The most important stories of 2018, as told by the ESJ

  • Kateřina Velíšková
  • 2.1.2019 08:21

The year 2018 brought some very interesting developments in the area of European security and defense, but it also saw some worrying trends with regards to the Russian information warfare and Russia’s strengthening influence in Eastern and Central Europe. The Czech Republic specifically witnessed repeated political turmoil related to the criminal investigation of the current Prime Minister and it also seems that media platforms in Czechia and in the wider region are facing more and more challenges. The European Security Journal has covered it all and in the first days of the new year, we would like to share with you a tailored look at the year passed, highlighting the most important developments and new trends.

Probably the most important new development in the area of European defense came with the EU move towards a joint army. Such efforts gradually evolved starting with The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on defence between EU member states. However, the perhaps most important impulse came through the agreement of the French President Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both of whom have expressed their support for the creation of a joint European army. If you wish to understand the context of if and how this ambitious project will take place, our contributor Louis Cox-Brusseau has produced a quality piece entitled Why a True European Army Is Coming.

Another key issue that will undoubtedly remain relevant in the years to come is battling disinformation. The topic of disinformation and social media influence on politics as a part of the Russian information warfare came into sharp focus following the 2016 US elections. However, this issue is also highly relevant in Europe, especially in the former Eastern Bloc countries, where disinformation are often used to attempt to steer the wheel of the current geopolitical alliances. This crucially important issue was covered in our article Countering Disinformation: The Danger of Hype—and Ignorance. In this piece, the topic is approached through four main risks of under- or over-estimating the effects of disinformation, which provides an innovative lens through which to analyse this contentious and timely issue.

Although spreading disinformation is certainly a new dangerous challenge for both global and local politics, there are unfortunately also some prolonged conflicts of a more traditional nature on the European continent. With the new developments in the sea of Azov in autumn of this year, it is more relevant than ever to remember that the war in eastern Ukraine is still raging. For many in Europe, this is an especially frightening development as the conflict is geographically very close, tied to both regional and geopolitical rivalries and without a clear path to peace. Reporters from the European Security Journal have therefore visited the very frontlines of this war in order to provide you with an insight into the daily realities of deadly conflict and its human cost. The second part of our video series is entitled Between War and Peace: A Special Unit Is Protecting Civilians from the Rage of War and is certainly worth watching.

A still from ESJ Ukraine Report: Visiting Ukrainian checkpoint. Copyright: JO's Action Production.

The Czech Republic, the home country of our platform, is certainly not facing such difficulties. However, this year has hardly been calm for the Czech political sphere. From controversial and polarising statements by the president Milos Zeman to a criminal investigation of the Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who is accused of misusing EU funds in a personal business project, the Czech Republic has seen some large-scale protests in the course of this year and it would seem that social polarisation is growing. If you wish to understand the latest major developments in Czech politics, read our comprehensive deep dive entitled What's behind the current governmental crisis in Czechia? which will provide you with all the necessary background to understand the latest headlines.

Lastly, an especially poignant issue for the European Security Journal specifically is the trend of declining media freedom in Central and Eastern Europe. It seems that media outlets in this region are facing more and more challenges both to their financial stability and editorial independence. These include oligarchization of the overall media landscape, various bureaucratic and legislative restrictions as well as the political pressures themselves. The European Security Journal has experienced some of these challenges first hand in the course of 2018 when it lost its private donors because of the current political climate in the Czech Republic. This year has therefore been especially difficult for the whole editorial team and our platform has only narrowly survived. We have nevertheless decided to fight on to continue providing you with interesting contextual insights into European security and politics from the viewpoint of Central Europe. Therefore, our team would also like to take this time to thank our readers for their continuous support. Our hope is to bring you even more quality coverage in the new year, including fresh analyses of the constantly evolving issues highlighted in this article.

About author: Kateřina Velíšková

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