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25th Jul 2021

'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling

  • MEP Raphael Glucksmann said the establishment of the special committee is a signal to malign foreign powers (Photo: European Parliament)

"The era of European nativety has come to an end," vowed French MEP Raphael Glucksmann on Wednesday (23 September), as the man who will now lead the European parliament's special committee on foreign interference.

The committee, established by the parliament in June, will start hearings on Thursday with experts from the EU's foreign service on hybrid threats and disinformation.

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The centre-left Glucksmann said that the creation of the special committee is a "signal to all foreign powers trying to interfere with European democratic process"

"We need to assess the level of threats, whether it be disinformation campaign, hybrid attacks, funding of political party or campaign," the French MEP said.

"Once we have established the general diagnosis, we need to propose tools to act and protect our democracies," he added.

The committee will have to identify possible areas that could require EU legislation - for instance on social media platforms, such as labelling content shared by bots, or closing down accounts which undermine the democratic processes or spread hate speech.

It will look into transparency of campaign financing, funding of political parties, and check national actions and rules on foreign party financing, and foreign influence thorough companies, NGOs or technology.

The committee will also examine how to best counter hybrid threats, cyber-attacks and disinformation.

It will similarly investigate the EU's dependence on foreign technologies in critical infrastructure supply chains, including internet infrastructure.

The committee will also need to counter information campaigns and strategic communication from malign foreign countries.

It will also have to look at campaigns done "through domestic European actors and organisations", that harm the goals of the EU or influence the public opinion to make it harder to achieve a common EU position.

MEPs on the committee are also tasked with proposing how tackle security breaches inside EU institutions.

"We know perfectly well that foreign hostile powers are trying to subvert the democratic rules inside the EU," Glucksmann said.

"It is our work, no matter what is our political party affiliation, it is our duty, our historical responsibility to protect the common framework of our debate which is our democracy," he added.

The special committee has been established for one year, which can be extended for another six months.

The committee will have to produce a resolution on these issues, and Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete is expected to be in charge of drawing up the report.

The idea of a special committee on foreign interference first surfaced in 2019 in a parliament resolution on foreign electoral interference and disinformation, but was later deleted by an amendment.

Budapest-based think tank, Political Capital said in a recent report on the influence of authoritarian third countries on EU institutions that the amendment was passed with the help of Russia president Vladimir Putin's "supporters" in the parliament, and because mainstream parliamentary groups had been divided.

But almost a year later, a large parliament majority supported establishing the special committee.

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