by Staff Writers
Helsinki (AFP) Nov 21, 2016
Finland is to create a new international centre open to EU and NATO member states to counter so-called "hybrid threats," targetting disinformation and radicalisation in particular, officials said Monday.
Russian disinformation operations or new tactics by the so-called Islamic State are among threats which the Helsinki-based centre will deal with, using a European network of experts keeping member countries informed.
"The aim is to build resistance abilities and to prepare the participating actors against hybrid threats," said the head of EU affairs in the Finnish Prime Minister's Office, Jori Arvonen, announcing the new European "centre of excellence" for countering hybrid threats.
Hybrid threats are loosely defined as a mixture of conventional and unconventional methods of coercion, including diplomatic, military, economic or technological actions that state and non-state actors use in a coordinated manner without resorting to formally declared warfare.
The EU's foreign policy agency, European External Action Service, and NATO's secretariat support Finland's initiative, as well as countries such as US, Germany, France, Britain, Spain and Italy, Arvonen told reporters.
However, he said it was too early to list the countries that had officially committed to financing the new institution.
The centre, which is to be founded officially next year, will initially have a budget of around two million euros ($2.12 million), a majority of which Finland will provide as host country.
A small secretariat in Helsinki will be in charge of gathering a network of experts, academics and government officials, who are already tackling the issue in the different participating countries.
The network "will concentrate on research, training and exchanging best practices" against hybrid threats, Arvonen said, highlighting its aim was not to take up counter operations in case of individual cyber attacks or false information campaigns.
Arvonen said Finland would be a good host for the organisation because its government has already created a similar domestic network for sharing security information and because the Nordic nation has "good experts on Russia".
Countries such as the US and Germany have recently accused Russia of cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns. Washington has accused the Kremlin of meddling in this year's US presidential election, which saw Donald Trump become the president-elect.
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