MEPs will this week in Strasbourg debate and vote on the final report by the committee on foreign interference before its mandate lapses at the end of March.
The special committee for foreign interference in all democratic processes in the EU, including disinformation was set up in 2020 to assess the level of threats in different spheres including for major national and European elections across the EU, disinformation campaigns on traditional and social media, cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure and the financing of political groups and civil society.
“We want to defend our democracy. (…) We see that it’s under attack,” said committee chairRaphaël Glucksmann, a French S&D member. “I don’t care if you think that the Earth is flat, but if there is a foreign government making sure that millions of my fellow citizens believe the Earth is flat, then it becomes a problem.”
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Report author Sandra Kalniete, a Latvian EPP member, said: “Over the past two years, the committee has received comprehensive and established evidence concerning foreign interference and online information manipulation by hostile actors in many liberal democracies around the world.”.
Her report calls on the European Commission to propose a multi-layer and cross-sector strategy to equip the EU and its member states with deterrence tools to tackle hybrid threats and attacks orchestrated by foreign countries. The strategy should focus on areas such as collective sanctions, media literacy, foreign interference using online platforms, critical infrastructure and strategic sectors, covert funding of political activities by foreign donors, cybersecurity and the protection of EU institutions.
“If as recently as two years ago, disinformation and foreign interference may have sounded like ominous, abstract terms, today we can see the direct effect of malicious, coordinated disinformation in combination with the misinformation. People are refusing to receive certified vaccines, leading to excess hospitalisations and countless preventable deaths,” said Kalniete. “We have witnessed ongoing interference and information manipulation campaigns directed at all the measures against the spread of Covid-19, including vaccination across the EU and online platforms have had very limited success in tackling them.”
MEPs will debate the committee report on Tuesday and vote on it on the following day. They will also vote on setting up a new committee to deal with these issue.
“I am convinced that the issues we have covered in the committee work truly extend beyond party politics,” Kalniete said. “Hostile threats to our democratic institutions should concern every single MEP, across the entirety of the political spectrum.”