The Year 2020 was marked with proactive and targeted interventions by authoritarian Russia and China on several fronts throughout the Western Balkans. To effectively inform decision-makers and practitioners, the European Values Centre for Security Policy (EVC) and its Western Balkan partners recently published three reports on malign foreign influence and disinformation in the region.
Malign Foreign Influence in the Western Balkans: The EVC Review 2020
Published in December, the Review provides an overview foreign malign influence, and highlighted various political, economic, and military interventions in the Western Balkans undertaken by the authoritarian states. The Review affords a broad perspective of significant developments arising from Russian and Chinese governments’ designs to prevent the consolidation of genuinely democratic institutions throughout the region. The report covers COVID-19 disinformation occupation of the 2020 information by campaigns typically originating from Russia, as well as China’s advances in influence region-wide.
Lessons Learned from the Czech Experience in Fighting Disinformation for the Western Balkans
Aiming for practitioners and policymakers, this in-depth review catalogues the recent Czech experience in countering disinformation in the public and private sectors. The Czech government is gradually recognizing the importance of the political acknowledgment of the threats disinformation poses. The recommended countermeasures in this paper, coupled with a commitment to transparency, have shown their effectiveness. Czechia’s experience is a reminder that tangible results demands a committed partnership between the state and civil society. Crucially, the private sector should be better engaged as part of a socially holistic solution. From this publication, Western Balkan stakeholders stand to draw valuable lessons for their own struggles against authoritarian influence in the information space.
Review of the Disinformation Scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2020
With this country-specific review, EVC identifies and analyzes the various disinformation themes that dominated BiH’s online information space in 2020. Unsurprisingly, the highest amount of disinformation in 2020 was related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with vaccination-related issues being the most dominant topic of COVID-19 in BiH; false or unsubstantiated treatments and responses to the virus followed closely. Separately, disinformation about the alleged dangers of 5G technology and its links to coronavirus has spread quickly despite the lack of any scientific evidence. Disinformation about face masks, generally portraying them as “ineffective” and “harmful”. In tandem, these pandemic-related topics were used to frame the continual narrative of transatlantic weakness and disintegration.