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#Defence: MEPs urge member states to show political will and join forces

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EU DefenseIncreasing defence cooperation in the EU now depends more upon the political will to make it happen than upon legal considerations, say MEPs in a resolution approved by Parliament on Thursday (16 March). They stress that member states can and should use the treaty tools in place to build a truly common defence policy. 

MEPs want the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to be treated as sui generis EU institutions, like the EU External Action Service, and funded through a specific section in the Union budget.

Co-rapporteur Esteban González Pons (EPP, ES), on behalf of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, said "This is an ambitious and strategic report that comes at an opportune time, as the Security and Defence Union will be one of the top priorities in the Rome Declaration next week. There is also a general agreement that achieving a common defence is now more necessary than ever. In an unpredictable international climate, we need a common defence policy which reinforces unity, strategic autonomy and integration in order to promote peace and security inside the Union and in the world”.

Co-rapporteur Michael Gahler (EPP, DE), for the Foreign Affairs Committee, said "Member states permanently ignore the fact that the funding of the administrative and operating expenditures for EDA and PESCO from the Union budget is the only option under the Treaties. The decision of 6 March to start the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) was, however, a milestone on the way towards the European Defence Union. By establishing this new military capability, the member states have finally acted upon one of parliament’s longstanding demands, which we repeated in our report”.

The resolution, approved by 360 votes to 212, with 48 abstentions, underlines that developing an EU common defence policy depends, above all, on the political will of member states, given that the Lisbon Treaty already provides a sufficient framework for building a truly common defence policy.

Improved institutional framework

MEPs advocate establishing a “defence ministers” meeting format within the EU Council of Ministers. They also call for the EDA’s political backing and resources to be strengthened, and encourage EU countries to join PESCO as soon as possible.

The resolution argues that the EU Battlegroup system should be brought under PESCO, alongside the creation of a permanent civilian and military headquarters. This would enhance civil-military cooperation and the EU’s ability to react speedily to crises, MEPs say.

Increased defence expenditure

Parliament also considers it essential to increase national defence expenditure to 2% of GDP, stressing that this would mean finding an extra €100 billion for defence by the end of the coming decade. Extra money should be channelled to research and development as well as to strategic cooperative programmes, where the EU could help, the text adds.

Future EU-UK relations

Finally, the resolution underlines the need for further reflection on future relations between the EU and UK, particularly in the field of military capabilities, should the UK decide to leave the Union.

Background

This resolution aims to clarify the European Parliament’s position on the future of EU defence policies, in time for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. It explores possibilities for deepening EU-wide defence cooperation within the framework of the current Lisbon Treaty.

Defence

Kremlin says NATO membership for Ukraine would be 'red line'

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The Kremlin said on Thursday (17 June) that Ukrainian membership of NATO would be a "red line" for Moscow and that it was worried by talk that Kyiv may one day be granted a membership action plan, write Anton Zverev and Tom Balmforth, Reuters.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the remarks a day after US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in Geneva. Peskov said the summit had been positive overall.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday (14 June) that he wanted a clear "yes" or "no" from Biden on giving Ukraine a plan to join the NATO. Read more.

Biden said Ukraine needed to root out corruption and to meet other criteria before it could join.

Peskov said Moscow was following the situation closely.

"This is something we are watching very closely and this really is a red line for us - as regards the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO," Peskov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

"Of course, this (the question of a membership plan for Ukraine) raises our concerns," he said.

Peskov said that Moscow and Washington agreed at the Geneva summit that they needed to holds talks on arms control as soon as possible.

Biden and Putin agreed at the summit to embark on regular negotiations to try to lay the groundwork for future arms control agreements and risk reduction measures.

Russia's deputy foreign minister said earlier on Thursday (17 June) that Moscow expected those talks with Washington to start within weeks. He made the comments in a newspaper interview that was published on the foreign ministry's website on Thursday.

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Defence

When it comes to online extremism, Big Tech is still our main problem

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Over the past two months, lawmakers in the UK and Europe have introduced a number of major new bills aimed at curbing the malicious role that Big Tech plays in the spread of extremist and terrorist content online, writes Counter Extremism Executive Director Project David Ibsen.

In this new legislative climate, social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, who for years have been complacent, if not deliberately negligent, in policing their platforms, are finally beginning to come under pressure. Unsurprisingly, their belated efforts to appease governments through self-regulatory initiatives such as Digital Trust and Safety Partnership are already giving way to a search for scapegoats.

Lately, Big Tech advocates have begun to promote the idea that extremist and terrorist content online remains an issue solely for smaller social media sites and alternative encrypted platforms. While tackling extremism and terrorism on smaller and alternative sites is certainly worth getting ahead of, the overall narrative here is more than a little convenient for Silicon Valley and flawed in a number of crucial respects.

The spread of extremist and terrorist material remains a big problem for Big Tech. In the first place, we are not yet anywhere near the promised land of a mainstream social media environment free of extremist messaging. Far from Big Tech leading the way in content moderation, a study of media responsibility published in February of this year found that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are being significantly outpaced by smaller platforms in their efforts to eliminate harmful posts.

In the same month, CEP researchers discovered an extensive cache of ISIS content on Facebook, including executions, exhortations to commit acts of violence, and combat footage, which had been completely ignored by moderators.

This week, with rates of antisemitic violence surging across the US and Europe, CEP has once again identified explicit neo-Nazi content across a host of mainstream platforms including YouTube, Facebook-owned Instagram, and Twitter.

Secondly, even in an imagined future where extremist communications take place primarily through decentralised platforms, extremist groups would still be reliant on some form of connection to mainstream outlets to grow their ideological support base and recruit new members.

Every story of radicalisation starts somewhere and regulating Big Tech is the greatest step we could possibly take to prevent ordinary citizens from being drawn down extremist rabbit holes.

And while dangerous and hateful content can flow more freely on unmoderated sites, extremists and terrorists still desire access to large, mainstream platforms. The near ubiquitous nature of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others offer extremists the ability to reach broader audiences—to either terrify or recruit as many people as possible. For instance, Christchurch killer Brenton Tarrant, who took to live streaming his atrocities on Facebook Live, had his attack video re-uploaded more than 1.5 million times.

Whether it’s jihadists seeking to ignite a worldwide caliphate or neo-Nazis trying to start a race war, the goal of terrorism today is to capture attention, inspire like-minded extremists, and destabilise societies to the greatest extent possible.

To this end, the amplificatory effects of major social media channels simply cannot be underestimated. It is one thing for an extremist to communicate to a small group of ideological cohorts on an obscure encrypted network. It is something entirely different for them to share their propaganda with hundreds of millions of people on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

It would be no exaggeration to say that preventing the latter from happening through effective regulation of Big Tech would help to fundamentally tackle modern terrorism and prevent extremists and terrorists from attaining a mainstream audience.

The increasing decentralisation of online extremism is an important issue that lawmakers must deal with, but anyone who brings it up to try and obscure the importance of regulating Big Tech simply does not have the public’s best interest at heart.

David Ibsen serves as executive director for the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), which works to combat the growing threat of extremist ideology particularly by exposing extremists’ misuse of financial, business, and communications networks. CEP uses the latest communications and technological tools to identify and counter extremist ideology and recruitment online.

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EU can be €2 trillion better off by 2030 if cross-border data transfers are secured

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DigitalEurope, the leading trade association representing digitally transforming industries in Europe and which has long list of corporate members including Facebook are calling for an overhaul of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). A new study commissioned by the lobby shows that policy decisions on international data transfers now will have significant effects on growth and jobs across the whole European economy by 2030, impacting Europe’s Digital Decade goals.

Overall, Europe could be €2 trillion better off by the end of the Digital Decade if we reverse current trends and harness the power of international data transfers. This is roughly the size of the entire Italian economy any given year. The majority of the pain in our negative scenario would be self-inflicted (around 60%). The effects of the EU’s own policy on data transfers, under the GDPR and as part of the data strategy, outweigh those of restrictive measures taken by our major trade partners. All sectors and sizes of the economy are impacted across all Member States. Data-reliant sectors make up around half of EU GDP. In terms of exports, manufacturing is likely to be hit the hardest by restrictions on data flows. This is a sector where SMEs make up a quarter of all exports. "Europe stands at a crossroads. It can either set the right framework for the Digital Decade now and facilitate the international data flows that are vital to its economic success, or it can slowly follow its current trend and move towards data protectionism. Our study shows that we could be missing out on around €2 trillion worth of growth by 2030, the same size as the Italian economy. The growth of the digital economy and the success of European companies is dependent on the ability to transfer data. This is especially so when we note that already in 2024, 85 per cent of the world’s GDP growth is expected to come from outside the EU. We urge policymakers to use the GDPR data transfer mechanisms as it was intended, namely to facilitate – not to hinder – international data flows, and to work towards a rule-based agreement on data flows at the WTO." Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl
Director General of DIGITALEUROPE
Read the full report here Policy recommendations
The EU should: Uphold the viability of GDPR transfer mechanisms, for example: standard contractual clauses, adequacy decisions Safeguard international data transfers in the data strategy Prioritise securing a deal on data flows as part of the WTO eCommerce negotiations
Key findings
In our negative scenario, which reflects our current path, Europe could miss out on: €1.3 trillion extra growth by 2030, the equivalent to the size of the Spanish economy; € 116 billion exports annually, the equivalent to Sweden’s exports outside the EU, or those of the ten smallest countries of the EU combined; and 3 million jobs. In our optimistic scenario, the EU stands to gain: €720 billion extra growth by 2030 or 0.6 per cent GDP per year; €60 billion exports per year, over half coming from manufacturing; and 700,000 jobs, many of which are highly skilled. The difference between these two scenarios is €2 trillion in terms of GDP for the EU economy by the end of the Digital Decade. The sector that stands to lose the most is manufacturing, suffering a loss of €60 billion in exports. Proportionately, media, culture, finance, ICT and most business services, such as consulting, stand to lose the most – about 10 per cent of their exports. However, these same sectors are those that stand to gain the most should we manage to change our current direction. A majority (around 60 per cent) of the EU’s export losses in the negative scenario come from an increase in its own restrictions rather than from third countries’ actions. Data localisation requirements could also hurt sectors that do not participate heavily in international trade, such as healthcare. Up to a quarter of inputs into the provision of healthcare consist of data-reliant products and services. In the major sectors affected, SMEs account for around a third (manufacturing) and two-thirds (services such as finance or culture) of turnover. Exports by data-reliant manufacturing SMEs in the EU are worth around €280 billion. In the negative scenario, exports from EU SMEs would fall by €14 billion, while in the growth scenario they would increase by €8 Data transfers will be worth at least €3 trillion to the EU economy by 2030. This is a conservative estimate because the model’s focus is international trade. Restrictions on internal data flows, e.g. internationally within the same company, mean this figure is likely much higher.
More information on the study
The study looks at two realistic scenarios, closely aligned with current policy debates. The first, ‘negative’ scenario (referred to throughout the study as the ‘challenge scenario’) takes into account current restrictive interpretations of the Schrems II ruling from the Court of Justice of the EU, whereby data transfer mechanisms under the GDPR are made largely unusable. It also takes into account an EU data strategy that places restrictions on the transfers of non-personal data abroad. Further afield, it considers a situation where major trade partners tighten restrictions on the flow of data, including through data localisation. The study identifies sectors in the EU that rely heavily on data, and calculates the impact of restrictions to cross-border transfers on the EU economy up to 2030. These digitising sectors, across a variety of industries and business sizes, including a large proportion of SMEs, make up half of EU GDP.
Read the full report here

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