Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

Sweden raises alarm on election meddling

  • Stockholm: far-right Sweden Democrats gaining support in run-up to September vote (Photo: Beat Küng)

Sweden aims to create a new government agency to protect its upcoming election from Russian and other propaganda.

"It is now less than eight months left to the finest day in Sweden's democratic life, our election day … [and] only Swedish voters will determine the outcome," Swedish prime minister Stefan Loefven said at a security conference in Stockholm on Sunday (14 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"To the one or those who are considering trying to influence … our country: stay away!", he said.

Loefven said the main threat came from Russia, but he added that "we cannot rule out that there may be others" who would try to influence the Swedish vote on 9 September.

He also indicated that he had specific information on efforts being made to meddle in the electoral process.

"We will not hesitate to expose those who try to do something, because we know that operations are underway at the moment", Loefven said.

He said the new Swedish agency would be created "immediately" and would be responsible for bolstering the "psychological defence" of the Swedish public by "identifying, analysing, and responding" to "external influence" campaigns.

The counter-propaganda agency was part of wider measures to safeguard the election, the prime minister noted.

These included increased funding for Swedish intelligence and cyber-defence services.

Loefven said he would hold a series of meetings with Swedish political party leaders in spring "on how the parties can increase protection and resilience … against the risks of influence during the election process".

He also said he would hold "in-depth discussions" with Swedish media and with social media firms to "increase awareness of foreign influence".

The Swedish vote will pit Loefven's centre-left Social Democratic Party against the centre-right Moderate Party and the far-right Sweden Democrats party, which came third in the last election in 2014 and which has continued to gain support.

Russia has a track record of using cyber attacks and propaganda campaigns to help populist candidates in recent elections in the US, France, and Germany.

There is increasing evidence that it meddled in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, the Brexit referendum in 2016, and the Catalan independence vote last year.

The US Senate, in a report last week, also warned that: "Italy could be a target for electoral interference by the Kremlin" when Italians go to the polls on 4 March.

The US report noted that Nordic states were "a favourite target of the Kremlin's propaganda machine".

It added that: "when it comes to exhibiting strong immunity against Russian malign influence operations, the Nordic states are also exemplary".

The report said this was due to two factors - the Nordic countries' "extraordinary educational systems that emphasise critical thinking skills … and extremely low levels of corruption".

Far-right US activists with no apparent links to Russia also got involved in efforts to sway the French vote.

But speaking of Russia's modus operandi, Loefven said on Sunday: "We have seen it in several different countries recently."

"There have been violations of political parties' internal computer systems. There has been financial support for extremist groups on the right side and examples of … systematic 'fake news'," he said.

Military context

Loefven noted that the Russian propaganda threat comes amid its aggressive military posturing in Europe.

"Russian action in Ukraine challenges the European security system in a way that we have not seen since it was established 25 years ago," he said, referring to Russia's invasion and partition of its neighbour four years ago.

He said "Russia is a major and important neighbour in the east that we and the EU must be in contact with" and that both sides ought to "think in the long-term about [their] relationship".

But he added that "this task is not facilitated by more and more reports of Russian disinformation and influence operations".

He also said that his government would continue to support EU economic sanctions against Russia "for as long as the reasons for their introduction [Russia's military aggression in Ukraine] remain".

Macron vows law against fake news

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised legislation to block the spread of fake news, as part of a broader effort to protect liberal democracies from Russian propaganda.

Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Sweden's first big party leader TV debate ahead of September elections was marked by the burning of dozen of cars in cities across the south-west of the country.

News in Brief

  1. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  2. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  3. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  4. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  5. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  6. Swedish politician declares war on media
  7. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya
  8. MEP accuses Maltese government of 'hate campaign'

Opinion

Has the time finally come for 'European champions'?

Since Emmanuel Macron took the French presidency in 2017, the concept of consolidating European industries to create continental 'champions', capable of competing on a global scale, has been revived.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  2. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  3. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  4. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  5. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  6. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  7. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  8. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us