Estonia, Lithuania, UK, Denmark call for EU action on Russian information warfare; Latvia refuses to join

  • 2015-01-15
  • from wire reports, RIGA

The Estonian, Lithuanian, Danish and British Foreign Ministers will submit a joint letter to the European Union High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini, proposing to put together an action plan to tackle Russian propaganda, Postimees Online reports.

Estonian Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond have prepared proposals to be presented to Mogherini before the Jan 19 Foreign Affairs Council meeting, where European Union foreign ministers will discuss the EU-Russia relations.

The foreign ministers note in the working paper that Russia has recently intensified its campaign to spread misinformation and propaganda in order to find both domestic and foreign support for its political and military objectives.

The foreign ministers say that such disinformation campaign is on a large scale and uses the state-controlled television, as well as "internet trolls".

"The aim is to discredit the European narratives, reduce support for legitimate governments, demoralize local population, mislead Western policymakers and ridicule the free, independent and pluralistic media concept. The campaign spreads the message that Russia is the victim of Western conspiracy and Western countries aim to repress Russia," says the letter, which bears the signatures of the four ministers.

The foreign ministers offer a series of proposals for confronting Russian propaganda.

Among other things, they call for the European Union to start a discussion on the highest level, on what to do about the Russian propaganda. For example, they propose to organize the Eurobarometer surveys in all Member States, in order to analyze the resilience of public to information manipulation.

Also, they recommend creating a pan-European media platform, such as a website where experts, politicians, analysts and activists are able to draw attention to cases of manipulation of information and analyze them. Cooperation between Member States and the exchange of information in this area should be increased. Reliable information should reach those who are using Russian state-controlled media as their main information source. Also, the awareness of European media organizations of dangers of information manipulation has to be increased.

Latvia, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, did not join the other two Baltic countries in signing the document. However, Latvia's foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, denied that the country was afraid to do so. 

When asked at a closed meeting of the Latvian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee for the reasons why Latvia had not signed the proposal to respond to Russia's information war, Rinkevics said that Latvia will "focus on the ideas in these documents" during its presidency.

"Our opinions are in line with these four countries, of course. The presidency, if it wants, can implement ideas and coordinate further measures in various ways, as well as make sure that these ideas manifest themselves in specific decisions and issues. This is not a story about Latvia being afraid of something or lacking an attitude," Rinkevics said.

"It is possible to sign anything, but it is important to understand that the opportunities to solve these issues within six months are very limited," Rinkevics admitted.

Meanwhile, the British Minister of State for Europe, David Lidlington put Latvia's decision not to join Great Britain and the other Baltic countries as being partly due to its current presidency and the associated functions. 

He also said that other countries ought to be more active in dealing with problems related to Russia's information warfare, including so-called Internet "trolls" who try to affect the flow of information on social networks. Lidington said that special attention should be paid to Ukraine's information space in order to inform its citizens about its relations with the EU, including the Association Agreement, and the benefits of this.