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The impact of coronavirus on media freedom

08-05-2020

Media freedom has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent years. In its 2019 report on media freedom, Freedom House argued that media freedom around the world was coming under growing threat both in democratic and non-democratic countries, whilst in its 2020 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) argue that the next decade will be pivotal in ensuring the preservation of media freedom. This threat to media freedom is often attributed to the recent rise of ...

Media freedom has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent years. In its 2019 report on media freedom, Freedom House argued that media freedom around the world was coming under growing threat both in democratic and non-democratic countries, whilst in its 2020 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) argue that the next decade will be pivotal in ensuring the preservation of media freedom. This threat to media freedom is often attributed to the recent rise of populist and authoritarian governments, with many world-leaders – including leaders of major democracies – increasingly seeming to view free media as an opponent, rather than a fundamental aspect of a free society. The knock-on effects of such actions can be grave, particularly given the important role that a free media plays in upholding democracy and democratic freedoms. Media freedom and pluralism are part of the rights and principles enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to have significant ramifications for public health, social welfare and the economy, the crisis also presents a significant threat to media freedom. Media freedom proponents have warned that governments across the world could use the coronavirus emergency as a pretext for the implementation of new, draconian restrictions on free expression, as well as to increase press censorship. In many countries, the crisis has been exploited for just such reasons, with political leaders using it as a justification for additional restrictions on media freedom. In its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, RSF argues that certain governments have used the crisis to impose media restrictions that in ordinary times would be impossible. The Council of Europe (CoE) Platform for the Protection of Journalists has warned that the fresh assault on media freedom amid the Covid 19 pandemic has worsened an already gloomy media freedom outlook.

The EU's global response to coronavirus

15-04-2020

The magnitude of the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic is still unknown. But it is already clear that developed countries are being severely challenged by the crisis, and that many health-care systems around the world are under-resourced for dealing with a problem of this magnitude. The effects around the world in a wide range of linked areas – economy, political stability, security, human rights – are gradually surfacing as the pandemic spreads, and are likely to affect the global geopolitical ...

The magnitude of the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic is still unknown. But it is already clear that developed countries are being severely challenged by the crisis, and that many health-care systems around the world are under-resourced for dealing with a problem of this magnitude. The effects around the world in a wide range of linked areas – economy, political stability, security, human rights – are gradually surfacing as the pandemic spreads, and are likely to affect the global geopolitical balance. Against this backdrop, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borrell, have set out the EU's global response to the pandemic. Council and Commission statements on the EU’s coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences are scheduled for the European Parliament's plenary session on 16-17 April 2020.

The EU's response to coronavirus in its neighbourhood and beyond

15-04-2020

The true extent of the evolving coronavirus pandemic within the EU and across the world is still unclear, and the magnitude of the consequences is not known either. What is clear, however, is that the healthcare systems of many countries across the world are underfunded, and that even developed countries are severely challenged by the health crisis. Moreover, the socio-economic impact of the crisis across the world will likely be grave, while the multiple crises related to the pandemic – including ...

The true extent of the evolving coronavirus pandemic within the EU and across the world is still unclear, and the magnitude of the consequences is not known either. What is clear, however, is that the healthcare systems of many countries across the world are underfunded, and that even developed countries are severely challenged by the health crisis. Moreover, the socio-economic impact of the crisis across the world will likely be grave, while the multiple crises related to the pandemic – including the global infodemic – may have lasting effects on the global geopolitical balance. Against this backdrop, on 8 April 2020 the European Commission and the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) presented a proposal for a strong and targeted EU response to help partner countries cope with the pandemic, as outlined in a joint communication. In its response, the EU is adopting a 'Team Europe' approach, combining resources from the EU, its Member States and financial institutions. The collective package of €15.6 billion is to help here and now, but also has a longer-term perspective. It will focus on addressing the pressing health crisis and resulting humanitarian needs, bolstering partner countries' health, water and sanitation systems and their research and preparedness capacities to deal with the pandemic, as well as mitigating the impact on societies and economies. This should also help to reduce the risk of destabilisation. The EU's financial support for the countries covered by European Neighbourhood Policy will amount to €3.07 billion: €2.1 billion for the southern neighbourhood, and €962 million for the eastern neighbourhood. Moreover, €800 million will support the six western Balkan countries and Turkey. As a long-standing major international aid contributor, the EU will promote and lead a coordinated multilateral response, together with the United Nations (UN), international financial institutions, and the G7 and the G20.

Countering the health 'infodemic'

07-04-2020

The dissemination of mis- and disinformation in traditional media and on social media has surged in recent years, with wide-ranging consequences in various policy areas – from elections to geopolitics to healthcare. The prevalence of false information regarding health issues threatens to undermine trust in official health advice and institutions responsible for countering threats to public health, potentially posing a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of individuals, a threat exacerbated ...

The dissemination of mis- and disinformation in traditional media and on social media has surged in recent years, with wide-ranging consequences in various policy areas – from elections to geopolitics to healthcare. The prevalence of false information regarding health issues threatens to undermine trust in official health advice and institutions responsible for countering threats to public health, potentially posing a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of individuals, a threat exacerbated in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 foreign influence campaigns: Europe and the global battle of narratives

06-04-2020

The global health crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic – which is currently hitting EU Member States, not least Italy and Spain, particularly hard – raises concern that a combination of disinformation and heavily promoted health diplomacy, echoed by local proxies in Europe, could potentially pave the way for wider influence in other sectors in the wake of the crisis. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initially concealed information about the spread of the virus. Research suggests that they thereby ...

The global health crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic – which is currently hitting EU Member States, not least Italy and Spain, particularly hard – raises concern that a combination of disinformation and heavily promoted health diplomacy, echoed by local proxies in Europe, could potentially pave the way for wider influence in other sectors in the wake of the crisis. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initially concealed information about the spread of the virus. Research suggests that they thereby delayed measures to alleviate the spread of the disease. At the same time, the CCP launched far-reaching efforts to silence domestic criticism. The CCP's efforts to restore Beijing's tainted image both at home and abroad include attempts to export the blame for the virus via a wave of conspiracy theories, in a move that seems to be inspired by the Kremlin's well-known tactics. At the same time, Beijing has launched a highly visible global aid offensive, providing expertise, test kits and other essential medical equipment – not all of it for free, contrary to the CCP's media offensive – to a number of countries, including in Europe. Both Moscow and Beijing seem to be driving parallel information campaigns, conveying the overall message that democratic state actors are failing and that European citizens cannot trust their health systems, whereas their authoritarian systems can save the world. Meanwhile, the EU – which has taken significant steps to help citizens both in the EU and beyond – has acknowledged the geopolitical components in what has been dubbed the 'politics of generosity', and is preparing to protect Europe against the next stage in these influence operations.

Georgia: Challenges and uncertainties for 2020

04-03-2020

Georgia is gearing up for parliamentary elections in October 2020. The 'Georgian Dream' party, in charge since 2012, has strived to implement the reforms called for in the Association Agreement with the EU. However, the government has failed to fulfil its promise on electoral reforms and is facing mounting opposition. The High Representative (HR/VP) is expected to make a statement on Georgia during the March I plenary part-session.

Georgia is gearing up for parliamentary elections in October 2020. The 'Georgian Dream' party, in charge since 2012, has strived to implement the reforms called for in the Association Agreement with the EU. However, the government has failed to fulfil its promise on electoral reforms and is facing mounting opposition. The High Representative (HR/VP) is expected to make a statement on Georgia during the March I plenary part-session.

Ukraine: The Minsk agreements five years on

04-03-2020

Six years after the beginning of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the Minsk peace agreements to end the fighting have yielded limited results. Despite some progress in late 2019 – including prisoner swaps and new peace talks – fighting in eastern Ukraine continues.

Six years after the beginning of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the Minsk peace agreements to end the fighting have yielded limited results. Despite some progress in late 2019 – including prisoner swaps and new peace talks – fighting in eastern Ukraine continues.

Religion and the EU's external policies: Increasing engagement

12-02-2020

Religion has been emerging as a new dimension in the EU's external policies. This paper provides an overview of the principles, institutional set-up and policies underpinning the EU's approach to religious issues in third countries. Nine case studies meanwhile serve to illustrate the important role played by religion in the foreign policies of a number of different countries worldwide.

Religion has been emerging as a new dimension in the EU's external policies. This paper provides an overview of the principles, institutional set-up and policies underpinning the EU's approach to religious issues in third countries. Nine case studies meanwhile serve to illustrate the important role played by religion in the foreign policies of a number of different countries worldwide.

Azerbaijan ahead of the parliamentary elections

06-02-2020

Azerbaijan is an authoritarian country in the southern Caucasus. Part of the Eastern Partnership, Azerbaijan has attempted to keep a pragmatic balance between the European Union (EU) and Russia. Rich in oil and natural gas, Baku's poor human rights record and consistent failure to hold free and fair elections have continued to hamper its ties with the EU. The 9 February 2020 snap elections in the wake of abrupt top-down reforms in late 2019 are not expected to substantially change the country's leadership ...

Azerbaijan is an authoritarian country in the southern Caucasus. Part of the Eastern Partnership, Azerbaijan has attempted to keep a pragmatic balance between the European Union (EU) and Russia. Rich in oil and natural gas, Baku's poor human rights record and consistent failure to hold free and fair elections have continued to hamper its ties with the EU. The 9 February 2020 snap elections in the wake of abrupt top-down reforms in late 2019 are not expected to substantially change the country's leadership or its overall (geo-)political orientation.

The sharp power of knowledge: Foreign authoritarian meddling in academia

06-12-2019

The visibility of, and focus on, authoritarian hybrid threats – a mix of conventional and non-conventional hostile activities to undermine democracies – is increasing. Techniques and technologies keep evolving, and a growing number of authoritarian actors are adopting and adapting different tools to further their agendas. In this context, 'soft power' exerted through academic institutions and universities can become a 'sharp' hybrid tool, undermining academic independence and further eroding trust ...

The visibility of, and focus on, authoritarian hybrid threats – a mix of conventional and non-conventional hostile activities to undermine democracies – is increasing. Techniques and technologies keep evolving, and a growing number of authoritarian actors are adopting and adapting different tools to further their agendas. In this context, 'soft power' exerted through academic institutions and universities can become a 'sharp' hybrid tool, undermining academic independence and further eroding trust in facts and science.

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