Home Europe Dutch reporter gatecrashes EU defense ministers’ videoconference

Dutch reporter gatecrashes EU defense ministers’ videoconference

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A Dutch journalist gatecrashed a confidential videoconference of EU defense ministers on Friday, reportedly thanks to information posted on the Dutch defense minister’s Twitter account.

Footage obtained by POLITICO shows the journalist, Daniël Verlaan of RTL Nieuws, appearing in a large window at the top of the videoconference screen, dressed in a black T-shirt, grinning and waving to the ministers.

“You know that you have been jumping into a secret conference?” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told Verlaan, amid laughter from some officials.

“Yes, yes. I’m sorry. I’m a journalist from the Netherlands. I’m sorry for interrupting your conference,” a smiling Verlaan replied.

“You know it’s a criminal offence, huh?” Borrell said, appearing lighthearted but not entirely amused. “You better sign off quickly before the police arrives.”

While the intrusion was greeted with laughter, it raised serious questions about the security of confidential EU meetings. Friday’s videoconference included a discussion of a classified document on the threats facing the EU that will form the basis for the next EU defense strategy, the so-called Strategic Compass.

RTL reported that Verlaan had been able to gain access to the meeting because “the Twitter account of Minister Ank Bijleveld briefly contained a photo with the login address and part of the PIN code.”

“In a number of attempts, RTL Nieuws succeeded in guessing the PIN code of the secret consultation, because five of the six digits of the pin code were visible in the photo,” the news outlet said.

A spokesperson for the Dutch ministry of defense told RTL a staff member accidentally tweeted the picture that contained the sensitive information.

An EU official noted the Council of the EU did not have “a secure space” for communications equivalent to NATO’s platforms. A senior diplomat described the episode as “embarrassing” while another diplomat argued that the Council was lucky the intrusion was not more serious.

“Next time it could be a hacker and we won’t be laughing anymore,” the diplomat said.

Laurens Cerulus contributed reporting.

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