For a Free and Secure Europe - EU Military Defence
For a Free and Secure Europe - Cybersecurity
For a Free and Secure Europe - Fake News
Under the heading ‘For a Free and Secure Europe’ the European Liberal Forum (ELF), with support of VVD International and the Institute for Politics and Society, has brought together politicians, representatives from civil society and liberal think tanks from Western, Central and Southeastern Europe and the United States, in a series of seminars and round tables to exchange knowledge and best practices on how to offer a global perspective on keeping European citizens both secure and free. This event, held on November 1, 2019, in Prague, featured panel discussions on EU military defense, cybersecurity, and fake news.
The main speakers were Martin Riegl (Director of the Defence Policy Department, Ministry of Defence), Tomáš Kučera (Assistant Professor, Department of Security Studies, Charles University), Ondřej Malý (former Deputy Minister for the Internetisation, Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic), Tomáš Flídr (cybersecurity expert, Deloitte) and Roman Máca (analyst of IPPS). The discussion was moderated by Roman Máca and the participants were welcomed by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of IPPS, Jan Macháček.
In the first panel, the speakers were to discuss the importance of EU military defense in the contemporary world, then if a strong military in EU is necessary to keep European citizens both free and secure, whether EU should expand its objectives and priorities to address new threats and whether EU member states should invest more in their military.
Martin Riegl expressed the opinion that the fact that EU started to perceive security and defense as a high priority matter was caused by the current situation of Europe surrounded by a number of crisis on its very borders. Another factor was Donald Trump becoming a US president, as he emphasizes the importance of military investments. He then said that because most of EU member states are also members of NATO, we can talk about EU as a part of this superior military alliance. Being precisely and effectively systematized, NATO ensures that EU is relatively safe at the moment. He gave a positive opinion about higher investments into the military when speaking about individual members but a formation of a European army is not the topic of the day.
According to Tomáš Kučera, the term ‘European army‘ is not clearly defined and, therefore, it is difficult to discuss it. Consequently, he suggests talking about European military integration rather than the European army. European military integration would represent an institution of which one of the main goals would be the integration of international institutions into European military policy. Nevertheless, we must still perceive any function of European military integration as only support and addition for NATO. Being part of this international military alliance is still crucial for the EU. When asked an opinion on the V4 group, he said that even though its primal goal has already been completed (its members became members of EU and NATO), it can still exist as an example of positive subregional cooperation.
As for the second panel, the speakers were to discuss the importance of cybersecurity, then whether EU needs to expand its activities to address cyber warfare, whether cyber strikes by foreign governments constitute an act of war, and whether the EU residents should trade in parts of their privacy for more cybersecurity.
Ondřej Malý emphasized recent pervasion of the Internet into a number of areas in our lives and the rising number of devices that we connect to the Internet on a daily basis. For that reason, the problematics of security is relevant, especially in a world where most of the routers we use are coming from China and where Chinese companies substantially contribute to the formation of the digital market. As for EU expansion of activities to address cyber warfare, Ondřej Malý said that it could definitely be helpful; on the other hand, we must remember how EU stands in taking decisions and reacting in time. About cyber strikes by foreign governments, he expressed certain doubts about how a state should react in such a situation. If we start perceiving cyber strikes as acts of war, it will be necessary to determine the steps of retaliation.
Tomáš Flídr agreed that the importance of cybersecurity is getting serious with the rising number of Internet-connected devices. Also, a lot of data that we would store locally in the past are now stored somewhere in cloud; Flídr gave an example of industrial control systems that control whole factories, electricity distributions, etc. Cyber strikes in this area would endanger the provision of fundamental needs of societies. He then thinks that it is primarily us who should expand our activities to address cyber warfare, not EU. This should be reflected on various levels: ministry, companies, and individuals. As for the problematics of cyber strikes by foreign governments perceived as acts of war, he mentioned that there is already an existing document, Tallinn manual from 2013, that defines the attributes of a cyber strike that should be seen that way. The real problem is attribution: we have many recent examples such as cyber strikes in Iran or Ukraine. It is widely known who is behind these attacks and still, there was not a single state accused and charged.
In the third panel, the speaker Roman Máca focused on the problematics of fake news. He was to explain whether fake news represents a major threat for democracies, then whether the European Commission for tackling online disinformation is an effective way to combat fake news and disinformation, how dangerous fake news and misinformation is in the contemporary world and if social media companies should be held responsible when fake news is posted or spread on their platforms.
According to Roman Máca, the problematics of fake news is a serious problem nowadays. He opened his speech illustrated with a presentation in the background by showing a couple of internet articles that claimed that the Slavjansk town in Ukraine is, in fact, a massive concentration camp where horrible things were happening every day. Roman Máca has actually visited that place many times before and he has never seen anything but a normal town where thousands of Ukrainians live a normal life. But there are many people that will believe this article and, for that reason, they will most likely become pro-Russian in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Máca then showed results of several surveys to demonstrate the main problem of the recent Internet: in the last 10 years, the number of social media users has been rising as well as the number of relatively older people with a lower media literacy. This significantly contributes to the spreading of fake news and the creation of new portals where disinformation or entirely made-up news originate. With a massive spreading of this type of news, the general atmosphere and opinions become easily manipulatable which can be seriously dangerous. He thinks that social media companies should regulate the content that is shared on their platforms not just because of social responsibility but also because of the maintenance of safe virtual space that influences their business success.