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Countering Foreign Interference project at the 2023 State of the Union conference

05 May 2023
Speaker at podium and panellists sitting on chairs in front of banners with the name of the conference © EUI

On 5 May 2023, the EUISS CFI project organised a partners’ panel at the State of the Union conference hosted by the European University Institute in Florence.

The event represented an opportunity to discuss how foreign information manipulation and interference (FIMI) impacts the European Union and its Member States.

The panel found that: 

  • Social media has become instrumental in using foreign interference tools to amplify manipulated messages, targeting audiences across societies and regions. Amongst others, in the context of the Russian war in Ukraine, FIMI actors have utilised personification of media sources as a technique.
  • While FIMI has been a growing threat for years, Russia’s growing aggression, as well as intensified tensions with China, have heightened its impact and made it more salient than before. Even though the war sparked numerous FIMI incidents, the panel discussed how foreign interference, as a set of intentional coordinated actions, is a part of broader long-term efforts aimed at undermining democracy, security and stability.   
  • The panel emphasised that multiple actors are engaged in developing new ways to counter foreign interference. For one, the EU has been focusing on exploring and creating synergies with partner countries and organisations, in order to develop cohesive and complementary responses, particularly with regards to situational awareness.
  • The panel further discussed how sustainable initiatives to foster societal resilience and to strengthen democracy and security, whilst respecting European values, human rights and legal principles, can be created. Media literacy was highlighted as an important resilience building effort against FIMI threats, but needs to be complemented with other policy initiatives across variety of sectors.

The panel was opened with remarks by Dr. Naďa Kovalčíková, Senior Analyst and CFI project Co-Director, and was co-moderated by Dr. Giovanni Faleg, Senior Analyst and CFI project Co-Director, and Rolf Nijmeijer, Researcher at the European University Institute.

The panellists included: 

  • Dr Teija Tiilikainen, Director, European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats
  • Lutz Guellner, Head of Division, Strategic Communication, Task Forces and Information Analysis, European External Action Service
  • Nika Aleksejeva, Resident fellow, Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab

A recording of the event is available to watch on Youtube