Friday, February 24, 2017

Decreasing numbers of arriving migrants are good news for Europe. Or are they?

Photo: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed, Wikipedia Commons.
The news that migration flows to Europe have been receding has made many Europeans sigh with relief. Although the total number of applications submitted fell by 9% in 2016 as compared to 2015, since September the numbers have been on an even more promising steady decrease. The number of first time asylum applications in the third quarter of 2016 decreased by 15% compared with the same quarter of 2015. Frontex reports that total number of arrivals to the Greek islands felt by two-thirds in 2016.

Good news!

But I am worried. The night before the storm is always deceptively calm.

The good news is that receding flows give us breathing space and time to patch up the failing migration system without public hysteria. The EU has won time to mend at least some of its internal disagreements.
Countries also got a breathing space to calm the public with convincing measures addressing migration flows before elections in Germany, France, the Netherlands. Nationalist, far right, populist parties, and domestic extremists have it harder now to exploit the anti-migration sentiment. Those Europeans fearing the loss of cultural identity, jobs, and security can sleep better.

The bad news is that we haven’t properly used this time to upgrade our fair-weather migration system and become better prepared to face migration flows in the future.
Let’s give the EU the credit it deserves: some important measures have been implemented. The upgrades in competencies, budgets, and personnel of FRONTEX, the European Border and Coast Guard, have resulted in quicker processing of arrivals and better organized returns of those denied the right to stay. The Turkey deal has helped to decrease the flows to Greece. The EU has been working on setting up similar deals with other countries, giving money and other assistance to improve the conditions of people in the troublesome areas.

But I am worried as I know that this is not enough.
I am worried because I know that the measures taken are easy to sell under the brand of addressing the root causes. But these root causes are not easy to address. The conflict in Syria, the turmoil across the whole Middle East, military and political strife and extreme poverty in Africa will not miraculously transform into stability overnight.
Even with immense amounts of funds and political dedication, it will take many years to alleviate these problems. And neither our funds nor dedication to solve them are immense.
We made some steps towards securing borders and managing migration externally. But we have not advanced much in terms of adapting our internal European migration system to the changing reality of the world.

The soothing numbers and the “addressing the root causes” mantra allow us to pretend that we can stop people from migrating. We can’t. It is in our own interest to admit it and decide what we do with those who have to move. We haven’t diligently worked on our capacity to accommodate, integrate, generate jobs, and give migrants opportunity to contribute to the society. We have not figured out how to cooperate effectively across the Union to share valuable intelligence information to increase security.
The Commission proposed the upgrade of the asylum system, but it will take years to negotiate it. I am not sure Europe has the luxury to negotiate for years. Another crisis might be around the corner. Arrivals to Italy are the highest ever recorded, with most people coming from West Africa. Warmer weather might bring another spike followed by a spout of public hysteria. And then all good that’s been done and all the progress that’s been achieved is reverted with nationalist populist parties coming to power across Europe.
I am worried because I know that President Trump has just signed disturbing orders banning not only refugees but also many Muslims from entering the US and making them feel even more desperate and unfairly accused of all the misfortunes of the world.

We are protecting borders and keeping people out to increase our safety. We might be doing the opposite.

I can imagine ISIL fanatics sit back and relax. Fewer desperate people coming to Europe and the US? More desperate people to recruit for ISIL! The blamed, hated, desolate people from war-torn and extremely poor regions might have no other options than live on the ISIL control territories or join ISIL out of desperation.

Pro-migration minded people have been labelled idealists. But I am a very pragmatic person. I just find this idealism convincing.
It is pragmatic to set up a workable system to manage migration flows. It is delusional to pretend that we can wall off everyone. It is pragmatic to help the most desperate and vulnerable. It is delusional to think that you are fighting terrorism by banning Muslims and depriving desperate people of a place to go.
It is pragmatic to want guarantees that one’s life, identity, and income is safe. It is delusional to believe that populists and extreme nationalist governments intend to or know how to give you all that.

Alena Kudzko
Deputy Research Director
GLOBSEC Policy Institute

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Slovaks have the right to be confused these days. Nothing seems certain. Will Brexit be followed by other exits leading to the break-up of the European Union? Has Russia been meddling into Americas elections and how - by God - could this be possible? Should we exchange liberal democracy for something else? Will China and America fight a trade war between themselves? Is NATO any good? And the most importantly why should Slovakia care?

I will try to answer these questions at the end from my Polish perspective. I think they are part of the bigger debate who we are as the West and who we want to be. Imagine there is a post of the president of the free world and a process where people choose this person after the televised debate (like Eurovision contest). And now imagine there are only two contenders Angela Merkel and Donald Trump. Here comes the big day, all Slovaks turn on their TVs. Let us listen to the candidates statements.

Donald Trump: Globalism sucks. It is time to make America great again! I do not need international organizations or mainstream media either. My vision is simple enough to be communicated in tweets. For two long America was a victim of bureaucrats and the old elite conspiring against our great country. They invented this fairy tale about climate change. Immigrants steal jobs. Muslims are terrorists.

Angela Merkel: America can only be great with other nations, not against them - supporting the international system that it built. What you call globalism has stopped wars in Europe and helped to alleviate poverty anywhere on Earth. And remember: international organizations helped to negotiate peace deals, stopped many wars Big media are the guarantee of responsible journalism. Instead of looking for conspiracies we should focus on what makes people and societies stronger: universal healthcare, good jobs and decent schools, trade between nations. And when people come to work and live in our countries we get richer, both moneywise and culturally. We will fight terrorists while acting with dignity and respect for human law. We can deny climate change, close our eyes to melting ice caps or ever more potent hurricanes but this will not stop the climate from changing..

DT:I come from the private sector and I learnt that politics is like business a dirty business. This is a cruel world where the fittest survive. Every country should mind their own business and have full control of their borders. Why should America care about what happens in Ukraine? Maybe the world could be divided into some spheres of influence of big empires? And, by the way, NATO belongs to the dustbin of history. Alliances come and go, the interests of my country remain.

AM: This is a sad and cruel world that you are a describing a bit like Jurassic Park where big animals eat smaller ones. I come from a country which in the 1930s adopted this ideology to perfection and its destruction. Europe has been transformed in the last 50 years because instead of social Darwinism solidarity and trust were turned into cornerstone of political cooperation. Eastern Germany was helped by Western Germany. Central Europe was helped by Western Europe. And NATO made American and Europe stronger and more stable.

DT: Politics is about expediency. Objective justifies the means. At the end of the day money makes the world go round. I do not need a UN Charter to tell me that. I can do deals with the worst dictators if they bomb the hell out of terrorists for us or torture the prisoners as long as it is useful. Nobody will tell us to accept refugees.

AM: Politics is about responsibility and values. International relations are about cooperation not confrontation. Where we cannot avoid confrontation we stick to values. We will fight wars if our allies are attacked. We help people in need because they are humans. Democracy and human rights these are not empty words. The West won the World War II and the Cold War because we had values. If we tortured prisoners or treated all Muslims as terrorists we would lower our standards to the barbarians level. The big and the rich countries have greater responsibility towards smaller and poorer ones.

And so Dear Reader, the debate goes, argument after argument. Then it ends and the contest begins - viewers can send SMS to support their candidate. The winners name will be displayed shortly on your TV screen!

This is was just my imagination. There is no post of the president of the free world. No contest. Anyway maybe Trump and Merkel think differently. But the questions remain. Slovakia cannot afford the luxury to be indifferent.

When we see the order of things being questioned let us always ask what is the alternative? Can egoism of nations be elevated to status of virtue? Do we want fences on borders between Slovakia and Austria with guards carrying machine guns like in the past?

Without liberal democracy we are back to the type of Europe that steered hatred between nations and religions. In reality where trade (or even real) wars between big powers would make everybody poorer. And our region would be the first to suffer. When CIA says that American elections have been influenced by Russian meddling it is possible that less powerful nations, like Slovakia, are vulnerable too. I do not know whether Brexit will lead to further crisis of the EU but I do know there is nothing more precious to Slovak (or Polish for that matter) security and prosperity than NATO and the EU.
We Central European cannot just sit on our hands and watch how Brussels gets into trouble. We need to provide solutions if refugee relocation mechanism is wrong, what is our idea how to share the burden? The refugee crisis or debt crisis are not Greek, German or Italian. They are European because they affect the European Union. The Jurassic Park as the new order of Europe and the world? Not for me, thank you.

Jakub Wiśniewski
Research Director
GLOBSEC Policy Institute

Friday, February 17, 2017

Bridges Instead of Walls? – Not So Easy

                                                                                                  (Photo: Twitter|gloaeza)                                                                                                                 

Throughout human history and across multiple locations, when faced with significant economic, societal or political challenges, people gather to protest against the problems they face. Their demands differ and their goals are distinct but what they always want is to have their voice heard, and in the best-case scenario - cause a change. Similarities abound,
from the Arab Spring that started in Tunisia in December 2010, Indignados in Spain in 2011, protests in Brazil and Turkey in 2013, to the recent developments in Poland, the US, and Romania - just to mention a few.

On February 12, Mexicans in 18 cities took to the streets to air their grievances against President Donald Trump. They waved Mexican flags or carried banners such as "Mexicans demand respect, we want bridges not walls," or "Gracias, Trump, for unifying Mexico!" At first glance, it could look like Mexicans have united to oppose the common “enemy”. However, not everyone is on board. Some accused Peña Nieto of using the non-partisan marches to try to bolster his own popularity.

It is true that Mexican are not fans of President Donald Trump. In his electoral campaign, he called them "drug dealers", "rapist” and “criminals". Just after being elected, the US President ordered the construction of a wall along the southern border. Mexicans are also against President Trump because his policies personally affect each and every Mexican who has a family member either living in the United States (30% of the population) or working in maquiladoras[1].

It is also no secret that Trump's policies could send the Mexican economy into a deep crisis. The tight economic ties that Mexico has with its northern neighbour make it highly vulnerable.  First, the US withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would be disruptive and damaging. Although estimates of NAFTA’s direct impact vary, the objectives set out in the deal have broadly been achieved. The US decision to back out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in which Mexico was also a part, has already scared policymakers.  Once signed, TPP would not only expand the NAFTA model to Asian and Latin American countries, but also update and improve the provisions in NAFTA.

Second, the proposals to tax the remittances sent to Mexico would deprive millions of families of stable source of income and the Mexican government of foreign exchange. It is worth mentioning that the remittances, record high in 2016 worth 27 billion USD, constitute the third source of the foreign exchange to Mexico.

Finally, forcing Mexicans living in the USA to go back home would cause a lot of trouble for the Mexican government. Despite the stable GDP growth at average 2.5% since 2012, the unemployment rate (officially 4.4% but it could be as high as 25%) and income inequality levels (the average Gini coefficient reaches 0.45) are high. The same is true of income inequality. The OECD estimates that the richest 10% earn 20 times more than poorest 10%. Not to mention the high criminality rate related to the war with the drug cartels. Only 40% of Mexicans feel safe while walking at night in their city (to compare to 61% in Slovakia and 68% in Poland).

Therefore, it is important to underline that, on February 12, not many protesters turned out (40 thousand in comparison to 123 million inhabitants) and—for sure—many are not united. Besides the pro-government crowd encouraged in part by an ad campaign by Televisa (the ruling party's PRI tube) and Twitter mobilisation under #VibraMexico (eng. #Mexico Vibrates), the protesters were marching against the Mexican government. People carried banners saying “STOPTrump” and “PeñaOUT”. Briefly after the launch of #VibraMexico, Twitter users started to use #VibroContraPeña (#I vibrate against Peña) and #NoEsTrumpEsPeña (#It’s not Trump is Peña).

Mexicans do not support their incumbent President. Enrique Peña Nieto only has a 12% approval rating - the lowest of any Mexican President since polls were first collected in 1995. The low rate of approval is not a consequence of the invitation to then-candidate Trump to Mexico during his campaign but relates foremost to the high level of corruption in the country, hike of the gas prices, and the most importantly the students’ disappearance from the southern city of Iguala in September 2014. The so-called “Caso Ayotzinapa” remains an open wound in Mexico and clear evidence of the country’s failure to protect its citizens and to stop impunity within its corrupt criminal justice system.

#VibraMexico movement was supposed to express the dissatisfaction with how Mexico is being treated by the United States and give the President stronger bargaining power in the future negotiations. Instead, it showed that walls already exist within Mexico, as citizens remain divided and distrustful of their government. The sad truth is that if the United States decides to build the wall along its southern border, no Mexican politician or movement can stop it.

Kinga Brudzinska
Senior Researcher
GLOBSEC Policy Institute

[1] Manufacturing plant usually straddling the US-Mexican border that imports and assembles duty-free components for in-bond storage, assembly, and subsequent re-export.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Election Intruders: Lessons learned from the 2016 U.S. Elections

(Photo: Giuseppe Cacace, AFP)

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a recent report that the intrusion into DNC and Clinton campaign servers, and subsequent exfiltration and publication of their emails, was  a Russian attempt to influence the election in favor of now-President Trump. The account bookends the coverage of Russian hacking in the U.S. elections which has dominated global news headlines for the past few months. 
Looking ahead to 2017, however, we can expect to see further coverage on such incidents, as Russian-associated hacking groups like Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear will likely continue their efforts to interfere and affect outcomes of the upcoming European elections. The most significant elections which are at-risk of hacking are the Czech, French, German, and Dutch elections. All four elections offer a chance to either sow confusion within the internal politics of a major European democracy or elect a leader from a far-right party, which is critical of Euro-Atlantic relations and sympathetic to Russia. The Agence Nationale de las Securite de Systemes d’Information (ANSSI), the national cybersecurity agency of France, is already indicating that the groups active in the U.S. presidential election were active in France. ANSSI Chief, Guillaume Poupard indicated that ANSSI is fully mobilized to fight any network intrusions or “sabotage threats” which might seek to target “French interests”.[1] German MPs have also indicated that the German election is at risk from outside manipulation.
Bearing in mind the opportunity that the elections offer to Russia's subversive actors, pro-EU, liberal political organizations should take steps to secure themselves against intrusion and exploitation. While it may be that Fancy Bear and its associate Cozy Bear, a hacking group likely backed by Russian FSB, will leverage similar tactics to those used in the U.S. election, parties should be ready to defend against the entire array of techniques which typify Russian attacks.
APT28, more colloquially known as Fancy Bear and often associated with the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, was likely formed in 2007 and has been linked to major hacking incidents since 2014. Fancy Bear is considered the probable culprit behind the six-month cyber-attack against the Bundestag in December 2014, which leveraged targeted spearphishing tactics against Sahra Wagenknecht, Junge Union, and the CDU of Saarland. From 2014 to 2016, it is believed that Fancy Bear used Android malware to enable the tracking and elimination of the Ukrainian Armed Forces De-30 Howitzers and other artillery. Now, most recently in spring 2016, Fancy Bear launched a targeted spearphishing campaign against the DNC.
While not a particularly complex tactic, targeted spearphishing was responsible for some of the largest data breaches of 2015, including the breach of Anthem healthcare and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. This attack targets user psychology more than a software vulnerability, exploiting user trust, fear, or laziness. DNC staff, trusting a convincing email, offered up their security credentials without realizing that they were compromising their systems.
Fancy Bear employs far more than just fraudulent emailing, however, and their toolbox includes a variety of reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities. Fancy Bear employs protocols which can log keystrokes and collect Office and PGP documents. Some of their hacks have focused on bypassing airgaps (a security measure where critical systems are isolated from the broader organizational network) and closed networks by routing messages through local networks and USB drives. Fancy Bear tends to install backdoors and leverages the victim's mail server to gain access to their targeted network.
It is an unfortunate fact that our democratic elections are now complicated by the threat of intrusion—and politicians need to do more than install private servers and firewalls. For European parties, this election season should be marked by a high degree of operational security. If they choose to ignore the lessons of the American elections, the European elections will be marked by information disclosures and leaks from mysterious web sources. These leaks will contain information about pro-EU politicians and parties which might be considered 'compromising'. They will be published at key moments, during a surge in the polls or before voting, when they can create the greatest change in public opinion and shift votes.
Unfortunately, the best advice to users may just be to assume that their network has already been compromised. Quite often, hacking groups penetrate and lurk on networks long before they begin to exploit their access, waiting and gathering intelligence. Party members should be careful of the information getting shared on internal servers and should be suspicious of unexpected emails, even those that appear genuine. Organizations should live the concept of 'least privilege", allocating network access based on necessity of job responsibilities. Most of all, party leaders and staffers should be careful when sending emails, even within the organization. A good rule of thumb—don't send the email if you wouldn't feel comfortable with it getting published in a newspaper. This election season, it just might.

Philip Chertoff

Project Coordinator
GLOBSEC Policy Institute