The other side of War: disinformation

Ricardo de Macedo Menna Barreto (Guest Professor at the University of Minho Law School) 
 

Last Tuesday, March 8, 2022, during a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Josep Borrell, EU diplomacy chief, warned that the Russian government will systematically lie about Ukraine’s military situation. At his intervention, Borrell defended that: “(…)accompany Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, spreading false information among their own population about why this invasion has taken place and what is the situation in Ukraine(…) it not just bombing houses, infrastructure, the bodies of the people; they are bombing their minds, they are bombing their spirits”.[1] The EU diplomacy chief underlines a problem that, in his opinion, is getting worse as our lifetime goes by: the daily battle in the informational field. A battle whose main characteristic is the manipulation of information, a particular form of abuse of power, that is, of social domain. According to Teun van Dijk, manipulation is a form of illegitimate influence, achieved through discourse, in which manipulators make the manipulated believe in (or even do) things that are of special interest to the manipulator (and usually against the interests of the manipulated). In this sense, we can consider discursive manipulation as a complex social phenomenon, involving interaction and abuse of power (domination) between certain groups and social actors. It is also a complex phenomenon, taking into account that it presents itself in two ways: a) as a cognitive phenomenon, since it implies manipulation of the participants’ minds; b) as a discursive-semiotic phenomenon, since it can be expressed in the form of text, conversation or visual messages.[2]   

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Editorial of March 2022

By Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editor)

Europe and war

They do not know that dreams are a constant of life

As concrete and defined as any other thing (…)

They neither know nor dream that dreams command life![1]

(António Gedeão)

The history of European integration is made up of moments of war, manifestations of collective irrationality, and the permanent reaction to and overcoming of such instances. In fact, Europe itself, “the daughter of mythology and war”, was gradually built as a stage for violent and disastrous wars and, simultaneously, for virtuous and great conquests.[2]

The success of this 71-year-long integration can be illustrated by the fact that we are dramatically surprised by Russia’s war against Ukraine! European integration was born out of the debris of World War II, trying to permanently bury it. Its great merit was, after all, and as Jean Monnet said, to try to unite Men, more than to unite States.[3] Thus, we have been living in the illusion that the supreme inhumanity and irrationality of war would be definitively overcome. At least, on the European continent (not only in the European Union) and among sovereign states.

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Editorial of February 2022

By Sandra Fernandes (Professor at UMinho - School of Management and Economics /Researcher of the CICP)

Making the Europeans visible again: on the Ukrainian-Russian crisis

The world has its eyes turned to the uncertain faith of Ukraine, a country whose geopolitical situation has settled as an “in-between” State in post-soviet Europe. Since the annexation-reintegration of Crimea in 2014, and the war in Donbass and Luhansk, Kiev has de facto lost sovereignty over parts of its territory. The growing mobilization of Russian military resources at the Ukrainian border since 2021 has escalated the crisis, together with straightforward Russian demands on a new security pact for Europe with less NATO.

In this context, the media have been underlying that the European Union (EU) and the Ukrainians themselves are the noticeable absents from the tentative dialogues amid the diplomatic iron arm that is ongoing between Washington and Moscow. How to make sense of this apparent void? A few days ago, the words of the High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, helped us in addressing this question.

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The EU and geopolitical Europe: from Belarus to Nagorno-Karabakh

by Sandra Fernandes (Professor at UMinho/Researcher of the CICP)

Two years ago, I commented on the gloomy prospects for the engagement of the European Union (EU) in its Eastern (and Southern) neighbourhood. Looking East, the challenges for the EU were “closely related to the degradation of the relations with Russia and to the unsatisfying deliveries of the European Neighbourhood Policy in the partner countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine)”. Current developments in most of these countries take this observation to a higher level of seriousness. From the societal upheaval in Belarus to the existence of overt violent conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, the EU sees unrest in all its Eastern vicinity. In parallel, relations with Moscow have not happening in any way that could be considered positive dialogue.

In this context, and considering the democratic revindications of the Belarus people, much is awaited from a big neighbour that defends liberal values and the respect for the United Nations Charter. Brussels is expected to act in order to support the will of an oppressed population, mostly as the use of violence by the Lukashenko regime against its own population has been internationally condemned. So far, the Union has adopted sanctions against individuals directly involved in repression and intimidation and built plans for economic support for a democratic Belarus. The most visible stance consists in the non-recognition of the presidential election results of August 9.

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The EU and its neighbourhood: engagement without enlargement?

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 by Sandra Fernandes, Professor at UMinho/Researcher of the CICP

Taking a rapid glance at the EU immediate neighbourhood, both Eastward and Southward, the prospects do not look very positive. Since the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in March 2014 and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, both the relations with Moscow and with the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) have not produced the desired results. The EaP was designed in 2009 to boost the 2004 European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and improve convergence with the EU standards, offering approximation without a clear enlargement schedule. On the Southern border of the Mediterranean, the unfulfilled expectations of the Arab Springs and the war in Syria have exposed the lack of effects of the Barcelona Process and have put under serious crisis the ability of the Union to respond to unprecedented migration flows. The Process launched in 1995 has been updated since then into the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Euromed) and later, in 2008, into the Union for the Mediterranean. The ENP added to this political format from 2004 onwards.

Bulgaria has just assumed the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the next six months, as a Southern member state having EU external borders with both the Balkans and Turkey. Taking into considerations some of this Presidency’s priorities, we explore here the major challenges that the EU external action has to face in order to impact on stabilisation in its European vicinity, looking at both the Balkan countries and the Eastern neighbours. For that purpose, we put under perspective the effectiveness of EU past and present policies and the current state-of-play in these neighbourhing countries.
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