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Stop malign foreign actors from interfering in our democracies! EP to adopt strong report by INGE Special Committee set up on the S&Ds’ initiative

Date

08 Mar 2022

Sections

Global Europe

Tomorrow, the members of the European Parliament will vote on the final draft report by the Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation (INGE), set up on the S&Ds’ initiative in 2020.

The S&Ds secured solid recommendations in the report - the result of 18 months of investigative work and dozens of hearings - on how to protect our EU democracies and open societies from hostile foreign actors like Russia or China. The recommendations include calls for stronger rules for social media platforms, particularly regarding algorithms, and common and stronger rules on financing of political parties, including a ban on foreign donations for political activities in the EU. The S&Ds also managed to include a call to ban foreign takeovers of European companies with detrimental effects to the EU’s security and to abolish the lowest bidder principle.

The report also exposes the close links between Russia’s disinformation campaigns and European mostly extreme right parties, like the Austrian FPÖ, the French Rassemblement National and Italian Lega. Moreover, it shines a light on the technique of elite capture of top-level civil servants and former EU politicians by foreign companies with links to authoritarian governments.

Andreas Schieder, S&D MEP and negotiator in the INGE Special Committee, said:

“The problem of disinformation and foreign interference is much bigger than we have ever dared to believe. Putin’s war against Ukraine is the endpoint of an information war by Russia that has been going on for years. It is time to take urgent action to plug the many loopholes of the EU and its members, to counter hostile tactics by authoritarian regimes and to preserve our democracies and our European model of life. Without any doubt, this battle on disinformation cannot be left to platforms alone.

“Particularly important for our political family is to tighten rules regarding the social media algorithms and on party financing. It is shocking just how much the extreme right throughout Europe is at the service of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. This must stop. This is why we need a ban on foreign donations for political activities in the EU. We also urge for more EU action in the Western Balkans to counter Russia and China’s interference campaigns that spread anti-EU sentiment and try to destabilise the whole region.”

Raphaël Glucksmann, S&D MEP and chair of the INGE Special Committee, said:

“Democracy is our common treasure, the framework in which our differences and disagreements can be expressed, where our debates and struggles live. This framework is vital. But it is also fragile.

“Our European democracies are targets of interference by hostile authoritarian regimes, such as that of Vladimir Putin. The aim of interference is to exploit the vulnerabilities of our open, egalitarian and cosmopolitan societies, to undermine trust in institutions and public discourse, and ultimately to polarize and weaken democracies. These actions are part of a new strategy: the hybrid warfare.

“This issue has a particular resonance today, when the Ukrainian people are fighting for their freedom. The final report is an important step in raising collective awareness and calls for the urgent implementation of concrete measures.”

Pierfrancesco Majorino, S&D MEP and coordinator of the INGE Special Committee, added:

“Our democracy is a unique and precious asset that we must never take for granted and must always strive to defend. That is why the S&Ds pushed for this INGE Special Committee to be established. After 18 months of intensive work, I can say that we accomplished our objectives. The report proposes concrete measures to beef up our Union to counter tactics like disinformation campaigns, manipulations, targeted hackings and hybrid threats used by foreign authoritarian powers to attack the foundations of European democratic societies.

“We have succeeded in including important elements in the report such as greater accountability of platforms, the central role of media literacy, the protection of the entire electoral process, greater regulation of funding for political parties and actors, and the affirmation of transparency as an absolute guarantee to be demanded of anyone developing relations with the outside world.

“But, it is clear that we cannot stop here. The European Parliament must continue to be a fundamental democratic watchdog and to be vigilant over all phenomena of foreign interference. I am very glad the work of the INGE Special Committee will continue for another year. Democracy must be safeguarded, from any interference.”

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