Over this past weekend, policymakers, business leaders, academics and other like-minded professionals attended GLOBSEC’s annual Château Béla Summit. We’re delighted to provide you with some of the highlights from two days of stimulating and thought-provoking debate.
Future of Europe
Proceedings kicked off with introductory remarks from Philippe Étienne, Principal Foreign Policy & Diplomatic Advisor to the President, Office of the President of the French Republic. Two months on from Emmanuel Macron’s Sorbonne speech, he summarised how the French President plans to deliver on his vision for Europe and transatlantic relations and the positive responses he has received across the EU. He emphasised that, over the last decade, the EU has been unfortunately reactive, trying to fend off one crisis after another. However, ‘good weather’ policies are no longer a fit for Europe’s stormy landscape. As a result, many Europeans have started to lose faith in Europe.
To address both political sentiments and real governance issues, the continent needs a reinvigorated vision. Étienne reiterated that it is paramount that the EU does not just communicate a new vision but also delivers specific results and safeguards its citizens. To this end, Central and Eastern Europe is central to President Macron’s vision. Put simply, Europe can only fulfil its promises when it is fully united.
Emerging Security Cooperation: Defending the European Homeland
The fall of Mosul and Raqqa represent the end of the so-called Islamic State as we know it. Could the success of the Iraqi, coalition and Kurdish forces, however, spell trouble for Europe and the broader MENA as its foreign fighters return home? Is Europe ready to address the threat emanating from such returnees and other internal and external asymmetric challenges?
These were just some of the questions up for discussion during this session, which was led by the acclaimed British journalist Nik Gowing, with opening remarks from Kacper Rekawek, Head of Defence and Security Programme, GLOBSEC Policy Institute. This session was emphatic that the current terrorist threat is propelling EU integration forward, much like other crises. Indeed, even before French President Emmanuel Macron started talking about it, counterterrorism cooperation has been improving across Europe.
However, if this cooperation is to progress even further, some additional obstacles will need to be overcome by interested parties. These include a notable lack of trust among the continent’s counterterrorism bodies. In this respect, GLOBSEC’s call for a counterterrorism Centre of Excellence was held up as a possible new and effective framework for transatlantic cooperation on counterterrorism.
Yet the European homeland does not just require protection from terrorists. Counter-terrorism efforts must work to undermine the illicit systems and criminal financing which support terrorist efforts. Accordingly, law enforcement and intelligence agencies must take their fight to the crime-terror nexus, if we have any hope of rooting out domestic terror networks. If authorities can target effective prevention within marginalized communities, it will prevent many disaffected individuals with criminal links from turning to terror.
The Legoland of Europe: Multi-Speed or Multi-Shaped Union
This debate was chaired by Roland Freudenstein, Policy Director, Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies with additional remarks from Ivan Korčok, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic.
It set out to address many questions related to the future shape and trajectory of the European Union. There can be no denying that a decade of crises across Europe has provided significant ammunition for critics who want a complete overhaul of the European project. As the speakers saw it, this dispiriting legacy needs to be addressed with a comprehensive package of reforms. That said, the fundamental deficiency of the project is not faulty design, but rather that key elements of integration remain incomplete—namely the Single Market, Eurozone, and Schengen Agreement.
Moreover, debates concerning the final shape of the European project have been hampered by perceptions of, among other issues, a deep divide between the EU’s eastern and western flanks. The panellists affirmed, however, that perceptions of an east-west divide are overplayed and might even be an artificial construct. Yet, if the issue repeatedly makes its way onto agendas and into discussions, leaders will have no choice but to tackle the problem head on. This will require constructive approaches from all member states, including Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). In addition, the EU must demonstrate that it is capable of consistently delivering results for its citizens. Completing a fully-functioning Single Market – including its digital and services components – will be essential.
Future of Transatlantic Relations in Uncertain Times
This lunchtime session was hosted by Nicholas Burns, Director of the Aspen Strategy Group and former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. It highlighted that the United States and Europe are simultaneously facing their biggest crises since the end of the Cold War. Indeed, this multitude of challenges has the potential to shake the transatlantic partnership to its foundations.
Mass migration, a resurgent Russia under Vladimir Putin and the ‘self-inflicted’ wound of Brexit are among the leading issues shaping Europe’s politics and security. Conversely, concerns exist on the other side of the Atlantic regarding a US President that does not consider himself to be the leader of the Western world. In addition, prolonged internal struggles in both the Republican and Democratic Party, an ‘immobilised’ Republican-led Congress and a damaging investigation into the activities of the Trump administration merely add to the list of concerns.
The session emphasised that President Trump appears to be overturning more than 70 years of American orthodoxy in foreign policy. He is ambivalent regarding the importance and role of NATO, views the EU and NAFTA as competitors rather than strategic partners, and is sending mixed signals to allies in East Asia. At home, he has also turned the clock back to pre-1941 isolationism with his ‘America first’ vision and rhetoric.
It was also mentioned during this session that the US’ strong and stable political institutions will outlast the Trump presidency, as will their European counterparts. This bodes well for the future. Eventually, the two lungs of the West and transatlantic relationship will realign and embark on a common journey guided by a set of values more akin to the previous rather than 21st century.
Information War 2.0: From Trolls to Bots. How to Sustain Democracy?
Moderator Steve Clemons, Washington Editor-at-Large for The Atlantic, led this session on the latest trends and emerging challenges from the automation of information warfare. Daniel Milo, Senior Fellow, GLOBSEC Policy Institute, provided opening remarks on the research of the GLOBSEC Policy Institute Strategic Communication programme, laying out the current trends of information warfare targeting and existing societal vulnerabilities to disinformation.
From the outset, this session emphasised that while Russia’s disinformation activities are justifiably in the spotlight, the West must also pay equal attention to other state actors, most notably China. Participants emphasised that the use and impact of automation and bots is only going to increase over the years ahead. Policy proposals should not only acknowledge the potential for misuse, but also offer practical solutions for tackling an array of complex challenges associated with their use.
In addition to the activities of the abovementioned states, the session also outlined how Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data automation on social media could enable new possibilities for micro-targeted political messaging. The potential assault on democracy and democratic institutions should not be underestimated. What’s needed is out-of-the-box thinking, a whole of government approach and other significant resources to tackle digital disinformation in a systematic way.
Managing our Digital Future—Stability and Volatility in State Cyber Behavior
Jan Neutze, Director of Cyber Policy EMEA, Microsoft, hosted this dinner session and offered his thoughts on the emerging norms for state behaviour in cyberspace. Steve Clemmons, returning as moderator, offered further probing challenges about escalating state conflict and cyberspace and the threats posed to our national security.
Participants at the session had mixed opinions on whether nations could de-conflict the Internet and rein in their use of the web for surveillance, espionage, and sabotage. Some commented that the current state of relations could be compared to state behaviour prior to the nuclear non-proliferation agreements of the 1960’s. They also commented that states should work towards reaching an agreement that would limit the use of cyber weapons. While some would argue that certain nations might ‘cheat’ such an agreement, participants remarked that no such international agreement, for any weapon, achieved perfect compliance.
Others, however, had a none-too-optimistic prediction for state usage of cyberspace. Some participants argue that, with rapid digitalization and the Internet of Things, state vulnerability to cyber threats will only increase. Such a significant vulnerability is likely to drive a major lockdown of the inter-state interconnectedness. Some even suggested that the next generation of the Internet would have nations creating their own domestic internets, which would then have strictly defined abilities to connect to other national internets.
Most participants agreed, however, that current action, in either direction, was quite insufficient. Current conversation at the national and international levels has moved far too slowly. As governments delay action, the Internet will continue to change and grow– possibly into something we may not like.