The Brief: Hybrid threats and Europe's vulnerability

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By Joanna Gill  & Jack Parrock, Andrei Beketov, Stefan Grobe
The Brief: Hybrid threats and Europe's vulnerability
Copyright  Kacper Pempel

We live in an era of hybrid threats and Europe is vulnerable.

There are government and private actors working to destabilise EU countries.

The methods they use include: disinformation; targeting logistical weaknesses like energy supply pipelines; economic blackmail; terrorism or increasing insecurity.

An EU Commission spokesperson told us that the EU is seeking to counter such threats... 

"Part of the work that is being done is raising awareness that these threats exist and that we need to be able to improve resilience to be able to withstand these threats and be ready in case we need to react," Maja Kocijancic.

Events in Crimea in 2014 are considered by EU experts an example of hybrid warfare. Before annexation by Russia this Ukrainian region was infiltrated by soldiers with no insignia carrying Russian weapons.

"What other Europeans are afraid of is not so much a direct copy-past of the Crimean operation but the use of other disclosed assets...For example, in Finland you had private enterprises buying property. As intelligence service found later, they were connected to the Kremlin," Gustav Gressel from European Council on Foreign Relations explained.

We asked how seriously should Europe take this threat?

"There is a single market, there is the Shengen area. So a lot of permits given to enterprises are valid not only for one country. Basically, – are legitimate to these enterprises, these entities, financial institutions whatever is set up are legitimate to act across entire Union," Gressel explained.

Experts say better coordination is needed across Europe, as the union is only as strong as its weakest link when it comes to countering hybrid threats.

Hybrid threats is one of the key topics discussed by the EU Defense Ministers in Helsinki this week. Finland has a border with Russia. The meeting will be chaired by High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini.

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Suggestions include weekend and night bans and strict traffic limits.