s life situation – and compound their depression. There is also an inter-relationship between depression and physical health: cardiovascular diseases, for instance, can lead to depression, and vice versa. Prevention has been shown to work: community approaches to prevent depression include, among others, school-based programmes to enhance patterns of positive thinking in children and adolescents; interventions for parents of children with behavioural problems; or exercise programmes for the elderly. Depression is treatable with psychotherapy or antidepressant medication or a combination of both.

What can you do if you think you may be depressed?

The WHO has issued handouts with advice on preventing depression, for instance in young people or in older age:

  • Talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
  • Seek professional help.
  • Stay connected – keep in contact with family and friends.
  • Exercise regularly, even if it is just a short walk.
  • Stick to regular eating and sleeping habits.
  • Avoid or restrict alcohol consumption as it can worsen depression.
  • Continue doing things you have always enjoyed, even if you do not feel like it.

Depression puts pressure on health, economic and welfare systems

Mental disorders, including depression, are one of the most prevalent categories of disease in the EU. They are a leading cause of work absence and early retirement, accounting for some 22 % of European disabilities. According to the WHO’s Regional Office for Europe, the cost of mood disorders and anxiety in the EU is about €170 billion per year.

EU action on mental health, in particular depression

The European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being, launched in 2008, called for action on, among other things, prevention of depression and suicide, since depression is one of the most common and serious mental disorders and a leading risk factor for suicidal behaviour. The pact was followed by a three-year joint action on mental health and well-being, launched in 2013. One of its five focus areas was ‘depression, suicide and eHealth’. The joint action resulted in a framework for action on mental health and well-being, which provides policy recommendations that the Member States are invited to implement. To support their implementation, the Commission employs the EU compass for action on mental health and well-being (2015–2018). The EU compass focuses on issues including depression and resilience; community-based mental health; suicide prevention; and mental health at work and in schools. Mental health is also addressed by EU-financed projects. iFightDepression, developed with financial support from the EU Health programme, is a guided online tool that aims to help people with mild to moderate depression to self-manage their symptoms. The EU framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020, currently funds projects such as MitoDyaD, which studies the role of the glucocorticoid receptor in the vulnerability to stress-induced depression and might lead to the development of novel therapeutics.

The European Parliament Interest Group on Mental Health, Well-being and Brain Disorders, chaired by Nessa Childers (S&D, Ireland), Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA, United Kingdom), Marian Harkin (ALDE, Ireland) and Cristian-Silviu Bușoi (EPP, Romania), was launched in 2009 with the support of the Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Networks–Europe (Gamian Europe). The interest group’s mission is ‘to advocate the development of sound EU policies which contribute to prevention of mental health problems and ensure good services, care and empowerment for those affected by mental health problems’.

Further reading

EPRS, Spotlight on mental health in Europe, ‘At a glance’ note, October 2016

EPRS, Technological innovation strategies in substance use disorders, Study, March 2017

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/06/world-health-day-2017-depression-lets-talk/

Understanding ‘development effectiveness’: An overview of concepts, actors and tools

Written by Eric Pichon,

The words Make It Happen in red text on a note card pinned to a cork notice board as a reminder and for motivation

© laufer / Fotolia

In the context of the limited availability of development aid, there is increased demand for effective results. This means that both developed and developing countries must commit to spending and using aid more effectively. Public funding is not enough to cover all needs, but can leverage initiatives from civil society or the private sector.

The multiplication of stakeholders and intervention methods, combined with the necessity to address needs in the field more precisely has led to a global rethink of how to assess development. High-level forums and stakeholder networks have helped to fine-tune the main principles of development effectiveness and shift from a donor-recipient relationship to a more cooperative framework. Methods and tools have improved and led to better planning, implementation and appraisal of development projects. The EU has been closely involved in designing and implementing the effectiveness principles. The European Parliament often refers to them, insisting that they must not be sacrificed for short- term interests.

While not aiming to appraise the effectiveness of EU development policies, this briefing is designed to promote a better understanding the main concepts at stake.

Read this complete briefing on ‘Understanding ‘development effectiveness’: An overview of concepts, actors and tools‘ in PDF.

Results achieved in partner countries with EU support (projects that ended between July 2013 and June 2014)

Results achieved in partner countries with EU support (projects that ended between July 2013 and June 2014)

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/06/understanding-development-effectiveness-an-overview-of-concepts-actors-and-tools/

Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles

Written by Marketa Pape with Amalie Bjornavold,

Electric car plugged in to electricity

© malajscy / Fotolia

As most of the energy used for transport in the EU is dependent on oil, facilitating the transition to low-emission mobility is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 % below 1990 levels by 2030. Although electric vehicles (EVs) are making inroads into the European automotive fleet, the market for EVs cannot grow unless users can charge them. Accelerating infrastructure development across the EU is therefore crucial to support the transition to a decarbonised transport sector.


One major barrier to market entry for EVs is ‘range anxiety’ – the fear of driving one’s EV for longer distances without being able to re-charge it. While improving the driving range and battery capacity of EVs is critical, given that the most commonly used lithium-ion batteries carry limited energy densities and have high manufacturing costs, developing a network of charging stations on European roads would facilitate market uptake. The creation and deployment of this infrastructure network depends on the supply of electricity keeping pace with heightened energy demand, which is likely to place a burden on the European electricity grid. Countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark are currently capable of handling the heightened demand for electricity – and in turn hold the largest market share of EVs. However, of all new cars bought in 2015 in the EU, only 1.2 % were EVs. All Member States are in the process of improving their network capacities to keep up with a growing EV market share – an issue that also concerns electric buses and bikes.

Towards a single market for electro-mobility

To facilitate the market uptake of electric mobility across the EU, Directive 2014/94/EU on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure (AFI) envisages the deployment of a minimum level of infrastructure for both refuelling and charging with alternative fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas – in both the public and private domain. Furthermore, it seeks to address the standardisation of charging points’ technical specifications, in addition to access to information for consumers on the use of alternative fuels. Infrastructure within homes will continue to gain ground, as the Commission has also proposed that electric charging facilities should be built into new residential buildings with over ten parking spaces as of 2025. The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Regulation supports the promotion of low-carbon transport infrastructure, and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) provides financial support. Progress has been made: there are currently over 100 000 public charging points available for EVs across the EU – a figure that has almost doubled in the space of two years. The majority are located in the few Member States in which 90 % of all new EVs were sold in 2015: for example, the Dutch network is the most developed, with almost 30 000 charging stations; followed by Germany at 25 000 and France at 16 000. Taking per capita figures into account, Estonia, Luxembourg and Slovenia follow closely behind, with Estonia becoming the first country in the world to open a nationwide fast-charging EV network. The least-developed networks, with under 30 stations, are in Bulgaria and Lithuania. Member States were required to submit their national policy frameworks on accelerating a coordinated deployment of EV infrastructure in November 2016 – 2017 is therefore set to be a year of further advances.

The European Parliament’s position

In its legislative resolution of 15 April 2014 on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure, the Parliament called for an appropriate number of EV charging stations to be accessible to the public by 2020. Their number will depend on how many EVs are registered, with at least one charging point available for every 10 cars. For the Parliament, operators of recharging points accessible to the public should be allowed to purchase electricity from any electricity supplier within the EU, while the prices charged must be reasonable and comparable, as well as transparent and non-discriminatory.

Read this ‘At a glance’ publication on ‘Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles‘ in PDF.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/05/charging-infrastructure-for-electric-vehicles/

Mexico: Economic indicators and trade with EU

Written by Enrique Gómez Ramírez and Giulio Sabbati (both EPRS),

In cooperation with Caterina Francesca Guidi (from GlobalStat | EUI),

Mexico’s economy is the 14th largest in the world (in terms of GDP) and the second largest in Latin America, after Brazil. It is currently classified as an upper middle-income economy by the World Bank, and is a member of the WTO , the OECD and the G20. The EU is Mexico’s third-largest trading partner after the US and China, and its second biggest export market after the US. Our infographic, produced in close cooperation with GlobalStat, provides a quick and useful overview of Mexico’s main economic and trade data, as well as of the EU grants and loans to this country.

Download this infographic on ‘Mexico: Economic indicators and trade with EU‘ in PDF.

GlobalStat, a project of the EUI’s Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation aims to offer the best available gateway to statistical data. It is easily accessible, intuitive to use, and free of charge. In just three clicks it offers data from 1960 onwards for 193 UN countries, five continents and 12 political and regional entities – including the European Union – gathered from over 80 international sources. The project, presents data as diverse as income distribution, water resources, housing, migration, land use, food production, nutrition, or life expectancy, which contributes to a better understanding of the interrelations between human living conditions and globalisation trends.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/04/mexico-economic-indicators-and-trade-with-eu/

Amending capital requirements: The ‘CRD-V package’ [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Andrej Stuchlik (1st edition),

Profit loss and risk words on workplace collected of wooden cube

© adam121 / Fotolia

Despite significant progress since the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the overhaul of the financial regulatory framework remains a European Commission priority. The existing Capital Requirements Directive and Regulation (the ‘CRD-IV package’) set the prudential framework for financial institutions operating in the EU. The proposed amendments to the package implement the most recent international regulatory provisions for banks (that is, higher risk-sensitivity), set by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (Basel III framework). They also address regulatory shortcomings and aim to contribute to sustainable bank financing of the economy. The Parliament’s ECON Committee has named Peter Simon (S&D, Germany) rapporteur for both dossiers.


Stage: EESC

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/03/amending-capital-requirements-the-crd-v-package-eu-legislation-in-progress/

How Congress and President shape US foreign policy

Written by Micaela Del Monte and Elena Lazarou,

How Congress and President shape US foreign policy

© assetseller / Fotolia

The United States Constitution regulates the conduct of American foreign policy through a system of checks and balances. The Constitution provides both Congress and the President, as the legislative and executive branches respectively, with the legal authority to shape relations with foreign nations. It recognises that only the federal government is authorised to conduct foreign policy; that federal courts are competent in cases arising under treaties; and declares treaties the supreme law of the land. The Constitution also lists the powers of Congress, including the ‘power of the purse’ (namely the ability to tax and spend public money on behalf of the federal government), the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, the power to declare war and the authority to raise and support the army and navy. At the same time, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States (US) army and navy and, although Congressional action is required to declare war, it is generally agreed that the President has the authority to respond to attacks against the US and to lead the armed forces. While the President’s powers are substantial, they are not without limits, due to the role played by the legislative branch.

In light of the discussion of the foreign policy options of the new administration under President Donald Trump, this briefing specifically explores the powers conferred to conclude international agreements, to regulate commerce with foreign nations, to use military force and to declare war. It also explains how Congress performs its oversight – or ‘watchdog’ – functions with regard to foreign policy, the tools at its disposal, and the role of committees in the process.

Read this complete briefing on ‘How Congress and President shape US foreign policy‘ in PDF.

United States' free trade agreements

Figure 1 – United States’ free trade agreements

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/03/how-congress-and-president-shape-us-foreign-policy/

‘Fake news’ and the EU’s response

Written by Naja Bentzen,
Graphics by Christian Dietrich.

Fake News Newspaper

© alswart / Fotolia

Fake news – deliberately fabricated stories posing as journalism with the aim of manipulating readers – became an increasingly visible global phenomenon during last year’s presidential election campaign in the United States, not least due to the growing use of social media as a source for news. Whereas recent research indicates that a majority of people have difficulties determining when news is fake, the EU’s steps towards countering this growing information challenge are still tentative.

A global phenomenon with political impact

The phenomenon of ‘fake news’ is as old as the printing press. However, it gained momentum and global visibility during the final months of the 2016 US presidential election, when viral fake news across the political spectrum received more engagement on Facebook than real news. The Australian Macquarie Dictionary (AMD) – which chose ‘fake news’ as its word of the year for 2016 – defines it as ‘disinformation and hoaxes published on websites for political purposes or to drive web traffic, the incorrect information being passed along by social media’. Explaining the choice, the AMD argued that the term ‘captures an interesting evolution in the creation of deceptive content as a way of herding people in a specific direction’. Social media and their personalisation tools have accelerated the spread of ‘fake news’. A growing number of EU citizens (46 % on average in 2016) follow news on social media; six out of ten news items shared are passed on without being read first; and US research has shown that most young, digital-savvy school and college students have difficulties in identifying fake news.

Disinformation as an information warfare tool

How to spot when news is fake

How to spot when news is fake

Fake news headlines seem tailored to trick users into sharing the stories, making them spread fast and far amongst like-minded users. Sometimes the aim is simply to generate traffic (‘clickbait’). However, when designed to deceive users for political purposes, it falls under ‘disinformation’: dissemination of deliberately false information. Disinformation is part of a strategic tool kit that non-state and state actors can use to undermine adversaries. Russia has been using information operations in its on-going hybrid war against Ukraine, and continues to apply it in its ‘holistic’ information warfare against the EU and the West. Fake news proliferation during the US presidential campaign was accompanied by selective leaks of emails from Democratic Party officials. A declassified US intelligence assessment said that Russia used professional ‘trolls’ (internet warriors) and Russian state broadcaster RT ‘as part of its influence efforts’. In March 2017, a cyber-security expert told a US Senate panel investigating President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia that the information measures had worked, because Trump and his team promoted narratives, including false ones, serving Russian interests. In the same hearing, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Mark Warner claimed that Russia paid thousands of people to create and pedal fake anti-Hillary Clinton news, targeting key swing states.

The Kremlin has acknowledged its information warfare capabilities ahead of key elections in Europe

So far, Russia has denied all allegations of interference in the US election. But on 22 February 2017, Russian Defence Minister, Sergey Shoigu, announced that ‘information operations forces have been established that are expected to be a far more effective tool than all we used before for counter-propaganda purposes’, arguing that Russian ‘propaganda needs to be clever, smart and efficient’. At the same time, Russia’s foreign ministry itself began to publish ‘materials that contain false information about Russia’ on its website. Security analysts say that Shoigu’s announcement indicates that Russia can no longer deny propaganda activities. The most likely targets for Russian information operations are its immediate neighbours (Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic States), the western Balkans, and major EU countries holding elections in 2017, in particular France and Germany). There is also concern that the 2019 European Parliament elections could be targeted. Pro-Kremlin information campaigns boost Moscow’s narrative of a ‘weak and morally decayed EU that is about to collapse’.

‘Fake news’ as a slur for unwelcome media reports: a ‘post-truth’ phenomenon?

The ‘fake news’ trend is seen as an element in the deeper democratic challenge of what is known as the ‘post-truth’ era. Post-truth – the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2016 – is defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. In a move that allegedly signified this ‘new reality’, President Trump’s counsellor, Kellyanne Conway, used the notion of ‘alternative facts’ to describe claims made by White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, about the size of the crowds attending the inauguration ceremony, contradicting what he called ‘shameful and wrong’ mainstream media reports. The same day, Trump – talking to Central Intelligence Agency staff – called the media ‘some of the most dishonest human beings on earth’. Trump has repeatedly described news (outlets) that he appears to dislike as ‘fake news’, ‘dishonest’, an ‘enemy of the people’ and ‘the opposition’.

International media watchdogs warn against ‘misleading the public’

Information freedom watchdogs, such as Reporters Without Borders, warned in March 2017 that Trump’s statements could set a ‘dangerous example for the world’s press freedom predators’ who see the notion of ‘fake news’ as justification to criminalise critical media. Also in March, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, and other international monitors of freedom of expression issued a joint declaration on ‘fake news’, disinformation and propaganda. They expressed alarm at ‘instances in which public authorities denigrate, intimidate and threaten the media, including by stating that the media is “the opposition” or is “lying”‘, thus undermining public trust and confidence in journalism as a public watchdog, with the risk of misleading the public by ‘blurring the lines between disinformation and media products containing independently verifiable facts’.

Growing concern in Europe raises pressure on social media companies

In Europe, reflecting the increased concern over the ‘fake news’ phenomenon, the European Parliament’s then-President, Martin Schulz, in December 2016 called for a European solution to the problem of fake news. Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President in charge of the digital single market as well as digital economy and society, said in January 2017 he was ‘worried’ about fake news, ‘especially after the elections in the United States’. He urged Facebook and other social media firms to boost their efforts to counter ‘fake news’, adding that self-regulatory measures in the sector could be complemented by ‘some kind of clarification’ from the EU. On 14 March, German Interior Minister, Heiko Maas, proposed imposing fines of up to €50 million on social media companies who fail to remove hate speech and ‘fake news’. Also in March, Sweden announced plans to boost the resilience of its society ahead of the 2018 general election. Fact-checking websites are currently mushrooming across the world, among others the pan-European fact-checking coalition CrossCheck. Although social media platforms have resisted being labelled as publishers, Facebook in December 2016 announced a tool that enables users to ‘flag’ fake news reports for review by third-party fact-checkers from the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN). The initiative cooperates with media outlets in EU Member States and became operational on 22 March 2017. There are also increasing calls, including from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, for children to be taught in schools how to spot fake news.

Increasing calls to strengthen the EU’s ‘myth-busting’ team

The European Council in 2015 asked the EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, to submit an action plan on strategic communication to address Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns. As a result, the EEAS’s East StratCom task force was set up in September 2015. Since then, the team – consisting of some ten people – has been working without its own budget, drawing on the existing EU strategic communication budget and staff from EU institutions and Member States. It relies heavily on volunteers to collect the disinformation stories (more than 2 500 examples in 18 languages since 2015) it presents and explains in its weekly newsletters, as part of its efforts.

The European Parliament, in its 23 November 2016 resolution on EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda, warned against Russian anti-EU propaganda, and called for reinforcement of the East StratCom task force, including through ‘proper staffing and adequate budgetary resources’.

A number of prominent European security experts, historians and lawmakers – including Members of the European Parliament –in an open letter of 21 March 2017 criticised Mogherini’s alleged ‘irresponsibly weak’ stance on Russia’s ‘brutally aggressive disinformation campaign’ (boosted by over €1 billion annually by the Kremlin). The signatories called for a budget in single million euros for the East Stratcom task force, ‘so it can start fulfilling its mandate.’ They added that ‘Europeans need to know by who and how they are being manipulated.’

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How to spot when news is fake

How to spot when news is fake

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/04/02/fake-news-and-the-eus-response/