A Framework for Networked Defence
FOREWORD BY HIGH REPRESENTATIVE/VICE PRESIDENT JOSEP BORRELL
In November 2021, when I presented the “Strategic Compass”, I said that “Europe is in danger”. This was before the start of the two deadly wars that are currently unfolding on our borders and dominating the European agenda: Russia’s full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine and the war that flared up once again in the Middle East.
Our geopolitical situation has changed profoundly in recent years, and with it, the nature of some of the threats we face.
One of these is Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference (FIMI): Foreign actors, who engage in intentional, strategic and coordinated attempts to manipulate facts, to confuse, sow division, fear and hatred. FIMI is closely connected to both hybrid threats and cyber threats and has become a crucial component of modern-day warfare.
The most obvious example is Russia – using FIMI as a tool in its war of aggression against Ukraine and in efforts to justify its war around the world. However, other actors also engage in the intentional manipulation of public conversations, to achieve their own political and economic goals.
FIMI poses a major threat to liberal democracies, which rely on free and open information. If information is manipulated, our society and the way we engage in public debate cannot work. If information becomes toxic, democracy cannot work.
This is a problem we need to address, inside the EU and together with our partners.
This is why, when we created the Strategic Compass, we made countering FIMI one of its goals. Throughout my mandate, I have invested considerably in this area, working closely with all EU institutions, the EU Member States, our international partners and civil society organisations. We have pioneered new approaches and instruments, which culminated in the development of our FIMI Toolbox to effectively address the threat.
This Second EEAS Report on Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference (FIMI) threats sheds light on the current threat landscape, based on 750 investigated FIMI incidents. It raises questions about effective countermeasures and sets out a comprehensive response framework, helping all stakeholders in cooperating more effectively in fighting information manipulation.
The report identifies Ukraine as the primary target of FIMI activities, underscoring the need to intensify countermeasures.
It also illustrates the diversity of FIMI’s reach, describing attacks on institutions such as the EU or NATO, key media outlets, or individuals, such as politicians and celebrities.
FIMI activities often capitalise on already existing attention around significant events, such as elections. 2024 is a critical year for democracy. All over the world, about two billion people will be asked to cast a vote, including to elect the next European Parliament in June 2024. In light of this, this report also suggests measures and actions to prepare and protect societies against potential information manipulation and interference in elections.
The battle against FIMI is a matter of European security. It is one of the battles of our times. And with the tools we are developing, it is a battle that can be won.
Read more: EEAS