The world is a scary place right now. From extreme weather events and catastrophic climate change, to Russian assassins in quiet English towns and “fake news” on social media, to refugees fleeing carnage and oppression, to terror attacks in European cities, it sometimes feels like there’s no end to the number of threats out there.

In the long-term, some argue the world has never been safer, healthier, or wealthier. Even if that’s true, it doesn’t mean we can ignore the challenges. Yes, it’s important not to exaggerate the dangers… Nevertheless, is it possible to agree on the most pressing issues when it comes to Europe’s long-term security?

On 20 September 2018, our sister think tank, Friends of Europe, held its annual Policy Security Summit in Brussels, the flagship event of their peace, security & defence programme. The event also saw the publication of the report from the Debating Security Plus (DS+) online brainstorm, including its top 10 recommendations addressing practical policy goals, underpinned by a realistic roadmap for implementation. You can read the report online here.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Debby, who points out that Europe faces an extraordinary number of threats right now: from a revisionist Russia, to Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

To get a reaction, we spoke to José Alberto Azeredo Lopes, the Portuguese Minister of Defence. What does he think are the biggest threats facing Europe right now?

To get another perspective, we put the same question to Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union. How would he respond?

We also put Debby’s comment to Frank Bakke-Jensen, Minister of Defence of Norway (not an EU Member State). What would he list as some of the most significant threats facing Europe?

Finally, we also spoke to Rose Gottemoeller, Deputy Secretary General of NATO. How would she respond to Debby?

Debby, thank you very much for that question. I think the two biggest threats to NATO at the present time stem from both our traditional challenges – and here I’m talking about Russia and the way they have seized Ukrainian territory in the Crimea and destabilised the Donbass, how they’re continuing to build up their military forces in the western military district and challenge NATO members who border the Russian Federation. We, I want to stress and underscore, are a defensive alliance and we have had to respond to the Russian challenges that have come our way, but we have done so in a way that is proportionate and defensive and, in our view, totally in line with international law because we believe it’s very important to be clear always that NATO is a defensive alliance.

The other set of challenges, the other biggest threats, come from a newer direction, although terrorism has been around a long time, the threat that was posed by ISIS coming to fore in 2014, and posing new threats in the way they operate, particularly inside NATO countries, bringing a lot of violence to even in the place I’m living now – Brussels with the attacks that took place in 2016. So there’s a lot that is going on that really has gripped our NATO members and they are concerned about the fight against terrorism. They are concerned also with how to deal with a newly resurgent Russia. Those are the biggest threats we face.

But I want to also emphasise the point that those threats are, in some way, heightened or enhanced by the fact that there are new technologies being brought to bear and new approaches being brought to bear. I’m thinking about the way, for example, that even social networks are being used to magnify the messages of terrorists and recruit young people who may not otherwise have even considered a thing such as joining an extremist organisation. It’s just an example of how these new directions, innovations, new technologies, in many ways they are very positive and helpful to our societies, but in some ways can heighten the threats we have faced for many years…

What is the biggest threat facing Europe right now? And how can Europe best meet its security challenges? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / PixaBay – ErikaWittlieb; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Rose Gottemoeller, CC / Flickr – CTBTO

113 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • avatar

      Ivan ah here comes the good source troll again.

      Are you going to spam Russian state controlled news outlets again?

      Yes, climate is the only real problem humanity faces atm.

    • avatar


      Interesting that you chose to insult over a debate.

      Are you saying one of the most respected men of the 20th century who help bring down the most murderous political system ever is also a Russian troll ? I would love to see some evidence comrade.…/ueV…/s400/CQuSgohWEAELPxK.jpg

    • avatar

      Ivan trololol keep comming with the no facts.

      You chose to insult my wanna be friend. Because of your ignorance and actively choosing to lie. As you do as always.

      It is nice that you fotoshop you own pictures but that has nothing to do with what actualy has been said.

    • avatar

      Ivan go spam fake news.

      Yea we so hate false info and English people whom care more about russias dictator outlets then the free press.

      Ofc its always us.

    • avatar

      Arnout You do realise that your last comment is the very definition of an internet troll don’t you comrade..

      But thank you for showing your hatred of free speech, Chairman Juncker will be so pleased with you.

    • avatar

      Ivan you do realise that what ever you post is false and that you keep refering to russian media instead of open media?

      There is no hatred of free speech if one that claims so, does not understand the word.s

      There is no hatred of free speech if one that claims so, does not understand the word. Russian outlets do not belong to that catagory since they do not share free speech.

  1. avatar

    The EU is a psycho control freak.

    • avatar

      and activision

  2. avatar

    Politicians, the leftists and illegal invasion called immigration.

  3. avatar

    Europe is controlled by coruption. We need to be united not only in words, but in actions as well

  4. avatar
    Franz M

    Russias efforts to undermine our democracy by spreading fake news, artificially blowing them up in social media via bots and paid trolls and financing populist politicians who profit of these fake news wo in return pledged Putin their loyality and ones they are in power or at least strong enough, destroying the EU, making the EU so weak so that it has no power or guiding the EU in Putins. direction. Similar thing apply to NATO Trump and European allies.

    What we aslo deperatly need: Democratizing the EU, otherwise the EU is always percieved as one big body that doese not change and always doese the same and voters cannot do anything about it because the council always has the same dynamics (conservative, social democrat or liberal national governments from the same 28/27 meber states tht alwas achieve the same bad compromises much too slow and often too late):
    1) We need clear coalitions in parliament who support a comission that doeso not consist of memebers of all paties but of the coalition. So there are governent parties and opposition parties on a EU-level that can be held accountable by the voter in later elections. Now it is always kiind of a concentration comission where every estebliched party is responsible for the comissions actions.
    So reducing th number of comissioners and the comission president has to look for a stable coalition and pick his comissioners from these parteis who support him.
    2) reform of the council: The council (where national governemnts sit), which is the most powerfull lawmaking chamber int he EU, is not democratic since national elections seldomly take EU politics seriously but often politics even make cmpaigns based on “getting something back” from the EU.
    At least unanimity needs to be reduced in some matter.
    Another possibility could be having EU-ministers in every national government who meet more frequentl in the council and are therefore kind of the representatives of each country.
    A third possibilty could be to let every citizen of each country vote for represenatives for the counsil where every country has the same amount of representatives who are specifically elected to represent their country whereas the EU-parliamt should represent the whole of the population in the EU. So A law is passed by 50%+1 of the polulation’s representatives and 50%+1 of the member state’s representatives. The parliament should then be elected via Eu-wide party lists with regional and national voting districts wherer base mandates can be won if a party surpasses a certein threshold of votes. Assuming the EU has 400 Mio. voters and 260 Mio cast votes (65%) and the parliament stays at 751 members about 350 000 voters are represtented by 1 MEP. (larger countries have also regional districs and small countries only 1 national district, maybe for small countries/regions this number of votes could be reduced so that it is easier to get a regional seat) So if a party gets 350 000 votes in a district the first person on their regional party list gets a seat directly. Excess votes that do not get a direst MEP are counted for the next level (national). Here again for every 350 000 votes a party gets direct seats from its national list. The vots thet still did not get a seat are then counted for the EU wide list. So a regional distribution of seats is ensured. The number of regional or national seats depend on the number of voters in each region/nation. Eg. a district region with 3.5 Mio. voters would get 10 possible direct seats. So for every 10% of votes a party gets a seat.

  5. avatar
    catherine benning

    What’s the biggest threat facing Europe right now?

    The biggest threat to Europe, from my point of view, is the distrust citizens have toward any and all information they receive via news media, social media or any other outlet. It is all so obviously worked across the feed in conspiratorial wording and message. Especially when so much of it is obviously not as put forward and so easy to observe via your own common sense if you scan the simplest of reports. Just take the Russian story on the Salisbury incident. Two Russian spies make their way to the UK somehow carrying highly poisonous substance with them. We are told they left the poisonous substance on the door knob of the people they want to murder. Then same substance is found all over the area, according to our UK intelligence sources and PM. Yet, in all this time we see no pictures of them wearing strange space like suits to protect them from the deadly poison in their pocket, no pictures of them anywhere near the location they are supposed to have infected, and then, after a great tour of our city and towns, they go home completely unscathed and breathing normally after such a horrific escapade with such powerful nerve gas killer. The general public are supposed to believe this strange story and have faith in their informers, because, out of ‘patriotism and nationalism’ they are compelled to believe what they are told or be referred to as traitors or people with dubious motives. Please! This is not WWII.

    We then watch elections taking the oddest of turns, that go directly against what we have seen and heard from the voters who made the ballot boxes. Ballots that produce media stories so far from our own experience of discussion. Example: in the UK we are asked to believe ‘Tory’ voters prefer a Scottish MP, who is in a SS relationship, where she has taken the role of male, whilst bearing a surrogate child for the couple, as the preferred choice for possible Prime Minister. I wonder if they will put this to the Conservative members to verify this as their chosen leader. The way they did Mrs May! … Not….May was way down the list for possible leader after Cameron. The Conservatives just withdrew the vote. They wanted an easily pliable woman Remainer. They wanted to be politically correct and ‘modern’ as well as sure Brexit didn’t happen. Did a lot of good didn’t it? Again, the public must believe the Global line, just as they did with Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, or, be regarded as malevolent.

    On top of all this dodgy media information, we are repeatedly told we live in an European Union that is democratic, whilst not being able to vote for any of them that decide on policy. Are not informed or given a chance to have a voice on the appalling decisions made on our behalf and in our most private lives, right up to our international politic level, where our existence is put at risk on the most ludicrous excuse.

    All these incidents and more, which are hidden in the main from the people of Europe, is the biggest threat to us all. As without the right to truth and information based on honesty we are the equivalent of lab rats. There simply to pay the bill for politicians experimentation and fat cat pay offs.

  6. avatar

    Fuori dall’Europa
    Out of Europe

  7. avatar

    epigons, called themself politicians

  8. avatar

    1) Populist and Nationalist politicians who pretend the Patriots and Savors while their promises are empty and often against the European Treaties and Laws.
    2) Illegal mass immigration
    3) The chaotic system which EU makes decisions. Councils after councils while a problem becomes bigger and out of control.

    • avatar

      EU-ism is just a made up Nationalism pretending to represent the people they control & please try to remember that it was ‘Nationalism’ that defeated the last bunch of lunatics with a flag and plan to control Europe. Together with the rest of the free world we will stand ready to defeat you again.

    • avatar

      Ivan, still the same story with the flag and the plan…? :-)))

  9. avatar

    Some comments show how little political and forehead vision is missing.

  10. avatar

    Europe being destroyed by EU blind leaders.

    • avatar

      Fascism is dead, Socialism is the real enemy of the people.

    • avatar

      Socialism is a subset of fascism.

  11. avatar

    Socialism one side, Liberal bankers/corporations another
    Bought out, lost politicians in Brussels,
    Mass immigration, lies coming from the media.
    Hard to name only one.

  12. avatar

    The biggest threat facing Europe is Europeans becoming too comfortable with their high quality of life and taking it for granted and not understanding that it takes something to create this and to protect it.

  13. avatar

    the biggest threat facing Europe right now is NATO. NATO is poking the Russian bear. NATO needs an excuse to stay in business.

  14. avatar

    Mass illegal immigration.
    The rise of muslims only legislation (sharia, etcetc). The PC culture, the willingness by EU ruler to ignore the democratic will of the people, soros agenda of ethic substitution, no protection for EU citizens, rule of banks, multinational and finanzial capitalism without constrains.
    The Eu will not outlive us. Will crash worse than the USSR..

  15. avatar

    Political correctness and the destruction of our original values and roots on behalf of “progress”

  16. avatar

    Low birth rate, progressivism, destroying family values

  17. avatar

    In general, the biggest threat that may lead to many other EU problems is when politicians do not really recognise what their people actually want.

  18. avatar

    merkel ,soros ,pc, and lack of understanding the eastern Europeans especially the the polish and hungarian governments

  19. avatar

    Corruption is and always has been the cancer of civilised society. In its new version, the super rich, plutocrats, oligarchs and their cronies are embracing populist policies to get into power and sell off public assets to their friends in all legality. Trump in the US, Orban in Europe, they are the real threats. And climate change of course, not that anyone cares to care.

  20. avatar

    Populism, rising due to a lack of common foreign policy. Immigration should be treated in EU hot spots, where people can have documents and permits for the countries they want to reach. EU should negotiate for immigration, not each single country. EU should be more operational and less a far away legal entity. This may prevent the growth of rage against immigrants and the spreading of populism

    • avatar
      Pozitív Visszacsatolás

      “Populism, rising due to a lack of common foreign policy.”

      I disagree.
      Populism is a result of the too much common foreign policy.
      It is a reaction when from far away they trying to force something on a country.
      28 country can not have the same opinion of everything, and they have not the same interest.
      If the stronger countries flexing their muscles to force their views, the resistance start forming on the other side.
      The migration and multikulti is a result of the colonialism, and it is the responsibility of the countries who benefited from it for centuries.
      On the top of it, they could not manage the integration of the masses either.
      So thank you, but the eastern countries dont want it.

  21. avatar

    Well, it is pretty much axiomatic that the biggest threat on anyone is somethings that has power over that anyone, and an even bigger threat is something that convinces that anyone to give this power willingly; It makes it pretty clear that the greatest threat to Europe is the same threat that we all have as individuals – and it is “leadership”.

  22. avatar

    The biggest threat to EU currently is EU itself. Regulating the shape and color of tomatoes and cucumbers while letting in hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants speaks of extremely incompetent priority management.

  23. avatar
    Pozitív Visszacsatolás

    Migration and security…

    And the PC, so we are not allowed to talk about the real problems.
    Not in the mainstream media
    Contrary the official version, legalising illegal migration is NOT humanitarian thing.
    They MAKE it look humanitarian, but in fact it is a workaround the messed up demografic and employmnet problem. Actually colonialization, just get the slaves come to Europe.
    But there is the trap… They NEVER become real europeans, because they imported for being and staying CHEAP labour force…
    Then when they realising this, they become angry…
    Get the knife, hire a van…
    And our leaders wants millions of them….

  24. avatar

    The biggest threat for the whole world right now is climate change. Obviously there are other problems, but Europe as a whole is a very safe place and we are very privileged to live here. The issue is, if no one takes action on climate change, our privileges will be taken away and we will all die.

  25. avatar

    Europe’s biggest security threat is being the close ally of a falling military superpower which has been looking forward for fighting a war in Europe so as to security its own presence in Europe and Middle East.

  26. avatar

    Their population is getting old as fast as… even more hazardous than the decrepit Southern European economies.

  27. avatar

    A lack of assertiveness in underlining our values and interests when confronting competing world powers

  28. avatar

    migration💯%!!🤨and second deforestation!!

  29. avatar

    Collectivism and cultural marxism. The Frankfurt School.

  30. avatar

    Marginality and stupidity of administration.

  31. avatar

    Heatwave, racism, and false fear about Islam.

  32. avatar

    climate change, funny that its not mentioned alot. Shows the ignorance imo

  33. avatar

    Migration will make the far right bigger and bigger…

  34. avatar

    People who stay under the shadow of their village church afraid of anything different.

  35. avatar

    Rule of law, sustainability economic with climate changes, Russia influence, lack of the tradicional allys (EUA)

  36. avatar

    Russia’s influence in European democracy.

    • avatar

      for the eastern europe countries … yes…

    • avatar

      Nope. It’s the political left more and more entrenching in the EU ruling hierarchy.

    • avatar

      for me not

  37. avatar

    Leftist plutocrats in the EU political “elite”, pushing for totalitarian agenda.

  38. avatar

    The lack of happiness of the Europeans.

  39. avatar

    Loss of national identity & sovereignty that is Europe, which is caused by homologous EU laws that negatively affect the average European while only benefit the elite Europeans sent to Brussels and their close friends.

  40. avatar

    Falling birth rates and economic hardships of the working class.

  41. avatar

    Cultural, political, sociological racism..

  42. avatar

    united states of europe; desaster on migration and asylum; neoliberal economics and politics.

  43. avatar

    Fascism and Putin, I know I’m repeating myself….

  44. avatar

    Europe makes the same mistake as in war ll . They send 5 agents that were corupted by comunsit party and give them arms. Now they give to excomunist european funds and people from those country don’t have acces to european fund unless you join their party.

  45. avatar

    Ceta and Ttip, the US based troops deforestation, bureaucracy…

  46. avatar

    Concentration of power and censorship/self-censorship.

  47. avatar

    Elits parting from its own people, cultural and genetical drawback from replacement immigration, mass propaganda against peoples own interests, all that’s going on for decades now with the results we see.

  48. avatar

    The greatest danger to Europe are Europeans and what is inside their heads (at.least a relevant part of Europeans). Too many Europeans do not like or they even hate what is European. When did you last time see something culturally European being praised or promoted, or treated with respect? In your TV? Dance School? University? Hisory topic? Do we like Europe at all?
    On the other hand the rest of the world do respect and appreciate truly European culture(s) prior to the late degradation (TV, entertainment, current mainstream culture, dumbing down), and wonder what is happening to the people in Europe…
    PS. No external factor can threaten Europe as much as Europeans themselves.

  49. avatar

    more like the white european manipulating figures and spreading unreal fears.

  50. avatar

    The perfect storm of everything mentioned here, with climate stress multiplying all of its impacts

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