28 March, 2023
The Bridge of Friendship blog discussed with an expert from the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre about his organisation, which has been founded relatively recently, and about what this institution does to support the states in Southeastern Europe which are either members or partners of NATO and the EU
The landing page of the site of the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Forum (source: https://resilienceforum.e-arc.ro/, screenshot)

The Bridge of Friendship blog discussed with an expert from the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre about his organisation, which has been founded relatively recently, and about what this institution does to support the states in Southeastern Europe which are either members or partners of NATO and the EU

Vladimir Mitev

An interview with Cristian Ghiță, the editor-in-chief of the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Journal and communication coordinator at the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre (E-ARC) in Bucharest. E-ARC operates under the tutelage of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The discussion focused for the most part on the activity of the Centre: its most prominent event, the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Forum; some recent examples of crises which tested the resilience of the states in the Black Sea Region; as well as the Centre’s openness to collaboration with experts and NGOs from the region.

Hello to everyone who’s listening to us on our channels, Cross-border talks and Bridge of Friendship. Today, we are having an interview with Cristian Ghiță, who is an expert in communication from the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre in Bucharest, which is a relatively newly established organization. And it is part of this tendency of Romania to create a lot of organizations for expertise on international relations, security, etc. So we will be discussing a conference which took place recently and about some important issues in our region from the standpoint of resilience. First of all, Cristian, could you present to us the organization you are from?

Of course it’s my pleasure to do so. So, the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre has been created in May 2021. It is an interagency hub of research, analysis and expertise that is trying to cover all the areas that are relevant to the European Union and to NATO countries in terms of the pillars of resilience. We have several communities of interest defined within our organization, dealing with societal resilience, with the resilience of the transportation infrastructure, with, for example, the new trend of emerging and possibly disruptive technologies, communication ecosystems and so on. And our aim is to create in Bucharest a platform for dialogue between government organizations, between the academia, between non-governmental organizations, between the private sector. Because if recent crises have shown us anything, it is that a whole of government approach is not sufficient. It has shown us that within academia and within the private sector, there are resources of expertise and even material resources that are essential if we can overcome crises.

Recently in Bucharest a very big conference took place with your organization as a host. What happened in this conference? What were the conclusions and what were the dimensions of the conference?

It was one of the largest conferences organized on the issue of resilience, certainly in Romania, but we think also across the Euro-Atlantic space. It was the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Forum, which took place between the 15th and the 16th of November at the Palace of the Parliament. We had close to 70 speakers in 12 panels and well over 1000 participants, in terms of people who took part in the event as speakers, as public, as organizers. So it was a very, very large event. We covered 12 areas of interest. Disinformation and propaganda were at the forefront of our thoughts because we have seen that these are, if you want, horizontal threats, these kinds of hostile activities are present, whatever the crisis. We discussed how these are being reflected from the perspective of societal resilience, how disinformation can attack at the cracks in society. We had talks on how disinformation affects, for example, the energy field, the disasters, how disinformation can affect crisis scenarios in terms of natural disasters and so on. So there were 12 panels dedicated to specific subjects.

Let’s try to have a look at some concrete cases where our resilience in challenge is challenged in our region. Right now, we have a very serious energy crisis in Moldova, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. What can the countries from our region do to support the resilience of these neighbors?

Our countries are actively involved in bolstering the resilience of our neighbors. It’s one of the issues, one of the possible solutions that we have identified not only during this forum, but since we have been actively engaged in thinking about the resilience across these pillars, is that cooperation is an aspect that is absolutely crucial. And we are seeing this also with respect to the energy crisis. Without the strong support of every actor in the region, the energy crisis would be much more serious and would have much graver effects across the region. So the fact that Romania can act as a platform of support for the Republic of Moldova in terms of supplying the electricity it sometimes needs is an extremely important factor. So regional cooperation is key. And then this is essential in order to bridge this gap that exists in the short term in terms of the supply of energy. In the medium to long term, we have to think strategically about where we want to become as economies. The idea of green transition that we have approached during our form is one of the most promising areas, one that promises peaceful, clean, abundant energy. But we need to dedicate a lot of resources in order to get to that place.

You have an article about Bulgaria and Romania having a look at the resilience with regards to the prices of energy, especially resources like diesel, etc. Could you tell us a little bit more about it?

It was one of the earliest exercises that we have taken a look at: seeing how a disinformation scenario is being played out in countries across the region. And we have taken, as an example, Romania and Bulgaria with regard to two very specific crises. One was the price of fuel and the other one was the availability of sunflower oil. And the conclusions were that these appear to have been targeted attacks, meant to create in very specific fields, an artificial crisis of supply. Fortunately, there were resources, particularly in the private sector, to cover the demand. So we have managed to as societies, we have managed to overcome these crises simply because there were enough resources in the private area in terms of supply so as to cover the artificial demand. That was the exercise. And it is interesting to see that about a month after we published that article, a very similar crisis happened in France. So whatever we find out here about this region can then be applied elsewhere. The scenarios that are being tried in this area can then be applied elsewhere. And the expertise and the solutions that we find here are applicable across the Euro-Atlantic zone. This is one of the major findings that we had.

Okay. I want to challenge you a little bit, because usually resilience is understood as some kind of opposition to – or strength with regards to – what is coming from outside the West in our countries as a threat…

… Let me say that resilience is simply the ability of a system to absorb a shock and maintain essential functions and then rebound to to improve itself. So it does not concern exclusively acts from hostile actors. For example, we had an important panel at the forum dedicated to climate change and how that is a test to the resilience of our societies. So by no means, resilience is not something simply the ability to withstand a hostile attack. We cover a much broader area.

Your organization also has written in its sites some kind of statement that it wants to encourage more non-governmental forces to do international relations. Have you thought about what could be the concrete version of this idea with regards to Bulgaria and Romania? Who could be these agents of change in Bulgarian-Romanian relations or regional relations of our countries?

So we do not think about individuals or individual organizations. We are at the moment a government agency. We act under the umbrella of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so we are a government body. But it is within our DNA, if you will, to look for partnerships with the NGOs, with academia, with the business environment, like I said in the very beginning. So we are, if you will, at the meeting point between all these areas and we try to bring them together so as to provide concrete results and concrete projects of analysis and research. We are not trying to identify agents of change in terms of supporting one political body or another. By no means, if that’s what you were asking. We are trying to foster a whole-of-society approach, because we believe that resilience is a team effort and everybody should have a stake in this and everybody has a place in this effort.

To conclude with that recently in Romania, in Romanian society, there has been a growing number of expert centers, NGOs that deal with international relations etc. Could you tell us more about this tendency from your perspective, because your organization is also part of it? What is the explanation for this mushrooming of organizations? Are some effects seen already etc.?

It is, I think, a general trend and has to do with the constant development of this area. And this is something that happens not only in Romania or Bulgaria. I think it is something that we see across Central and Eastern Europe, and we had many experts at our forum that come from this arc of countries, from the Baltics down to Bulgaria. And this has to do with our development as countries, as societies and the growing realization that we are not alone in this world. And that cooperation is an essential part of what we do as states and societies. It is only natural for these societies to then try to develop the skill, the expertise, and to support the scholars, the experts who can navigate this field. I think it is beneficial, I think it is extraordinary that this area has its own experts and has something to say that is coherent and intelligible for the rest of the world in order to present our case. And if anything, the events in Ukraine that have caught most of the world by surprise have been a vindication of what countries in Central and Eastern Europe have been warning about for the past decade. And I think the world now recognizes the need to listen to these expert voices in a way that perhaps it hasn’t in the past.

Do you have a message to regional experts or organizations who want to potentially get in touch with you and collaborate with you. What can you offer them as possibilities?

Absolutely. The forum has been an excellent way for us to demonstrate a certain level of maturity, and it has been the opening move in our path towards internationalization. This has been the call that has been launched during the forum. The Euro-Atlantic Resilience Center is open for collaboration with actors and with partner organizations from across the Euro-Atlantic space. We think that resilience is essential. We think that it is important to build a network of experts who have good local knowledge that can then be applied across the Euro-Atlantic space and from the simple exchange of information to being able to create methodologies that are applicable throughout the space, collaboration between institutions is essential for the well-being of our countries.

Foto: Cristian Ghiță (sursă: YouTube)

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