The establishment of Parliament’s new Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, which meets for the first time on Thursday, comes after evidence of attempts by “state and non-state actors” to undermine political systems in Member States and to “destabilise” the EU by interfering in elections.
The Committee is tasked with identifying possible areas that require legislative and non-legislative measures against social media platforms and will propose “coordinated action” at EU level for tackling hybrid threats.
The aim is also to counter information campaigns and strategic communications of “malign third countries that harm the EU.”
At a short news briefing immediately after his election as Committee Chair, French S&D deputy Raphaël Glucksmann said, “this new Committee gives a warning to all foreign powers who try interfere with European democracy. The era of European nicety has come to an end.”
The Committee, he said, will cover everything from hybrid attacks to funding of political parties, adding, “we will also propose new tools to protect our democracy.”
Glucksmann, who is also deputy chair of Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights, said, “I am aware that we don’t live in a perfect world and that hostile foreign powers try to subvert the democratic process. It is our duty and responsibility to protect the common framework of our debate and our democracy and this is what the Committee will do for the next year.”
“This new Committee gives a warning to all foreign powers who try interfere with European democracy. The era of European nicety has come to an end” Raphaël Glucksmann, Committee Chair
In a separate statement, he added, “In recent years, European democracies have been the target of coordinated attacks from the outside, aiming at weakening our institutions and subverting our public debate. We simply do not have the right to be naïve anymore.”
“In the next 12 months, we’ll work together to precisely identify the threat and will propose efficient responses and new legislation to counter it.”
The Committee has a mandate to: analyse investigations showing that crucial electoral rules have been breached or circumvented especially in the field of third country campaign financing; examine national legislation on political funding and suggest rules to force social media companies to clearly label posts aimed to undermine democratic processes and spread hate-speech.
It will also explore how responsibility for countering foreign interference in the democratic processes can be extended to the private sector, including to social media and tech companies; suggest coordinated action on EU-level against hybrid threats targeting, among others, lawmakers, journalists and political parties; counter information campaigns by malign third countries aimed at fostering discord in the EU and examine security breaches inside the EU institutions.
Further comment came from Kati Piri, S&D Vice-President and member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, who welcomed the new Committee, saying, “In recent years, millions of Europeans have been exposed to massive disinformation campaigns in elections as a result of foreign interference. Cyber-attacks have risen to an unprecedented level and crucial electoral rules on the financing of political parties by third countries have been breached or circumvented.”
She said one example of this kind of “outside interference” was a plan, exposed by the media in July, “for Russian actors to fund Matteo Salvini's League party.”
“We must put the spotlight on all these cases of foreign interferences and propaganda tactics so that people are aware of what is really going on. We need serious answers on how to prevent other outside influences from doing the same when European voters again head to the polls” Kati Piri MEP
“But this goes much further than Russia and Italy,” she warned.
“We must put the spotlight on all these cases of foreign interferences and propaganda tactics so that people are aware of what is really going on. We need serious answers on how to prevent other outside influences from doing the same when European voters again head to the polls.”
“We must act now, so that European democracy, in which elections are always free and fair, can remain intact.”
Parliament has also set up a subcommittee on tax and special committees on cancer, Artificial Intelligence in the Digital Age and on the protection of animals during transport.
The committees were set up in June and each will have 33 members.